How My Partnership With Gideon Shalwick Generated A Quarter Of A Million Dollars In Under 12 Months
When I first started this blog the Internet was younger and many of the current big success story online companies had only recently risen to dominance.
I was fascinated with the background history behind the companies that featured heavily during the dot-com boom, some of which survived post the bust like eBay, Paypal and Amazon.com, and others that had fallen far from their glory days, like Napster.
I read biographical books that covered the people behind these companies and enjoyed hearing how the initial concepts were sparked and what path led from idea to multi-million, sometimes even multi-billion dollar companies.
You can read reviews of some of the books in the archives of this blog, including the PayPal Wars, the The Perfect Store – Inside eBay, Google And The Mission To Map Meaning And Make Money and All the Rave – The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster.
Two People Are Better Than One
I can’t remember where I read it first, but somewhere I recall hearing that many really successful companies, both offline and online, were started as partnerships. Two people, for all kinds of reasons, are able to achieve more than an individual.
The stories behind some of the big Internet success stories reinforces this idea, as is the case with Google, Microsoft and Apple. There are two founders who drive the vision behind the company, taking it to good performer and beyond to where most companies never go, to industry leader and even cultural phenomenon.
On a smaller scale, many of the people I interview in my podcasts on this blog often are part of a two-person partnership of some kind. One person may be in the limelight more than the other, but behind the scenes, there are two, who complement and motivate each other to get things done.
Up until 2007 I was a solo-entrepreneur, and I liked it that way. I read this fact about partnerships resulting in big success stories online as interesting, but it wasn’t compelling enough for me to run and find a partner. I had no interest in sharing my profits, or needing to negotiate with someone else to decide what to do. I enjoyed my independence as the only captain steering my ship.
Of course there are success stories of individuals creating massive companies too, so I wasn’t concerned that my desire to work alone might hurt my potential for success.
Despite my lack of intention, I have managed to find myself in a successful partnership that will very likely dominate the direction of my business for years to come. It’s worthwhile explaining how this happened, and what it has done for my business, so you can decide whether a partnership could benefit you too.
One of the wonderful things about life is that you never know what’s coming up next. The only constant is change. This can be a terribly frightening idea if you become attached to something for fear of loss (relationships, objects, places, people, life itself), but also wonderfully liberating because it means whatever you don’t like about your life now will change, it’s a guarantee.
In some circumstances what appears as the randomness of change means you are completely oblivious to what comes next on a conscious level, so when it arrives, it’s a surprise. This idea can make you live in a permanent state of excitement or of course fear, depending how you look at life.
I had no idea that in 2007 I’d attend a typical pitch-fest Internet marketing event, which for all intents and purposes wasn’t anything special, except I met my future business partner there, Gideon Shalwick.
Many people have asked how Gideon and I met, so here’s the story in brief…
Gideon was at the Internet marketing event, walking up to the speakers and asking to do video interviews with them for his Internet Marketing Wizards project.
At the time Gideon was still looking for a break-out project, having written and published a book, and was spending a lot of time with online video.
Gideon came up to me and asked whether I was interested in being featured in one of his videos and I said yes. Since Gideon lived in Brisbane too, we agreed to do it at a later date so he could fit in interviews with those marketers who were only visiting Brisbane for the weekend.
Two weeks later I found myself in Gideon’s downtown apartment, sitting on chairs in front of his green screen, recording an interview. You can watch the video here if you’re interested -
Introducing Yaro Starak (You will have to dig around Blip for the rest of the parts of the interview.)
After I saw the quality and effort Gideon put into his video work I realized here was a guy with passion and an action-taker, two rare qualities.
A few months before this I was approached by the owner of the domain name BecomeABlogger.com to ask if I was interested in buying it. I said no.
I had enough projects going on at the time and I had made the mistake of doing too many things at once previously, so I tended to have a knee-jerk “no thanks” response to anything that looked like it might balloon into a new project.
A few months later I had a change of heart after having an idea about how to use the domain name as an introductory site for new bloggers. I didn’t have much video content at the time, so I decided it would be worthwhile having a site with beginner training videos on how to start blogging with WordPress, which I could send people to. I wouldn’t charge money for the videos, instead I’d use the site as a lead generator.
I bought the domain name but didn’t start the project up immediately. When Gideon appeared he seemed like a good fit as I needed someone with solid video and teaching skills.
I approached Gideon about taking the job on as a contract project and he said yes. It probably wasn’t the most fun work for Gideon, and I can be a terribly annoying person to develop for as I get picky with the little details, but eventually we finished up the site and made ten videos available for free. We were both happy and proud of the results.
When Gideon and I first talked about the project we discussed possibly expanding it, even as much as creating an entire membership site around the concept, if the first ten videos were well received.
It turned out that yes, basic video training for bloggers was something people really wanted, and Gideon’s teaching style was well received. I had access to an audience and Gideon had the skills to produce great video content, so we decided to follow my membership site model and set up a new video training program.
The rest, as they say, is history…
Become A Blogger Premium went on to become my most successful training course to date, with close to 2,000 students taking the course in the last 12 months.
Gideon and I created a new business together that grossed over a quarter of a million dollars in less than a year. We’ve helped thousands of people start successful blogs and Gideon and his wife are now in a much better financial situation too, which is something I get tremendous satisfaction from.
Incidentally, if you are at all interested in the more finite details about how we set-up and launched Become A Blogger Premium there is a special series of videos inside Membership Site Mastermind from Gideon and myself about the BAB Program, as well as my complete overview of how my membership site system works and how you can apply it to launch your own product.
If releasing your own information product interests you, you can begin now by studying my free report, The Membership Site Masterplan, and stay tuned for when I open the Membership Site Mastermind course to new students again.
How Partnerships Make A Difference
Now that I’ve actually experienced an active and successful partnership, I’m in a position to understand why they work and why you would consider entering into one.
Here are some key benefits I’ve gained thanks to working with Gideon:
- When Gideon and I partnered I had just finished creating two courses all by myself and I wasn’t in a situation were I wanted to create content for another program. I was tired. Gideon brought a skill-set I didn’t have – video creation – and was willing to spend some time creating content to teach others, if the project was something he was excited about.
- Gideon has motivation and skills, but he lacked a platform to access people. I had a platform through my blog, email list and contacts. It was a natural fit to work together as we could reach a lot of people and deliver a quality product, but only do this together.
This only worked because I clearly saw the talent Gideon possessed and he had proven himself in a contract project we did together. The contract project was critical because it demonstrated to me Gideon’s character and skills, but also the marketability of the product we were planning on creating. We were able to experience the demand for what we were creating, so we weren’t playing a guessing game when it came time decide whether to release a product.
- Accountability is a huge aspect of getting things done and there’s nothing more motivating than becoming responsible to somebody else besides yourself. I’m quite self-motivated – I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without being so – but having someone else whom you are accountable to makes deadlines even more important because you don’t just let yourself down if you don’t perform.
- We made friends. This is probably the most important aspect. We got to know each other as people first without any thoughts of working together on a business project, and making a new friend is always a good thing.
Put Friendship First
Any form of partnership is based on the ability of the people in the partnership to work together as human beings. If you don’t “gel” then it doesn’t matter how complementary your skills are, or how great the opportunity is, it won’t work.
Gideon and I are well suited in many ways. We are both down to earth, so much so that when we started nutting out the details for our partnership we decided to just play it by ear and see what happened before getting any formal contracts done.
We put the friendship first, and we have always done so because that’s more valuable than anything else. Fighting over profit distribution, or who does what when, to the point of damaging a relationship is not worth it. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing of course, but it has never come close to a situation where we would risk our friendship.
The key to making the relationship aspect of your partnership work is to have a well constructed value system, that all parties share to some extent. If you value the relationships with people before the material benefits you earn from the partnership, then you will do well.
It’s Not Always Smooth Sailing
If there’s one area where most partnerships have problems, it’s communication.
If you don’t communicate where you are coming from or how you are feeling or what your expectations are, when things don’t quite line up how you expect them to, that’s when agitation begins. With enough agitation, the entire partnership can begin to deteriorate.
Gideon and I faced a unique challenge when we started because we were both bringing very different things into the arrangement, variables that are difficult to measure and thus cross reference.
I came to the table with an established brand, channels of communication to reach customers and contacts with some very important people in the industry. These variables are often the hardest to create and are make-or-break in terms of business success, since if you can’t reach people it doesn’t matter how good your product is, you won’t have customers.
Much of my contribution was based on leveraging work I had already done over previous years to create my preeminence, while from Gideon’s point of view he showed up and agreed to do a lot of work in terms of product creation.
Gideon created the bulk of the content within the product we created. He wrote the largest chunk of the resources and marketing materials we used to promote the product and continues to deal with customer service and ongoing promotion.
The challenge with this arrangement is it is very difficult to quantify and qualify what each person contributes to a partnership. It’s impossible to place a “value” on each of our contributions and then attempt to reach a point where we both are adding 50% value each, to justify the 50% value of the company we both own.
The key, and this ties back into the communication aspect, is to make sure that both parties feel comfortable with the contributions each party is making. Emotions are way more important than quantifiable measurement of inputs.
This is something that needs to be constantly evaluated and discussed, which is why Gideon and I have to be very careful as we take on more projects, so we ensure we both know what our roles are and are happy about what we each agree to do.
Gideon was content to do more “labor” work initially because I brought distribution, but I can’t expect to leverage my past efforts while Gideon works hard in the present forever.
Now that we’ve finished creating all the content for the course and most of our system is automated, we have much less work to do. Gideon and I are both in a situation where we can leverage previous effort, and enjoy the fruits of a well structured information product business model.
Why Would You Look For A Partnership?
Although I don’t think it’s necessary to deliberately seek out a partnership, there are some situations where you may consider it a good strategy, either as a means to form a new enterprise, or take your existing business forward.
Here are some situations where a partnership is valuable –
- If you lack critical skills and don’t have a means to hire or contract the work. Be careful with this, don’t partner with someone just because you need a good designer, or web developer, or any job that can be outsourced on a project basis, or supplied by an employee. You should only bring on a partner when there’s a clear synergy between you and them, where your partnership creates something greater than the sum of the parts.
- If you’re currently not established in an industry and you don’t want to go through the hard slog to slowly build up your preeminence over time, then finding a partner who is already preeminent and has distribution is definitely the quickest path to success.
- When a person approaches you and they so clearly possess talent that you can leverage based on your own talent or situation, it’s simply a case of divine intention that you work together. Sometimes it’s just meant to be, and you will know this very likely based on the relationship you have with the person and how they make you feel more than anything else.
- If you’re already established yourself, one of the greatest sources of leverage you will ever find are people who have a great idea, or own the rights to a great product or technology that could be applied to your industry. If you have systems, resources and distribution, you can leverage your assets to create more wealth. Just be certain you’re not doing it just for the money, you have to believe in the concept too.
Partnerships are relationships, so you don’t want to enter them lightly. Make sure you know what you are getting into, think about where you are heading, what you personally want to contribute, what type of person you are considering working with, whether you really need them as partners and always, always communicate clearly for best results.
Gideon and I are planning some big things in 2010, so if you’re interested in working closer with both of us, stay tuned, we’ll have some very unique opportunities coming soon.