They inspire us, motivate us and yes — sometimes even sell us something.

They’re the “successful” biz folks we look up to, admire and want to emulate.

“Everybody” loves ’em. Just look at the social proof they proudly display (60,000 subscribers! 12,000 fans!).

But guess what?

They’re also human beings.

And just like you and me, they have problems, flaws and yes even days when things don’t go as well as they should.

When we forget that they also need to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom just like the rest of us, we’re dangerously close to giving away our power.

Believe me. I’ve been there, done that.

Nobody’s Cornered the Market on Perfect

Ever considered spending money on a A-lister’s class? You might want to think hard about your motives.

You’ve probably heard (or figured out) that if you become an A-Lister’s paying customer, you’ll be better positioned to develop a relationship with that person. You might even (gasp!) have fantasies of joining their inner circle.

And while this certainly MAY happen (nothing is impossible in my book), it’s never a good reason to plunk down your hard-earned money — especially if it’s more than you’ve got in your budget.

You can’t buy love. Not even from an A-lister!

Rule of Thumb: The content of the course you’re considering should be applicable to your existing goals. And — more importantly — you should be able to get a return on your investment at least equal to twice what you spend.

Shelling out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to be mentored by a fancy-pants internet celebrity is not necessarily the best way to go. And most of all, it may not be all that you hope for.

I know because it happened to me.

This A-Lister (who shall remain nameless because I’ve worked things out with them and don’t feel the need to burn any bridges) didn’t live up to my expectations.

Granted, I tend to set pretty high expectations. Especially around things like communication and what’s acceptable and what’s just plain unprofessional.

Let’s just agree that I’d spent years building a pedestal for this one, shall we?

Let’s also agree that my motives for taking this class were a bit colored by some motives (and fantasies) I had about building a relationship with this person.

So when promises were made for one-on-one time and the opportunity to work directly with the instructor, I rationalized the hefty price tag.

I also assumed this person would have a well-oiled machine. That with all of the bucks they raked in, they’d have an assistant or two to help manage the communication. Or at least an automated system of some sort that could send me an email to let me know my inquiry was received and in some sort of cue.

Silly me.

When I sent an email and didn’t hear back after a week, I posted my question in the forum provided for our class. Still no reply.

So finally, I just emailed a request for a refund.

Lo and behold, that DID seem to get this person’s attention. And then — wonder of wonders — we began to converse about expectations and disappointment and responsibilities (including mine as the student).

I explained that I felt I deserved a certain level of service for my hard-earned money, and that I didn’t feel like just because someone is a big shot, they should be given a pass on not replying to emails promptly — especially from a customer.

A Painful, But Necessary Lesson

Thankfully, everything worked out to my satisfaction. And shortly thereafter, this person DID hire an assistant to help manage the flow of emails and other administrivia.

But the real gift came from the lesson I learned: My heroes ain’t perfect.

They stumble and fall just like the rest of us.

Does that mean we should cut them some slack?

That we should allow them to provide us with crappy service or products that aren’t quite what we were promised?

I don’t think so.

I mean, just because you’re famous (especially internet famous) doesn’t mean you get a hall pass.

If anything, you need to be super conscientious about your customers’ experiences and the quality of your products.

If you’ve got the power, resources and network, you need to live up to your own reputation.

That being said, I’ll never assume perfection from something (or someone) just because there’s a nice big price tag attached.

Sure — we’re all human. And I might give you the benefit of the doubt. Once.

But my high expectations aren’t going anywhere.

Especially when it comes to how I do business.

Modeling My Ideal A-Lister

As covered previously, we live in a real world, with real flaws.

And we also live in a world filled with beauty, love and amazing inspiration.

If you keep your eyes and ears open (and your feet on the ground), you’re bound to find some folks who are the real deal.

Just keep the BS meter firmly in the on position.

Find the bright spots and follow those.

Here’s who and what I hope to emulate in my own business:

The responsiveness of Danny Iny. Danny replies to his emails and he replies to them promptly. In fact, he’s so good at this, I think we ought to give him a new nickname (as in, “He’s the Mercury of Email” — swift and clear).

The humility of Erika Napoletano. Erika claims to be the “expert of nothing” and avoids that word like the trap that it is. In an age when everyone’s touting authority as the best way to market yourself, she’s proven that you can still build a tribe without setting yourself up as The One. And she always includes herself in every bitch slap.

The enthusiasm of Mike Michalowicz. Mike always brings an energy of joy and love to the business process. It’s infectious — in the best possible sense.

The economic vision of Tara Gentile. Tara’s views on how we earn our money and what kind of economy we can (and should) be building are based on sound ethics and a belief that our world can evolve.

The balls of Ash AmbirgeAsh is unafraid to draw a line in the sand and then step over it when necessary. She lives and works in a dimension of fearlessness and inspires the rest of us to follow her lead.

The mad writing skillz of Johnny B. Truant. Johnny definitely knows how to tell the most interesting and inspiring stories.

The generosity of Jennifer Louden. Jen’s heart is in what she does — teaching. And she gives all her love and attention to life, her students and those around her.

The groundedness of Pamela Slim. Pam doesn’t do flashy. And she doesn’t need to. She brings her most real self to everything she does and it shows.

[Note: The people on this list aren’t perfect. They have some fabulous qualities and talents, but they aren’t infallible. Also, this list is far from finished. In fact, I’m hoping you’ll help me expand it in a comment below.]

Be the Change…

I don’t know about you, but I’m not waiting to be an “A-lister” to become the best possible version of myself.

I’m not waiting until I can afford to hire a camera crew and a make-up artist and a personal chef. I’m not waiting until I earn 6-figures a respectable living to do things “right.”

In fact, I know that if I don’t get this stuff down now, it’s gonna be that much harder to bring my A-Game when (if) my audience grows much larger.

There’s something to be said for Slow Marketing, my friends.

When we focus only on the numbers (e.g. accumulating thousands of fans or followers, a huge email list and a 6-figure income), things can go sideways on us pretty fast.

We can fall into the trap of trying to buddy up with “Influencers” or even just drinking their kool-aid — without a second thought for what’s right for our business.

The real goal should be quality, not quantity. Quality products and services. Quality relationships. Quality of life. Online tactics (like social media, copy writing and SEO) should come AFTER we do the basics.

If you don’t figure out the little things now, a big fat audience isn’t going to make you rich. It’ll just make you a douche bag.


So who do YOU admire? And what would you say is their ONE best trait? Let’s have some fun with this and build this Ideal A-Lister together!

This post is part of the October 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.

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