David Strittmatter

An entrepreneur who makes money from students’ existential fears

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently – Warren Buffett

Dear friend,

There is an entrepreneur building an online career coaching company. His company is known for its controversial marketing practices, conveying a clear message: There is only a tiny number of “great” jobs and only a tiny number of people can land one of those. Winning this competition is hard, requiring key steps early in the career. Missing one of them is fatal. Hence, to land a great job and achieve a great career, their career coaching is nearly inevitable.

This week, one of the most well-known German newspapers published a report on his person and company’s practices. The main message is: this entrepreneur makes money from students’ existential fears.

The author expresses exactly what I and many others have been feeling for months. People actually working in these “great” jobs, who have already achieved the career advertised in the coaching’s marketing, raise their voice the first time. Words kept backed ever since are now spoken. In addition, a lot of unrelated people use this opportunity for their very own advantage, creating a shit storm.

This situation is a great learning for everyone: The coaching offering isn’t flawed at all. The jobs are competitive. And working in these jobs for half a decade guarantees a great career. Yet, the way this entrepreneur appeals to the emotions of people, induces fear, and creates an unfounded scarcity corrupts all the good aspects of the coaching.

Since I watched and commented on one of the coaching’s first fear-inducing advertisement, it’s been clear to me that this marketing will have severe repercussions.

Big cooperations like Nestlé or Exxon Mobile showcased that unethical practices fueled by a greed for short-term profits will have a severe negative business impact in the long-term. While the responsible managers genuinely believed their acts won’t bring along these negative consequences, society – particularly investigative journalists – proofed them wrong. It’s hard to quantify the consequences of media disclosing these unethical practices, but they easily amount to billions – outweighing the short-term profits multifold.

A good reputation takes decades to be build but minutes to be destroyed. Long-term thinking is what leads to true success.

This shit storm will have a severe negative business impact. His cooperations with his partner companies are at danger. Who wants to work for a company that collaborates with someone who exploits the existential fears of young adults? And people who once considered the coaching turn away. Who wants to be part of a career coaching program dissuaded by the people who already achieved the desired career?

I hope this entrepreneur learns his lessons, adopts adequate ethical standards, and surrounds himself with mentors with a long-term business view. There is a chance that he will make it through life despite his unethical practices, but chances are rather low in today’s never forgetting society.

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