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Thought Leadership: Caveat Emptor

There are a multitude of opinion forums, groups, Q&A and membership sites and the like (I belong to and manage several) that allow you to ask a question and get an answer from a supposed expert on your question.  In theory this is good, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the underlying premises is what’s called thought leadership. People who want to establish their “bona fides” in a particular industry will join these sites and begin to answer questions on a variety of topics to market their “expertise” in the hopes of someone thinking they are smart enough to hire to do a job. Most have good intentions. Some are just plain trolls.

Among the many problems are people who have absolutely no successful experience in the industry or job in which they offer advice (equipment sales vendors are the worst offenders).  Take the business industry for example. All sorts of lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers and retail marketing consultants will line up in droves, with the hope of saying that one thing that makes you think they’re brilliant enough to want to hire them to do whatever you need done. The problem is they’ve never worked a day in their life in the business and their theories have no practical application for your business. What’s worse is that people will listen to these clowns and act on their bad advice – usually to their own detriment.

The only criteria for listening to advice from someone or hiring them as a consultant is if they have successful experience doing what it is you need done – period. Everything else is theory or worse. If you want to learn how to drive a race car professionally, you don’t take lessons from the guy in the stands whose only claim to fame is that he has a dozen speeding tickets. The business and hotel business is hard enough without listening to Andy wail on about this, that or the other thing without any context for your business. Yeah, it worked for J.C. Penny’s (probably not) but what does that have to do with your independent business or boutique hotel? Nothing.

I’m talking about this now because I’ve just about had my fill of  these out-of-work gurus talking about how to do this or that in a business, when their only basis of expertise is that they eat out a lot. They run the gamut from people who sell text marketing applications, to foodservice equipment (how do they know what you need when they’ve never cooked in a business?) to industry sanctioned social media experts who couldn’t find a food cost with six hands and a flashlight. The list is long.

My second complaint about these miscreants is when you call them on their crap, they will whine and moan about me being rude or disrespectful, all the while they have no problem offering really dumb advice to people who have invested their life savings, kid’s tuition or have their backs against the wall from fighting a down economy for years. They don’t think for one second that people‘s lives and livelihoods can be on the line here and that they have, in my opinion, an ethical and moral imperative to be honest about their advice.

Sorry, but being a thought leader is also about challenging bad behaviors or bad thinking and some truths just really are self-evident.

What’s your take?

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About Jeffrey Summers

Jeffrey has spent four decades in various Marketing, Operations and Business Development roles in corporate, franchise and independent concepts. He is widely recognized by his peers as one of the leading voices in the Foodservice/Hospitality industries. As a hospitality business expert, Jeffrey now devotes most of his time to helping owners/operators and their organizations both create and achieve their business objectives. Jeffrey's clients include: fast food, QSR's, casual full-service, fine-dining, private clubs and banquet facilities, hotel/foodservice, resorts, sports facilities, corporate dining. catering businesses and retail concepts. More About Jeffrey. | More About SHG. 

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