Finding Partnerships: How to Vet Potential Collaborators



A good partnership can be a gold mine, creating value for everybody involved. It brings out the best in each person, and in tandem, you both work towards reaching your highest purpose. A good partnership opens doors and takes you on a journey. But not all partnerships are created equal, and it pays to bring some intentionality to your vetting process. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way and recommendations to consider as you look towards building partnerships in your business.

“Date” Your Potential Partners

Approach partnership just like you approach dating. Start by getting to know a potential collaborator. Ask them questions, understand what makes them tick, assess for values, and inquire about goals. What’s their dream? What’s their vision for the future? You’re checking to see if you’re a good fit. Is there alignment? Spend some quality time with them, whether that’s grabbing dinner or spending time together at a conference. Even a phone call can give you a sense of who they are and what they’re all about.   

Decide if you like them. Yes, you have to like your partners. Don’t partner with someone you don’t want to grab a drink with. It’ll be a painful partnership. When you’re in the weeds, when decisions need to be made, a foundation of respect does wonders. Genuinely wanting to be around each other lends itself to harmonious partnerships. 

Build trust over time. Trust doesn’t happen overnight, but if you show up and show each other you’re in it to win it—for both of you—it will say a lot about the potential for collaboration. If you’re sharing profits, team members, goals, and dreams, you have to be able to trust your partner has your back, no matter what.   

When I brought on a Managing Director as my right-hand lady at Brainchild Studios, I knew I needed someone who wasn’t afraid of numbers or following the rules, and, more than anything, someone I trusted. Bonnie Atkinson was it. Not only did she bring a breadth of experience, including as a Business Manager for a $2 billion company, but she also prioritized women in business, serving as Business Plan Advisor at WWBIC. She’s intelligent, thoughtful, and ambitious. She also happened to be great friends with my sister for the last 16 years. My sister gave her the thumbs up, so not only did I know her, like her, and trust her. But so did my sister. Game on.

Know. Like. Trust. 

That’s how you tell whether you chose the right partner or not. 

Look for the Peanut Butter to Your Jelly 

An ideal partnership features two people who can bring great ideas to the table and make them happen. I think the best way to explain this is through Gino Wickman’s brilliant business thought leadership. Wickman talks about a Visionary and Integrator in Rocket Fuel, his book about how to transform your business. A visionary brings the big ideas and the integrator makes those ideas a reality and every partnership needs both roles represented. It’s the secret sauce to business success.  

During any decision, any change, any sprint, somebody needs to be the visionary and someone the integrator. And those roles can flip flop based on the need/situation/opportunity, but they both need to be filled for it to be successful. 

Find potential collaborators that can counterbalance. If you’re more of a big ideas person, find your integrator. If you’re an integrator, find your big ideas person. And don’t be afraid to flex when the situation requires it. Sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone and occupying a role you’re not used to can create novel opportunities and incredible successes. Find collaborators that are willing to evolve with the situation and evolve with you. 

Opposites Attract: Choose Partners That Complement You

It’s easy to look for people that look like you, think like you, act like you. But sometimes the best partnerships are with people who have followed a different pathway and complement you with their unique skill set. 

I have an ongoing partnership with Scott Snider and Exit Planning Institute (EPI). We’re a great yin and yang. I have a marketing background. His background is in sales. I have experience building strategy and running a marketing department. He has created stages for me to share my expertise (literally) and promote EPI. I’ve helped him build the value of his business and he’s helped me build value in both of mine. We’re always opening doors for one another and have each other’s back. 

He was RAYNE IX’s very first client—and now coaching and consulting client. I’m currently coaching one of his team members to step into a marketing leadership position. I also hooked him up with a trusted ad management partner and PR partner. He gave me my first keynote speaking opportunity. Yin and yang. Despite having pretty different work backgrounds, we complement each other. 

Look for somebody that complements you.  

Trust Your Network 

When vetting potential partners, leverage your network to see if you’re a good fit. If people you know and trust can vouch for you, and can in turn vouch for potential collaborators, everybody’s starting on a positive note.  

At Brainchild Studios, we collaborated with Susan Baier at Audience Audit. We met through Agency Management Institute (AMI) and Susan vetted me through the owner, Drew McLellan, who (thank you, Drew) vouched for my character and potential for partnership. I know Susan is in a group with my friend, Lori Highby (Keystone Click), so I spoke with her about Susan as well. Rave reviews all around, so after a few glasses of wine in Orlando, we started making moves to help each other out!

If people you know, like, and trust have other people they know, like, and trust, that says a lot. 

Remember: Know. Like. Trust. 

Start Collaborating

The best partnerships are with people you know, people you like, and people you trust. And vetting a potential partner can be fun. I’m talking about glasses of wine, great conversations, and shared dreams. If you want to know more about some of my partners (they’re great people), check out my podcast, Welcome to Eloma, to hear their stories and how we use partnerships to make our dreams a reality.