Experts Running Wild in Our Country:  Are They Really Experts?


By Bernard Levy


Beware!  Present-day, sophisticated “snake oil” salesmen are on the loose again!  Truth is, they’ve always run loose in our humbugable and trusting society.


In February, 2001, I wrote the column, “Success 2001: The Hustle and the Message,” about a highly-touted event held in the Portland, Oregon Rose Garden arena and hyped as the “blockbuster event praised and acclaimed by CNN, USA Today, Time, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times!”  It featured famous motivator Zig Ziglar, Christopher Reeve, President Gerald Ford, Ed McMahon, Dr. Earl Mindell, Tom Hopkins–touted as “America’s number one sales trainer;” Peter Lowe, “America’s success strategist;” and Scottie Pippen, basketball superstar.  The ticket retail price was $225.00, but the full-page ad said you could get in for $39.00.  I paid $89.00.


It was a great promotional hustle for the speakers’ books, tapes and programs – a veritable “Motivational Woodstock” designed to “ensure” your personal success.  The beach balls in the audience and loud music added to the buzz; I was unimpressed.


After being bombarded in the past five years with direct mail advertising from similar “experts,” it’s high time to revisit these “experts,” our modern version of the traveling medicine man.


I also attended Robert Allen’s “I’m Under a Deadline to Create 1,000 New Millionaires in Record Time,” in 2002.  It proved to be much more entertaining than television that particular evening, and it was free.  Highly touted by himself and ostensibly by others, Allen is the founder of the Robert G. Allen Institute and the author of several books including, “Robert G. Allen, Nothing down for the 2000s.”  He represented himself as the “best-selling author, legendary real estate investor and millionaire maker.”  I don’t know whether he made his goal of 1,000 millionaires, but he continually ran the ad following that event.


Allen’s M.O. has changed, and he is currently running a new ad, “Check Things Off Your Wish List for 2006 by Making a Fortune in Real Estate with Nothing Down.”  Rest assured that the seminar is likewise dedicated to selling his programs, tapes and books.


There are other three-ring promotional circuses, including that of William D. Danko, co-author of, “The Millionaire Next Door,” and J.G. Banks’, “The Secrets of Probate Profits.”  They’re making the circuit with glitzy, full-page newspaper ads and glitzier direct marketing materials.


When I had hair and was a budding accounting and financial professional, I asked a wise mentor how he defined an expert.  I had an ulterior motive:  I wanted to know if I had arrived.  He looked at me, not taking the bait, and said, “An expert is someone from out of town.”  There, you have it.  These expertly-hyped personalities are from out of town. 


True experts are acknowledged by the advice they give based upon their experience, education and knowledge.  You seek their wise counsel because you need their advice, not because they need your attendance to sell their products and services.


My mentor also said there were two ways to financial success--have people and/or property work for you and surround yourself with successful people; e.g., experts. 


It’s always fun to hear a public speaker recount his life’s work and experiences.  It is possible to make money in real estate and other profit centers, but there are no gimmicks or secrets.  You need to research the activity in which you wish to engage, talk with others experienced in the field and focus – employ the two-pronged road to success of “tenacity” and “singleness of purpose.”  Better yet, to paraphrase Scottie Pippen at the Success 2001 event, “Work hard, consistently and all the time.”


Generally, the secrets of success are:  respect yourself, your family, your co-workers, employees, customers and neighbors; hard work and more hard work; work smart and listen to and know the needs of your customers; and tenacity and singleness of purpose.  You don’t need to pay an expert to figure that out.