7 Lies These Entrepreneurs Told to Get Ahead

This article appeared in the new Founder Confessions series on Inc.com. If you’d like to be a part of this series, look for the “Topical Confessions” on the right sidebar to view the current topic. 

Telling a lie is never ok. Well, except maybe the one about the fairy that’s going to flutter her way into your kids room at night and replace their tooth with some cash. Or, the one about the giant bunny that hides eggs and … you know what, sometimes a little white lie isn’t so bad, especially when it doesn’t do harm to others.

As an entrepreneur, sometimes it takes a bit of grandstanding, exaggeration and yes, even white lies to get ahead.

We asked entrepreneurs to share with us the lies they’ve told to help their business get ahead:

1. “I’ve stretched the number of clients I have to make my company sound less new. I guess I felt our credibility was at stake.I also probably stretched the amount of Accounts Receivables in order to get a bigger line of credit for my startup.Also, I have probably lied on some personal expenses to reduce my taxable income.Now that I think about it, I didn’t realize how much I have lied.”

2. “I set up an automated phone system to make it appear as though we had a large office with a secretary and numerous employees when in actuality it was a home-based business with one person. I also set up fake email accounts for “employees” and would email prospects as the secretary sending out contracts, the Account Executive, etc. The clients never found out and eventually we grew into the office I had always dreamed of having.”

3. “The biggest lie I told was that I knew what I was doing, period. And I have said it several times. When you have your reputation on the line and have to deliver, it blows away a masters degree in learning. The kicker is my new found skill set always blew away the competition because I had better motivation and it was up-to-date that very minute.”

4. “I’ve told all our customers and vendors we are doing “awesome!” even during times we were doing horribly! I figure it’s like junior high … nobody wants to sit at the unpopular kids’ table for lunch. And, nobody wants to work with a company that’s not successful!”

5. “No business would likely entrust their website to a 14-year old working out of his parent’s house. So I often lied. I said I was 30, sometimes 40. I always told them I had a large team of experienced professionals behind me. 1,000 clients and several dozen bottles of gifted booze later, no one ever knew.”

6. “When the Mayo Clinic newsletter balked at running a story about my new career as an artist, I told the editor that prints of the drawing (a conceptual rendering of the facility’s flagship hospital) were already being sold in the hospital’s gift shop. In fact, the gift shop manager refused to sell copies of the strange drawing, until I assured her that the Clinic newsletter was featuring the art in their next issue. The subsequent support of both entities constituted the first marketing effort and retail sales of a product line that has lasted nearly thirty years.”

7. “I exaggerated the type of clients I’ve worked with. In order to get new business and sell myself, I would tell the prospective client that I had worked with a certain client in order to impress them, even though I never worked with that client. While I understand the business, I just use big names to impress others.”

Are you guilty of any of these? What lies have you told to get ahead?


  • I’ve also done #2, with the fake email accounts to make it seem like there are many employees. I think this is wise to do, since most customers won’t give you a chance if they think you are one guy or one woman doing it all on his or her own. You sort of have to fake it until you make it.

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