The last 15 years has seen a proliferation of companies offering management consultancy and training services.

But are they all what they purport to be? 

Websites can create a completely misleading impression.

Glib photos of smartly dressed executives sitting behind desks, giving presentations and engaged in “managerial activities” can lead the novice to believe that they are getting the real deal.

So what can you do to ensure that you are not taken in?

Check for testimonials

If a company says that it won’t insult your intelligence by providing testimonials from satisfied clients, it almost certainly means that it doesn’t have any.

Check addresses

If it is registered overseas, you can check with a Google street map. Sometimes an impressive-sounding business address can be nothing more than a registered forwarding address of even a private residence.

If it is registered in Singapore, check out the premises. Is it a physical address or a registered forwarding address?

If it proves to be nothing more than a room at the back of a rundown shopping mall or office block, stay clear.

Check credentials

Be wary of individuals whose profile consists of sweeping generalisations.

For example, “his corporate experience has been gained at every level, including director and vice-president across a range of industries in Europe and America” — yet no names of actual companies are provided.

The person may be trying to hide something.

Photos of smartly dressed people with impressive job titles such as senior vice-president, finance and administration or head of business development may not be proof that the company is reliable.

It may be that these people are not even employed by the company, they have simply given their consent to appear on the website.

Do your homework and check if these people are really working in the company.

Check educational credentials

Are they from legitimate institutions? 

A degree or PhD from a non-accredited university is effectively a bogus degree.

Check the credentials of any professional institutions that the company claims to be affiliated to. Are they recognised institutions?

This can prove difficult as these institutions will also have their own impressive websites and, as such, a lot of leg work may be needed.

If the company claims to be affiliated to academic institutions, check the credentials of these institutions.

If they prove to be unaccredited universities, stay clear.

Sometimes, these academic institutions may prove to be both genuine and reputable, but they have no connection with the company — their names are being used without their knowledge.

It is wise before you sign up for a course to ask around.

What do other people know of these companies? Do they have a track record? 

Remember, all is not what it may seem.

Article by Paul FitzPatrick, an author and investigative journalist. E-mail him at conceptsjapan@yahoo.com