One of the best ways to grow your coaching business is through building strong relationships with people in your network, and to expand your network to other people through the people you already know. These folks can be potential clients, Influencers, referral sources, and/or Strategic Alliances.
A Strategic Alliance (or Partnership) is a mutually beneficial relationship with formal agreements in place that enhances the growth and prosperity of both of your businesses.
One of my passions is helping my clients incorporate this idea of Strategic Alliances into their business. After they understand how the right Strategic Alliances or Partners could transform their business, we work together to put that plan into action. Our goal is to create partnerships that are win-win, where 1+1 seems to equal 3 or 4, rather than 2, using the idea that we can accomplish more together than we can apart.
Once we’ve identified a potential Strategic Partner, the next step is for you to sit down with the potential partner and have an exploratory meeting. This meeting isn’t about hashing out the details of working together, but more about just determining if you are a good fit. In the world of dating, it’s the coffee date where you determine if there is that spark of true interest and that you mutually want to explore it further.
In an exploratory meeting, you biggest goal is to see if there is potential for you to work together in a way that feels mutually beneficial. You want to make sure you ask the right questions to help you determine the potential in the relationship (for more on this, check out my free Strategic Alliance Interview Guide). That potential is not just about the facts, it is also about how this person makes you feel.
I worked with a client recently, who I will call Betty, who was working on setting up some Strategic Partnerships for her business and was to the point of sitting down to do her first exploratory meetings. After the first one, she confided in me that she felt that something was off, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.
I asked her to describe what happened in the meeting to me. In reflection, she realized that she spent almost the whole meeting listening and supporting Sue, her potential partner. At the end of the meeting, Sue had even proclaimed, “This was great! Let’s do this again!” While Betty felt great about helping Sue, it didn’t sit right with her.
I asked Betty, “What did Sue ask about your business?” Betty realized Sue actually hadn’t asked many questions or offered her support, and in fact, what had transpired was that she had really given Sue a free coaching session.
It’s easy for us coaches to fall into this trap. You likely love helping others and it’s probably one of the reasons you became a coach in the first place. I imagine you have always been a coach to the people in your life on some level, long before you went to coaching school. We love sharing our gifts!
My cousin once joked that she wasn’t going to invite me to parties anymore because I always ended up in the corner with someone who was crying on my shoulder. The reality is that people love to be around people like us. We make great friends, great partners, great mentors, and of course, great coaches! But as much as we love to give, we also want to be “met.”
Look for Relationships that Feel Like an Equal Energy Exchange
When you give and give without reciprocation, it can eventually leave you feeling depleted. One way to conceptualize this is through the idea of an Equal Energy Exchange.
In a relationship with Equal Energy Exchange, it feels balanced to both parties. Balanced doesn’t mean always equal. Like a seesaw, you may sometimes be the one who is up, sometime the one who is down, and sometimes you will be balanced in the middle. Overall, though, the energy evens out and it feels fair, balanced and expansive to both.
When building your Strategic Partnerships, it’s key to find partners who are also giving by nature, or who try to give as much as they take, as these are the folks who you will find it easier to create a relationship that feels ongoing like an Equal Energy Exchange.
As someone who is generous by nature, I give because I love to give. I get a lot out of giving. With that said, I also notice if someone isn’t curious about me or giving space for me in a conversation. As Maya Angelou says, when someone shows me who they are, I believe them the first time.
Whether in business or my personal life, I am mindful about choosing who to give my time and energy, and I love to give to people who are also generous in spirit like me. A huge reason I do this is because I know that I will be a better friend, partner and colleague when my energy is pure and I am being my best self. Believe me, I’ve tried to partner with people who looked great on paper but weren’t invested in me. No surprise, but ultimately it didn’t work for me because it didn’t bring out my best self (Instead it brought out my insecurities, doubts and resentments). Even with great financial gain, we only want to partner with people that bring out our best because ultimately it doesn’t serve us if it only serves a part of us.
Luckily, you don’t have learn the hard way whether your potential Strategic Partner is going to be a good match for your giving nature. Pay attention to the right things during your Exploratory Interview, and they will show you who they are. Just like every relationship gone awry, you can look back on those initial interactions and see sometimes you chose to ignore what was plainly there to see.
As soon as possible after your exploratory meeting, sit down and ask yourself the following questions. It can help to actually write them down so you engage a different part of your brain:
- What questions did they ask about your business?
- How curious where they about you?
- How much of the conversation did they spend talking vs. you?
- Would their business complement yours if you partnered together?
- Did you feel yourself leaning in as much as they were? Do you see potential in exploring this further?
- Was there anything that felt “off”?
If you find in your reflection that you are left with more questions than answers, that’s okay. Just make sure that before you move forward to the next step, you find the answers to your questions, and that your gut is telling you to move forward as well as your head.
Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the idea of working with someone, particularly someone you admire, or in the potential you see in a partnership. You want to make sure that you only invest in relationships that feel on all levels that it will benefit you. Business relationships that thrive have at their core an Equal Energy Exchange.
How do you evaluate a potential business partner to ensure it will be a good fit for you? Please share any tips in the comments.
Tara Butler Floch