Beware of “Offers”

Vistage is an operation that pays peanuts to presenters for “exposure.” Here is a “personalized” message I received today:

Dear Alan,

I recently came across your material and thought there was tremendous synergy with our Vistage community.

We are recognizing the top 30 Master Chairs (independent contractors working as executive coaches under the Vistage umbrella) and are looking for a dynamic workshop presenter who can provide both content rich material in an interactive workshop format.

I am preparing a short list of possible candidates and would like to consider you. Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to be considered further.

Date: 10/16/09
Time: 3hrs in morning
Format: Interactive Workshop
Location: La Costa Resort, Carlsbad CA…..just north of San Diego
Audience: 30 top performing executive coaches
Budget including expenses: $5K

Warm regards,
Michael Schultz
Director of Learning and Development

Vistage International, Inc.

I’m a $25,000 keynoter, with a strong brand and in no need of artificial exposure. They are offering $5,000, INCLUDING EXPENSES, which means it would be about break even!! These are the kind of mindless, unfair, “offers” that are going out to take advantage of speakers and consultants. They don’t care whom they contact, and pretend to make this “personalized.” This guy knows nothing about me.

Hold your head up, demand that you be paid for your value, and don’t become an indentured servant to anyone for “exposure.” This stuff is just reprehensible.

16 thoughts on “Beware of “Offers”

  1. Actually Vistage is a tremendous organization which has enriched business owners and ceos for over 50 years.
    Them reaching out to you should be an honor. Additionally, it is easy to say you are a $25,000 key note speaker…anyone can say that. How many engagements have you actually had at that price?
    Your arrogance comes through loud and clear…

  2. I have just paid Alan $35K for a speech in Jan 2010. I paid him in full 2 weeks ago.

    I am from Australia (so A$46k for me) and I don’t know about his other clients but this is the 3rd time I have paid him that exact amount in the last 12 months. Tremendous value.

    I presume he has other clients!

  3. Rob Cook: I’m going to leave your post up, despite it being obnoxious. Reaching out to me for a pittance of my value is no honor, no partnership, and ignorance of whom they are dealing with. So your reaction is to call me a liar? I guess Rob Nixon took care of that before I did, but maybe he’s a liar, too?

    You want to be treated poorly, be my guest. It’s no honor to have someone try to take advantage of you. And you ought to knock off the ad hominem attacks and act like a professional.

  4. The rare pleasure of being in the room with Alan as writes his heated response to Rob Cook … we’ve been chatting about Vistage for a few minutes, and here’s my take:

    – Vistage is about lead generation, not about speaking fees. I’ve generated a ton of business from Vistage presentations, and the trick is the follow-up. The speaking fees suck, to put it bluntly, so I can only do it due to the follow-up business. So far, so good.

    – Their offer was completely wrong for Alan because he is way past the stage where he needs this kinds of thing. (I hope I will be in a few years.) Additionally, the gig they were offering him was for Vistage chairs, not members, so there would be no direct business from this event, only the chance for the chairs to subsequently have him come to speak to their groups.

    As a $10K – $12.5K keynoter, still looking for more business, I’ll keep using Vistage for lead generation. I happen to have a very good relationship with Vistage, and get value from it. So, it depends who you are, where you are in your career, and what kinds of clients you want. Obviously not for Alan.

  5. I am always fascinated by one’s use of the word “arrogance” when someone else happens to charge (and receive) higher fees. One of the nice things about a capitalist society is that value is where you find it. Is it arrogant of a CEO to expect that the entire world will eventually use his products or services? Yes. But is it arrogant of him to identify a market, develop a product, and price it accordingly? Not at all. For some, that price may be a bit high, for others, it will be a great value.

    So it is with consulting. If your market is such that you can make a good living earning a couple thousand per engagement, what’s the big deal? (And good for you, by the way.) You just happen to have a different audience than someone who makes $25K or more. But don’t expect that person to arbitrarily lower his fees just to make you feel better. Apples and oranges, my friends.

  6. Thanks for the perspective, Jason. I’m often accused of one or more of the “three As”: arrogance, abrasiveness, age. My feeling is that these epithets are the refuge of people who can’t argue a point intellectually or debate objectively.

  7. Alan, your blog post was listed right below Vistage’s application for speaking, so I read both since I am looking to build my speaking career. Any words of advice on how to move forward?

    • I don’t coach for free, Lynn! Where did you see my blog post with Vistage?? Read my book Million Dollar Speaking, then join my Mentor Community to accelerate your career.

  8. I ask about your beginnings. Your inspirations. Who was it that motivated you? This is not involving Vistage or your set speaking price but as a young man out of business school in this economy, may I ask your advice for strategies to success? I understand drive is imperative, but I’m looking more for coaching. Although your books have great value and teachings, are the applications relevant to the ‘wet behind the ears’ kid with over $100,000 in student loans with the excessive amounts of college graduates in the same boat fighting the same fight? I understand that the first thing one must do is to separate themselves from the pack, but with security as imperative in today’s world as success and growth, how does one begin this venture? It’s sad make a statement as such since it is counterintuitive to the idea of Capitalism. This is the dilemma we (motivated) millennials find ourselves in. I am an entrepreneur at heart, but with the suffocating debt that colleges apply today, and the cost of living, it is difficult not to worry. I ask for one piece of unsolicited advice. I know this is unusual, but where do we start? I understand if you do not respond as you mentioned in the previous post that you do not coach for free, nor can I afford to be coached for your asking price. Either way, your books (specifically ‘Thrive’ and ‘How to Acquire Clients’) to me were iimpctful and educational in the practice of outside thinking and acting. I hope to hear from you. Thank you.

    • Here’s one piece of advice: Stop the metaphysical whining, start with the value you can bring to people, and find your ideal buyers. You’d think you have grave problems compared to people who actually have grave problems with health and loss. You’re not a victim unless you make yourself one, in which case no one is interested in you.

  9. I am both a member of Vistage and an avid reader of Alan’s excellent books about the consulting business. It pains me to see a fine institution and an accomplished professional misunderstood each other so badly. Having said that, it is clear that Vistage did not do sufficient research on who they were inviting and hence its proposal came across as an insult.

    If we concede that Vistage knew well who Alan is, then the outcome is worst since it means Vistage demeans the consulting profession.

    • Vistage tries to provide very low-cost resources for its meetings, where it makes its money from member fees. Consequently, it attracts very erratic and often inept speakers because it doesn’t want to pay for major talent. Nancy McKay, whom I’ve coached, provides a far better community for small business owners across Canada, for example. I don’t even think Vistage management is aware of who’s who in the community of thought leaders in this country. They’re concerned about doing it “on the cheap” and making money for themselves. Sorry, that’s my view for quite some time, as it was with the old TEC operation. Beyond “accomplished professional,” I have the strongest solo consulting brand in the world, and have written more books on consulting than anyone, ever. A “fine institution” should certainly realize that.

  10. Vistage is an organization that claims to help CEOs become better leaders and grow their businesses. The Vistage Business Model centers around 1) a monthly full day confidential peer group meeting; and 2) a monthly 2-hour individual coaching session where members can share confidential information with their Vistage Chair and Vistage Group members and get advice on business strategy, financials, etc.

    Vistage Group sessions and Coaching sessions are led by a Vistage Chair, which Vistage describes as follows:

    “A Vistage Chair is an executive mentor who guides top business leaders through their toughest turning points, so they can make great decisions that benefit their lives, companies and communities. Our Chairs are accomplished business leaders and mentors, hand-picked from a cross-section of industries. At the peak of achievement in their own careers, each realized how much they could contribute as a mentor. The guidance of a Vistage Chair creates a ripple effect felt from C-suite through company ranks, and into your community.” – from the Vistage web site.

    My Vistage Chair used the confidential information I shared about business (financials, business strategy, etc.) to form a competing business. He tried to hide this by forming the business under the name of his daughter since she is married and goes by her married last name. He then poached my General Manager (who I was paying Vistage to coach into a better leader).

    I immediately informed Vistage and was told that Vistage Chairs are Independent Contractors and that Vistage takes no responsibility for the actions of Vistage Chairs. The Vistage Chair was not even fired until Group Members began to quit and I had hired a lawyer to commence litigation.

    We later found out that Vistage’s “hand-picked accomplished business leader” was basically broke and had nowhere near the assets to compensate satisfy any potential judgement (my damages were appraised at around $6mm).

    We sued Vistage (a copy of the complaint is can be found at The Lawsuit is currently pending.


    Those joining Vistage should know that their Vistage Chair is NOT a Vistage staff member or employee but rather Vistage believes them to be Independent Contractors.

    As such, Vistage takes the position that it is not responsible for the actions of its Vistage Chair, including incidents where a Vistage Chair uses information shared in the peer group meetings and coaching sessions for their personal benefit and the detriment of the Vistage group member.

    Therefore, both current and prospective Vistage members should make an independent investigation to understand the qualifications and financial strength of their Vistage Chairs.

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