7 Kinds of “Bad Apples” In Business and How They Harm Us All

May 4, 2022 | Blog Post

This week’s This American Life episode really got me thinking. It’s a story about a guy named Ken who unknowingly stumbled into the NFT goldrush. He was working a regular job at Amazon, and in his spare time he created a site called Pixelmap. He built it to practice a new programming language. He forgot all about it until he was contacted by an online influencer named Adam McBride who informed him that Ken had actually created one of the first NFT sites in history. Consequently, he was sitting on millions of dollars worth of digital real estate. From there, high jinks ensue. With so much money at stake, Ken agonizes over who he can trust, and who is trying to scam him.

You may want to read: Release Planning and Honest Bidding

The problem is, however, that the receiver of that message has probably received five other similar marketing messages that day, and three of them are probably bad apples– either scammers or incompetents who will cause more harm than good.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few types of bad apples, and what kind of harm they cause, beyond just the individuals who are directly affected:

TypeHow To Spot OneWhat’s Their Angle?Harm Caused To The Rest of Us
The Faux InvestorThey put “Start-up Investor/Advisor” (or something to that effect) on their LinkedIn profile.They tell you that they invest in a lot of start ups and that they want to help you raise money. They dangle the “investor” label in front of you, and then they mention that they need a percentage of your business AND a cash payment as compensation for their services. Then if you agree to the deal, they end up doing next to nothing.Demotivates new entrepreneurs. Even if you don’t fall for the scam, it can be soul-crushing to even be selected as a “mark”.
The So-called Growth HackerThey show you a resume of businesses that they supposedly brought from obscurity into a household name.
They have the word “ninja” somewhere in their LinkedIn profile.
They worked for 1-2 years as a digital marketer somewhere but haven’t had a steady job in a while.
Similar to the Faux Investor except they say they want to help you grow your business and get you more customers.
The Growth Hacker will also ask for a percentage of your business and a cash payment. They, also, will probably do nothing other than tell you to do more social media posts.
Makes it near-impossible for honest freelance marketers to survive.
The Litigious SlackerWhen you google them their name shows up as a plaintiff in multiple lawsuits.They apply for jobs at startups that can’t afford HR departments.
Then when they get hired, they intentionally get themselves fired so that they can file wrongful termination suits.
Causes startups to be overly cautious on hiring decisions, makes them less likely to hire outside of their own personal network– which contributes to equity gaps.
The All-Sizzle-No-Steak MarketerThey send you the most unsolicited marketing messages.They focus more on selling than on delivering. They message as many people as they can, as often as they can. They figure that if they cast a wide enough net, eventually they’ll catch something.Makes prospective clients tune out all marketing messaging, makes them less likely to hire outside of their own personal network.
The LowballerThey give you a low bid for your project before they know exactly what they project entails.They win a bidding contest by providing you with the lowest bid, then once they win the deal, they hit you with expensive change orders once they learn what the project actually is.
They realize that once you’ve locked into a vendor, you’ll probably stick with them for a while, even if they nickel-and-dime you to death.
Causes honest service providers to lose business.
Incentivizes dishonest behavior in bidding.
The Idea VampireThey drag out the proposal process as long as possible.They ask for a proposal and then use your ideas without ever hiring you.Causes honest service providers to lose business and incentivizes dishonest behavior.
The Ax-GrinderExecs have big personalities and middle management is afraid to make decisions.They focus on fulfilling personal agendas and proving themselves to be right. Winning is more important than finding a win-win solution.Working with them will increase your employee turnover.

Perhaps in a future post, I’ll come up with some solutions on the best way to handle the aforementioned bad apples. For now, however, I just wanted to raise awareness. We all should unite in our best efforts to keep these bad actors from causing any more harm to honest members of the business community.

Christian Schraga

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