When "we" is really "I"

I recently went to an event at a professional organization to hear a specialist speak about a technical issue, and before I went, I looked at the speaker's website (I won't link to it here or mention the specifics because I'm not being complimentary and don't want the person to know I'm being critical). All over the website, it used the pronoun "we," as in "we provide," "we train," "we deliver," and even the title "Who we are" on the About page. So I assumed there were at least a few trainers/consultants working for the company. But when I asked the speaker how many employees he had, or if he used freelancers instead, he said, "I'm the only one who works there." I was surprised, but when I really thought about it, I realized he's not the only business person who puts "we" on his website. Earlier this year, I was looking at an acquaintance's website, and since "we" was all over it, I naturally asked how many people worked for the company. But I got the same answer: "I work by myself."

I think it is misleading and even untruthful to put "we" on a business website when there is really just one person working there. Are people seriously impressed (and do they believe it) when a business *appears* to be more than just a one-man show? It ends up being hype and can even affect the person's reputation because other people might find out that he/she is putting misinformation on the official site. It also seems like individual business people are trying to puff themselves up to attract attention. I know of an established company that hired someone who implied that they were larger than they actually were, and when they were given a large project, they couldn't handle it, because their "we" was really "I." So the large company had to find an alternative when the single person couldn't deliver on time (he was totally overwhelmed, though I don't know if he scrambled to find some freelance help). People don't always end up being exposed like that, but they're still taking a gamble when they claim to be something they're not.

Some people seemed talented and professional, but when their website ends up being hyperbole, it's not only insincere but not respectable. Plus, some people create a website with "we" all over it, and they haven't even bothered to create a proper business (ie, registering with the Secretary of State, paying the fees, creating an LLC or incorporating). It's better to be honest and say you're a freelancer rather than create a fancy website and pretending to be more than you actually are.

So I commend those people who are truthful in the representation of their business and services. One such person is language fan/pro Sarah Dillon. When she only had her translation/interpretation business, she was totally upfront on her website about working by herself (I've never met her, so I'm just summarizing her approach based on what I saw). Now she's become a consultant, but she still makes it clear that she's alone. There's nothing wrong with that, and she doesn't seem to be a wannabe. So I'm assuming the way she works is ethical, as well.