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Some time ago a topic came up in Prosperous Coach Club, my Facebook group for new-ish coaches. The coach was talking about the challenge of networking with other coaches.
And that topic spurred me to talk about something related but not exactly the same, which is about partnering with another coach either short or long term.
By the way, for this episode partnering could be anything from partnering on one small project to going all in and building a business together in partnership.
So first, I want to own my bias. I’ve always been a bit of a maverick. I have unconventional ideas and like to be the sole driver of those ideas.
I very much enjoy the challenge of running my business driven by my own values and desires. I want to be able to turn on a dime. Make decisions quickly knowing it affects only me.
For those reasons, I’m not a good partner candidate. And that’s okay. You might be a good partner candidate.
By the way, I didn’t always know these things about myself. I found this out the hard way trying to partner with a number of fine human beings over the years including, at one point, my husband. Bless us, that was a challenging time in our marriage I can tell you!
Looking back at it all I can say that the biggest reason I floundered in partnerships was a lack of confidence.
If I had known my own business, known my own mind, my wants and what doesn’t work for me before I leaped … well you know … hindsight.
Partnership is a Big Risk
If you are risk averse or a conflict avoider, you may not be up for partnership until you grow those strengths.
When you’re a new coach you are vulnerable to partnership because it can be lonely and overwhelming doing everything yourself.
You don’t have automatic colleagues, as you do in other jobs, to bounce ideas off of. You don’t have the built in accountability of a supervisor or a team leader.
Everything is on you – the costs of building and maintaining all aspects of the business and the workload of marketing and delivering services.
For this reason, many coaches prematurely reach out to partner with another coach. Some other coach shows up, suggests collaborating and out of loneliness you say yes.
On the other hand, trying a partnership may help you grow in lots of ways through the lessons you learn. There’s a lot of value in trial and error.
When a coach I’m working with brings up the idea of collaboration with another coach, I throw a red flag out there so the coach can slow down and think things through.
The first rule of thumb is only partner once you are well established in your own business. Then, you are clear of the value you deliver, your audience and services. You are differentiated from the other coach.
With that confidence and certainty you’re less likely to enter into a partnership out of desperation and unwittingly jump right into a classic trap.
4 Big Considerations Before You Leap Into Partnership with Another Coach
Finding the RIGHT partner at the RIGHT time for you is more important than looking for a helpmate. Hire a business coach for that role.
Here are 4 things to think through completely before you offer or accept partnership of any kind with another coach (and for that matter, with any individual or organization)
Are You Complementary and Compatible?
Partnership in business is a lot like partnership in marriage. You need to be compatible and compliment each other in many ways to weather the difficult times and find joy in the partnership. Ending a partnership can feel much like a divorce and get ugly. I’ve seen it happen between coaches many times.
Do your coaching niches align but not compete? Episode 119 is all about competition and why you need to stand out. If you and your partner haven’t settled on your target audience and niche yet, you’re not ready.
Do you have complimentary skills? For example, one of you is especially good at writing and the other is especially good at presenting.
Do your work styles blend well? If one of you is a workhorse and the other a slacker — that’s a deal breaker. I’ve always been a doer and I’ve partnered with people who don’t do. If I had a contract it would have raised awareness for us both from the get go. I wish I’d thought of all this. But I learned and I’m still here!
Do Have Aligned Vision and Values?
What is your collective vision for the project or business? Does it gel well together or is it jarringly different? Notice when you’re uncomfortable and ask yourself what that’s about.
Do you trust each other? Watch if you or they becomes a “yes person”. They assert and you automatically go along to get along or the other way around. Best to back off if you sense that.
Do your business values align? Let’s say you have high integrity and demonstrate that, but that’s not important to your prospective partner — that’s a deal breaker. Talk it all through and find out.
Can you sense mutual respect? One sign of disrespect is cause for a conversation. But more than one is a strong message that this isn’t partnership material.
Do You Stay Current and Have High Standards for Communication?
Are you two in excellent communication? Notice how the other person communicates verbally and in writing. Are they clear? Are they too verbose? Do you feel confused or frustrated with emails, texts or conversations?
Do they or you have a tendency to ghost – disappear or respond too slowly? That’s not going to work.
Create a Contract with Clear Responsibilities and Boundaries
If everything is looking good and you both agree to move ahead, create a contract – even for a small project. Sit down and set clear goals, responsibilities, timelines and boundaries. If money is involved hire a lawyer.