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Reputation death, Part 1


The nightmare scenario: A disgruntled client posts a complaint about you on the Internet. It’s so negative that it gains immediate traction on social networks. Soon thousands of consumers see it and pass it on to their online friends. Before long, your business reputation is dead and, thanks to Google, beyond resuscitation…forever.

Likely scenario? Probably not. I believe malicious reputation attacks are rare. More common are business owners and professionals generating complaints through their own negligence or neglect, which is tragic. They could have easily avoided reputation death had they acted more sensibly. But they didn’t, and the Internet was a cruel accomplice.

So who are these reputation killers? They’re all around us and fall into six main categories. Allow me to line up the usual suspects:

Reputation Killer #1: "The Shameless Narcissist." He has a flawed character. He wants success a little too much. He doesn’t understand right from wrong and has little empathy or concern for others.

Reputation Killer #2. "The Black Hat Trickster." He loves to market his firm in the shadows. He excels at misleading his prospects and concealing his objectives, the nature of his business and his business relationships.

Reputation Killer #3: "The Me-First Seller." She has no clue about needs-based selling. Her sales system is all about meeting her own needs. Not surprisingly, she loves selling high-cost/low-value products.

Reputation Killer #4: "The Agent of Chaos." He has a lot of sales talent. But he is lacking in practical follow-through. He is inept at handling new-business paperwork, blows off client requests, and hardly ever returns client phone calls promptly.

Reputation Killer #5: "The Obstinate Technophobe." He is a great guy and a great salesperson. But he’s afraid, very afraid, of technology. Even in this day and age, he needs help generating basic correspondence and often fails to use computers to manage his activity.

Reputation Killer #6. "The Pain Merchant." Her clients find her tough to deal with. She never stops talking at them and is quick to get irritated. She also feels superior to them and doesn’t hide that feeling.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these killers? Then do me a favor: Write down three customer interactions that went bad because of those traits. Then for each, consider how you might have handled things differently. Then join me next month as we begin to reveal the dark secrets in the minds of each killer. Until then, stay safe.

"They’re all around us and fall into six main categories."

Steven R. McCarty is Chairman of the National Ethics association ( Responses and questions can be sent to

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Nichole Morford

Nichole Morford
Managing Editor

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