In this episode of The Widest Net Podcast Pam talks to Charlie Gilkey, CEO of Productive Flourishing, where we diagnose our own 3-year partnership and the elements that lead to its success.
Partnering with other business professionals who have complementary values and skills can open up new, lucrative opportunities for business owners. But partnership can also be complex to navigate given the often long-term and multifaceted nature of such arrangements.
So, how can business owners build mutually beneficial partnerships that lead to successful business ventures? Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing joined Pam to provide insight into this question, touching on topics such as finding the right partners, sharing intellectual property, addressing the money piece, and when to wind down.
Here’s the full transcript of the show.
00:05 – Pam
I am delighted to welcome my longtime friend, past business partner, occasional client, and little brother in the spiritual – not literal – sense. Don’t start wondering, people, if he’s actually my little brother. Charlie Gilkey. Charlie’s fascination with the philosophy of productivity drove him to create new methods that guide users to not only finish what they start, but to finish what matters most. He spent the last 15 years guiding professional creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners get past what is holding them back. His website, productiveflourishing.com, is one of the top sites for planning and productivity. Along its yellow brick road, Charlie served as an officer in the Army, is a near PhD in philosophy, married his high school sweetheart, Angela, and did basket tosses as a cheerleader. He is also an Eagle Scout. I know that.
01:03 – Pam
He has written several books, including the highly acclaimed and award-winning Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done, its companion workbook, the Start Finishing Field Guide, and the highly anticipated Team Habits, which will help teams increase their belonging and performance. In 2022, Charlie launched one of the most ambitious and rewarding projects yet, the Momentum app created to be a productivity coach in your pocket. So, Charlie, welcome to The Widest Net Podcast.
01:32 – Charlie
Pam, I am so excited to be here. Before you gave the bio, I was like, ‘Don’t call her sis, don’t call her sis on the air.’ We’ve had this conversation. But then you set it up, so I’m like, okay, I can do it now.
Oh, we have to go all the way there. Because I think that’s a very interesting part of what I want to talk about today in partnerships. It’s such an essential component of the Widest Net Method, the way I look at the world of ecosystems. And it really is a topic in partnerships that every single client I’ve ever worked with – and probably you have worked with – wants to know, which is just: how do I build effective partnerships?
When I thought about who would be the best person to talk to about this on this podcast, I thought of you immediately. And on one hand, it is very specifically because you have really direct IP that you’ve developed over the years as a coach, and I know you do a lot of coaching with your clients about that. And more specifically, that we have a personal experience of partnering together. And I would say it’s an exceptional partnership and one that’s produced just beautiful, unexpected results.
So, let me ask you first, how would you describe our relationship with each other?
Oh, that one’s a hard one. Because I’d have to give so many of the phrases that you gave back. Because they’re like, ‘Well, is Pam your coach?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, and?’ And it was like ‘Do you coach Pam?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, and?’ ‘Do you do partnerships and events together?’ It’s like, ‘Yes, and?’ And there’s all these ‘yes, ands’ between the way we show up in each other’s families, and, you know, not just ask about each other’s family, but actually have an instrumental role to play in those. Yeah, it feels much more like a siblinghood, and we just find different ways of working with and supporting each other based upon what we’re going through and what our audiences are going through. So that’s the best non answer I can give you.
03:30 – Charlie
I find that the best relationships in my life are the multi-dimensional ones, to where it’s not just one role. Because that’s a confining way to look at a human being, and we’re not just one role to one person, right? And so, yeah, the biggest one, though, that I would just say is it’s closer to siblinghood.
I may get myself in trouble with my family. Listen here, when something good happens, Pam is like one or two of the first people that I call, right? When something super terrible is going on, Pam is one of the first two or three people that I call to talk about it in that sort of way. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s personal or business or whatever it is, it’s just like, ‘This thing is happening, and I gotta tell someone!’ Or, ‘This thing is happening, and I got to tell someone.’
And it reminds me, you know, of something that I heard Todd Cashton say way back in, like, 2010, I believe, in New York. He doesn’t remember saying it, but I remember him saying it, so I’m going to go with it. It’s that the people who provide the richest relationships with you are the people that you can celebrate with.
The story that we have is that your true friends and partners are the ones that are there with you when you’re down. Turns out, your true friends and partners can be there with you when you’re up. Yeah, and you don’t have to, like, tamp it down and play smaller and sort of make space for people. You get to be who you are even when you’re up. So, Pam, amongst many other things, among many other ‘yes, ands,’ you’re also that true, deep friend and sister that can be there when I’m up, just as well as when I’m down.
Does Partnership Require Friendship?
05:09 – Pam
I feel the same. It’s such a beautiful description. And I think it’s an interesting way to get into the topic of partnerships, because there is something about, for me, unique qualities in you that is related to the most significant relationships in my life and in work.
And there’s something about holding space for somebody where their growth and well-being and flourishing – pun intended – even productive flourishing is really at the center, because to know that somebody, you know, has your back so strongly, that I know no matter what, in any situation that I would find myself in, you would be somebody who I could call and I know would show up fully to address the situation, not just like the younger brother wedded to knock somebody out. I mean, you could if you had to, but really is somebody who would just show up to say, ‘What does the situation need? What kind of support do you need for, you know, for well-being?’
And as a context, I think for that, as we begin to dive specifically into the topic of looking at components of partnering, of the actual process of partnering, in addition to characteristics of partners, do you think that you need to be friends the way that we are in order to be effective business partners? Or have you seen partnerships that do not have to have the strong component of, like, love and sibling feeling and so forth?
06:44 – Charlie
I think you need belonging, but not necessarily friendship. You know, there’s a saying that I learned in the Army. It’s like, there’s some commanders that you want to have a beer with, but you don’t want to go to war with. And there are some commanders who you want to go to war with, but you don’t want to have a beer with. And in the ideal case, they’re the same person. Like, do you trust them with your life? Do you trust them with their decision making? You have that level, and you can also like and want to hang out with them.
But if you have to choose, go with the commander who’s going to get you there and back safely, even if you don’t like them, right. And so, I think what you have to have is belonging and trust. You don’t necessarily need to have the friendship.
Now, a part of belonging, though, does include enough value alignment that people can share their truths, and they can share what’s going on without always cloaking. So, if someone – I’ll say this because of where we are in America – if someone is on the extreme opposite side of the political spectrum as you are, right now it’s very hard to find belonging with them, right? Just because the way you see the world and what you’re going to be going through and the space that you’re going to need is going to be hard for that other person to understand.
Now, that doesn’t mean that every issue you have to agree with. I’m not saying that. But I’m just saying, if like, they are so diametrically opposed to who you are that you can’t show up that way, that’s probably not going to work out. And that’s not about being friends; that’s around belonging and trust and value alignment.
08:17 – Charlie
But I think we all, as creators…well, and I want to pause on just sort of creative entrepreneurs and people in that, like, we already so over identify with our work to start with, that, if we also make our partners people that are so close, that we love and things like that to that degree, we actually counterintuitively decrease the surface area of possibility with partners, because you essentially have to do something that’s super close to what I do, and you have to be super close like me. You almost have to be a damn near clone of me, and that’s not what creates the best partnerships, actually. What creates the best partnerships is both the convergence and divergence in what you’re bringing together. And if you don’t have enough divergence, you’re going to run into a whole different set, a host, of problems than that.
So, I don’t think it’s necessary, but I will say it is sublime, right? It is sublime. And, you know, you mentioned – you know this about me, Pam, and I have to be honest with a lot of my friends – like, in a given moment, I may not be able to be there for you just because of meetings; I might be all sorts of different places. But I think it’s true that over time I am there, right? And in a way that can sometimes be annoying, because I’m like, ‘Hey, we talked about this thing like three months ago. Like, how’s that going?’ And you’re like, ‘Damn, I didn’t want to talk about that today,’ or whatever that is. And so, I look at the relationship over time, and just like I look at clients for life, I also look at partners and friends for life as much as possible. Because let’s be real: relationships can be hard because they take time to tend.
10:02 – Charlie
And I see far too many people spreading themselves too thin on all their relationships and then feeling like they’re never able to develop the trust and belonging and rapport to actually see that they have the type of convergence and divergence that will make a great partnership. They’re just spread too thin.
So, I think we could spend more time truly loving the ones that we’re with and building from there versus going too, too wide. Like, the net can’t be so wide that you can’t get your arms around it at the end.
We Have “Lift Off”: Charlie & Pam’s First Collaboration
10:02 – Pam
It’s true. And it is, as I often say about it, in thinking about the exploration of pushing the edge sometimes of working with people, as you said, I love this idea of the divergence from a market perspective. So, if we think about business owners who are wanting to expand into a new market – so they’ve been more in the business to consumer, b2c, selling to individuals, and they get excited about selling into big business – they need to be partnering with somebody who has experience there. It’s understanding at any given time, you know, what can you handle, especially if it’s a newer relationship where you have to take the time to get to know each other. So, I really do love that.
I think one of the places that could be interesting to start is just looking at our first big collaboration, which was a three-and-a-half-day entrepreneur retreat called Lift Off that we ran over three years. We ran it twice a year for amazing groups of entrepreneurs. Do you remember about how it is that we started, like where the idea popped up?
11:38 – Charlie
I hope you don’t remember clearly, because in your counter, you’ll do that. But um, that’s interesting that you sort of marked that as our first collaboration, whereas I look at some of the stuff that we did through, like, the thought leadership and working with each other on speeches and things like that as actually the start of things, for me. That’s what I remember leading into that. And I was like, I really dig Pam; I really believe in her body of work. And we just create such fruitful things together, right, that then later on, I think you and I were both talking about like doing retreats like, ‘Hey, well, you got this thing going on.’ And then I think that somewhere in the conversation, like, ‘Charlie, but you’re really good at all this planning stuff that I’m not so good at, so maybe we can come together.’ Or you’re great at it on your own, but teaching it, right? Like maybe we can come together and do something.
Well, we both work with entrepreneurs. For those of y’all who had been with Pam for a long time, been part of the family for a long time, this was right after Escape from Cubicle Nation, right?
12:45 – Charlie
I don’t know how much how much I’m able to reveal here. But at that time, most of your clients were people who were starting their own businesses. They were founders. They were very early in their entrepreneurial process. Big ideas. Structure and strategy, not so much. Right? I did a lot of structure and strategy. You did a lot of marketing at the time, right? And you still do marketing.
I laugh about that. Because Pam, I think we were talking about it on my podcast: it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, The Widest Net is a marketing book. And Pam does marketing. Why do I not think of Pam as marketing?’ Just because the way you do it is so different, right? And so, we’re like, if we can put together the marketing side and the community building side – which Pam does, as you know, fantastic at – with some structure and strategy, then we have something really special. And we did.
13:37 – Charlie
So that’s how I remember that coming about. But please, is your memory different about that?
My memory is so shot, honestly. And now especially where we throw in, like, the vortex of, you know, quarantine and so forth, like you are probably right.
I know we crossed paths through different ways that we did, at conferences, at South by Southwest. And I do just remember in beginning to have the conversation about the retreat, it wasn’t – I joke sometimes with clients that you have that “let’s put on a show” mentality, like you might see an old 1940s movies where people get together. ‘Let’s put on a show.’ And then the next scene you see everybody dancing down the street. It’s often a way that people will start collaborations that sometimes are amazing when they go down the path. And other times are not so amazing, where it starts out really hot and heavy and then without having a lot of clarification about is this a person who’s aligned with my values and ethics and all that. It can go wrong. But I do feel like we had that chance to get to know each other. We got to know each other through our work because you were blogging. I was as well.
14:49 – Pam
I have always felt connected through the work that you do. I feel like I’ve always been a passionate fan of the way that you write, the kinds of tools that you share. So, we just did have this idea. And once we got it in mind, we had our first one in Mesa, Arizona, at Saguaro Lake Ranch, which was actually the place that Darrell and I got married. A wonderful, beautiful place with little cottages. I think we just put the word out. We created a sales page; we, you know, put the word out. And by some miracle, we got 15 people who were willing to be the first group.
15:26 – Charlie
I mean, yeah, we built an early-stage website that was essentially like a two- or three-page sales letter. Right? There’s an application we did that we split the onboarding of different people. I think the rule was that if they came from your audience, that I did the sort of orientation conversation with them; I did sort of the sales conversation. If they came from mine, you did it. And that way, we could both make sure that we got out of our biases and that the people coming would trust the other partner and really understand what they got, which led to a lot of conversations of like, is this person a fit or not a fit? I think it’s a hell yes. I’m not sure that’s a hell yes. We’re both not sure about that person. And turns out, we were both right. You know, those types of things.
And so, it was just one of those sorts of flows where, I think, given your background and community building and fit and consulting and all those things, you had that side of it. And from my side, even though I was newer to the entrepreneurial journey, I’ve been building enough events and training and programs to the Army and Boy Scouts and things like that, that I was like, look, the right people in the room that trust that the host is everything. We got to figure that piece out. And if we nail that, well, then the rest will sort of take care of itself.
For sure. And that was one of the fun things. I feel like that was the first time, which is what’s normal in partnerships, where you get the experience of what is it actually like to be creating a plan with somebody. So, going beyond, ‘Is there a reason for us to partner? Could we offer complimentary services and create something new and interesting together?’ but to the process of actually creating it. That’s sometimes the one point of friction failure, where there are differing ideas or ways of getting things done.
I really remember having ease in how we laid out the agenda. We kind of divided it up knowing we had the days of we’ll start out. You know, I’ll kick off this section; you take the next one. We designed exercises and really brought it together. But that felt to me like a really ease-filled process, coming up with a design. And we had lots of fun and back and forth and laughter and everything in making it happen, getting the plan together.
Partnership Through the Seasons
Yeah, what I’ve always appreciated about – especially the early days of those partnerships, but it’s still true about you, Pam – is how egoless you are with some of these things. Like, you don’t roll in like, ‘We must talk about this. And this is the one right way of doing it.’ You’re rolling and you’ll be like, ‘Well, I don’t know. Let’s try some things.’ And you know, I hope that I show up that way, too. Like, we’ll try some things and then we’ll see what happens. And then, you know, because we’re both authors and coaches and consultants, we’ll way over pack the agenda, and then we’ll have to sort of work each other, right? Do we really need to do that? But like, you know, we’ll go through that. But I think that’s what I would want to put as a point of partnership, is approaching it with some humility and curiosity so that there’s enough play space for you to create something new, right?
You write about the peanut butter jelly. It’s not just the peanut butter and jelly that’s got to come together. It’s like, you gotta set the stage for the sandwich to put them together, too, right? Like peanut butter and peanut butter is just a peanut butter sandwich. It’s not the transformative experience it can be.
So yeah, I think it was just a lot of fun. And along the way, like, look, your partners are always going to have their own quirks and their own ways of showing up. I love Pam, and she can be super chill. And she can also have Virgo moments, right?
19:10 – Charlie
And she does a great job of calling them out. She’s like, ‘I’m having a total Virgo moment.’ That’s what she’ll say, right? And you’re like, okay, that just means that we approach this a different way. And it’s not like, ‘Oh no, she’s having a Virgo moment.’ I was like, no, no, no, that’s just a mood and a thing right now. We can roll with that. Just like I’ll have my, you know, moments of like, ‘No, we actually like do need a plan here.’ They’re just different ways we show up.
It’s the ability to be able to say like, ‘This is also an amazing part of the person that I’m working with, too.’ Because if we’re really being honest, especially if you’re talking about long term partnerships, you’re not just talking about a partnership with one person. You’re talking about a partnership with a person who’s dynamic, who has different moves and swings and seasons and things like that. And it’s like, are you going to really be able to show up for all of that and embrace it and see that that’s a part of the beautiful synthesis and not just a part of, you know, the terrible mess.
Exactly. And for those who may not know, my son Josh always laughs at me whenever I talk about being a Virgo, because he’s not necessarily bought into, you know, astrology. What it can mean is that, under stress, if I note that there is something that’s not quite going to plan, I will immediately and sometimes very strongly take control, want to steer things, over facilitate, worry about how it is that everything is fitting together with some perfectionist edge. And that’s an example of noticing that in the process of working together, the planning stage of a partnership can be really different than when it comes to you know, execution. I had thought about the quote that I know probably has an attribution to a real person. But I’ve heard you say before something to the effect that a plan rarely survives the first contact in the field.
Cleaning Out the Head Trash
20:59 – Pam
Do you remember what we ended up calling this Saturday night breakdown at Lift Off that was a moment where our plans went awry?
Yeah, so it’s what then later became called The Demons in Head Trash session, right? But then we got some feedback from some of our folks that demons didn’t resonate with them, so we played with it. But shout out that Head Trash became part of the work of Start Finishing, too, because it’s part of that.
And really what happened…we knew this was a pattern. Well, I knew that it was a part of someone’s journey, because of the work that I do on structure and strategy, right? At a certain point, if you do an event like what we did with Lift Off well, people will realize that all of the head trash and nonsense they’ve told themselves, it’s just that. It’s a story. And they don’t know what to do on the backside of that, because their whole way of understanding what they could and couldn’t do was based upon the stories they told themselves. And so there would be this existential unfurling that would happen, right, if someone would just fall through that. It was like, this is part of it. And people, you know, they cry; they can’t talk. There’s just all sorts of things that pop up, right? And so it’s just like, well…
22:25 – Charlie
I think of it like this. Like, Pam, there’s going to be some point, I don’t know when it’s going to be, but this is going to happen. And then it’s like when it happened, I was like, ‘Oh, okay, we’re there.’ The thing is happening now, right? And just being like, whatever module that was for Lift Off One, it’s like, well, we’re just not doing that one. And we got to roll with it.
Creating Safe Spaces
And I think just recognizing, as you said, what we learned as we were putting people through this structure and just really walking them through. And the design of Lift Off was from the beginning of conceptualizing about your business and really going through a whole number of components of what you have to build to have a successful launch of a business. There was just a natural point where people would get overwhelmed.
And what was interesting, thinking personality wise, is I can be overly concerned – it’s a lifelong personal development edge – I can have the belief sometimes – that is really ‘head trash’ in your words – that everybody has to be happy all the time for work to be effective. I want to see people smiling, engaging in work, you know, not having a hard time, not having a moment of pushback maybe where they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe this is the wrong retreat for me’ or you know, ‘I’m really frustrated; this isn’t working.’
And part of what I loved of having you as a partner in this experience…and I also want to bring in to our story and narration. Angela, your wife, who is a really critical third leg of the stool. In providing what she did always through Lift Off, she was attending to logistics, she was attending to, you know, making sure we had the right materials in the rooms. But she also provided a really strong space, I think, to make sure that folks were cared for, feeding back to us things that she was seeing as we were in the front of the room delivering.
But having a partner to process that with was super helpful. And that was, I think, one of the first things I noticed of just how it made me less afraid of doing what is important developmental work, which means sometimes people are resistant; they’re pissed off; they might look at you directly and say, ‘This retreat sucks.’ I don’t know if anybody said it that directly ever, but there were certain times where people were really struggling with what was going on. But having you there in the type of presence that you bring, which is thoughtful – you can listen, but you also have that strength, maybe from your military background, of being able to be in a chaotic situation and not freak out – I really appreciated that.
25:00 – Charlie
I appreciate you calling that out, too. Because yeah, I’ve done enough of this work, and it’s still present in every event. And, like, all of my clients, they love and hate it at the same time, where it’s just like, look, it’s hard right now, and we are exactly where we need to be. This is the point where you normally back down, right? And the moment that we provided in Lift Off: You know what? We’re gonna sit here, not to make you suffer. That’s not the point. But because this is the container where you have the support, and you have the guides, and you have everything you need to not back down from the threshold, right? So, let’s do that.
And that’s what I tell all my clients, new partners who bring me in. I’m like, ‘Look, we can always stay where we are, but once we’ve crossed a significant bridge, we don’t go back.’ Right? So, our options are: we can stay here because we need a breather, we need to rest, or we can go forward. And so where this comes up sometimes, Pam, is when people are like, ‘Well, you know, I’m going back into those same old head trash stories. I’m like, ‘Wait, wait, no, no, no. We’ve talked about this.’
26:12 – Charlie
Has something changed? No. All right. So, we’re here now. Let’s move forward with that.
But yeah, and shout out to Angela. She’s always been amazing at holding space for people. She still does that for everything. That’s what a partner can do, because there would be times in which Pam was actually righter – “righter” – than I was, because I would be like, ‘You know what? That person needs a moment to figure this out. We do not need to intervene in their process right now.’ And then Pam, would also come back and be like, ‘You know what? That person, like, maybe we do check in on them a little bit.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, now it’s time.’
And so, it’s just that ability to be able to externalize what’s happening and figure it out together, right? So much of this entrepreneurial journey, executive journey, it’s incredibly lonely. And any given data points that you see can be interpreted 17 different ways. Just to have someone to be like, ‘This is how I see the situation.’ Like, oh, well, here are three other ways that can be. Which way do we want to approach this can be so powerful, so, so powerful.
27:26 – Pam
Yeah, I totally agree. And a nuance, I think, to doing this work – because we talk about deeply transformational work, which is pretty much the work that I know most people listening to the podcast, people I work with, people you work with; I call them now architects of liberatory change – and doing deep change work, systemic change, really sincerely wanting to make a difference with their work in the world. I feel like people who are not attracted to that are going to run away from both me and you, and that’s totally fine. I want people to go wherever is best for them.
But where you are centered on not creating a manipulative experience, not creating an experience to trigger people – I know trigger even as a word has psychological implications – but to create a state in which people are agitated and upset, AKA like a big, you know, Tony Robbins event or something, that to me is very, very different than creating a space where it is safe for people to have whatever emotional reaction they’re going to have, to create space for it, to figure out in partnership with them what they need to walk through that situation. But also in that same way that we described our partnership, to really be looking for their best, highest, good well-being. Like being that person who says – maybe if they’re, like, walking along the edge of a cliff and you’re saying, ‘You know, I know this feels scary right now, but I’ve calculated it. You are safe. I’m here if you choose to walk. If you choose to go back down, that’s also okay, because you want to take care of yourself.’
But I want to be really specific that, in this kind of transformational work, it’s part of, to me, what is so important, to have a partner that is focused on that experience. And I think that’s about approach to work; it’s about values and ethics and really being aligned. Imagine if you and I were in really different spaces, either if I just let override my need for everybody to be okay to just smother somebody with mothering and so that they weren’t able to face things, or if you went full on logistics officer in the Army and just, you know, walk people out in the desert to, like, scare them straight and make them do it. Like, that would not have been in alignment with how we see the work happening.
The Fabled Death March of Lift Off One
Well, it’s funny because you know, it pulls up from Lift Off One the fabled Death March.
29:49 – Pam
I knew you were gonna mention that. Tell the listeners what we mean by that.
Okay, so the fabled Death March of Lift Off One was Saguaro Lake Ridge. It is at the bottom of a hill, and there’s like a lake at the top of it, right? And we didn’t really know how far it was, right? Like, the person was like, ‘Oh, you just go up this hill.’ You know, they gave the really vague sort of directions that country folk can give sometimes. Shout out to all my country folk, right? And so we’re like, ‘Okay, it’ll take us a little bit.’
But like, we didn’t really think about how hot it was and didn’t think about the level of fitness of all of our different participants. And, yeah, it was only like, a mile and a half or two. It was not an ordeal, right, to that level. And I want to comment about, you know, the ableism therein. So, I understand those sort of things. But it wasn’t one of those things where we were deliberately like, we’re going to make them suffer and do this thing, right? And people went on row with us, because it was like that first day and we need an activity.
So, we’re walking up this hill, and then it got kind of hard for some folks. They’re like, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, you can. You can go another 100 meters.’ Right? Like, ‘I can’t do it.’ And then walk another 100 meters. ‘I’m done.’ I was like, ‘Well, let’s just get around this hill. Let’s see what happens.’ And then this whole time they’re hating it: ‘This is a Death March. I can’t believe you’re doing this.’
But a part of the process was, for a couple of our participants, it was truly transformative for them. Because once we got there, they realized they actually were capable of it the whole time. But they had told themselves they were not, right? And my whole point wasn’t to make people suffer. Like, obviously, if someone was really in a bad shape, I’m trained enough to know that we’re in a situation. The thing is that people’s head trash and what they thought they could do and being out of their element was what was getting them.
31:48 – Charlie
But for those guests, the ones that ended up calling it the Death March, it’s a tongue-in-cheek thing, because that became their lesson for the entire thing is, like, ‘If I told myself I couldn’t do that, what else have I told myself I couldn’t do?’ And it opened up a lot of things for them.
But yeah, that’s the point. Like it wasn’t one of those, like, designed suffering so that people transform. It was just do a thing that we want to do, and it’s going to have some surprises and some difficulties to it. And the point is how we get through this together.
And it turns out that there are plenty of times throughout the journey of us doing Lift Off where we had our own sort of Death Marches, Pam. It was like, ‘I don’t know if we can do this.’ It’s like, well, we can get through the next two weeks. How about let’s just do that? Let’s just do that and see what happens and see where we are. And it worked out, right? And I’m not saying I was always the one leading that conversation. Pam was also leading that conversation. Because, you know, that’s the trick when you’re doing the type of thing that we were talking about.
But if we’re talking about partnerships, you’re doing that, and you have to be empathetic and understanding about the fact that your partner has their own business and life that they’re trying to run, too.
33:00 – Charlie
And this partnership may become this fourth or fifth thing that they’re having to manage, too. And just being respectful of that. Because where we were with our coaching practice at the time, it was a deliberate choice to decide to be in a sales call for Lift Off versus a sales call for our own coaching practice.
Okay, so maybe if Charlie can’t prioritize that this week, it’s not that he doesn’t believe in Lift Off; it’s not that he’s not into the partnership. It’s just that he’s balancing different priorities and doing the best that he can. So, what happens when you approach partnership from the perspective of this other human being, we’re still a team, and we’re both doing the best we can? How do we come together, get in alignment, and make it through that next 100 meters or that next curve together knowing that it’s going to be alright?
34:01 – Pam
Yeah, and I think that this is an element of design of partnerships and the structure of partnerships that makes it effective, is to be very open and deliberate about that communication. I’ve learned in the past I’ve had some patterns that are not helpful in my own creative patterns of getting stuff done, like right up to the deadline or even a little bit late when I’m working with people. And I’ve gotten some very helpful feedback from people I’ve worked with in the past over the years of the fact that it’s not okay if I’m delivering, if I say I’m going to do something and then I don’t do it or do it late. That is something that greatly erodes trust in the partnership. And I’ve really taken that to heart and try to be as clear as possible.
That I think is something we both demonstrated as a practice, which was to say, ‘Hey, I can’t do that. I know I have these calls that are scheduled for the coming week. Other priorities are happening.’ Because of the trust we had and respect for each other’s work, we’d say, “Okay, this week, I can take on this and that part. I can’t do that. You know? What do we need to push?’ Making decisions about what would actually happen to avoid having the buildup of frustration. And that’s one area where I think sometimes partnerships can be eroded, marriages can be eroded, friendships can be eroded, where there’s not a check-in before the point where it’s like the day that something is due and you didn’t get it done.
Yeah, well, and I would say – I don’t know what level of language we can have on today’s podcast – but I will say, like, there’s a certain element of proactively owning your shit. Like, I am behind. I got behind, and I realize this puts you in an awkward space.
35:38 – Charlie
And I realized that I didn’t honor this commitment. And I realized that now we’re scrambling. And I’m sorry, right?
I think too often in partnerships, we don’t own our shit to that level. Where it’s like, ‘Oh, we can just change things around.’ Like ‘Nah, brah, I can’t change things around. I actually built this half day to review this material that was due today. I don’t have another half day, right, to do this.’ And there’s a way in which you can sort of get ahead of that and be like, ‘I understand that this is what I’ve done, and I’m trying to make it better versus just being flippant about it and being like, “Oh, we can just reschedule.”’ And actually some of us don’t have that flexibility, you know. And so, yeah, designing it in.
Clarifying the Money Piece
And I think another thing that was critical for Lift Off and maybe some other projects we’ve done is I wanted to remove you or I having to ask each other where we were on the money side of things, right? We actually – I don’t know if you remember this – we had a Google spreadsheet. Here’s where we are.
That was my next question. I’m so glad you went there, because that was where I was gonna go next, right, about having clarity about the money.
Clarity about the money…where are we? If you need some, there shows that there’s a draw there that shows what it is. But it’s a really awkward conversation to be like, ‘So, are we gonna share some of the money that we made? Because I’m like, I don’t know where we are, but I’m trying to do things.’ It’s hard to have power or sovereignty in the relationship if you feel like you have to ask questions about that.
I think Angela ran the spreadsheet on that movement. Our goal is like, if there’s money that’s in there, we know where it is. There’s a link you can look at. You don’t have to ask. I don’t need, necessarily, to know the story behind that, although I’m here to hear that story. But just being super clear on where that is, when you get paid, what payments look like.
37:30 – Charlie
If there needs to be a borrowing or an advance in the partnership, how that works, what the expectations are around that. How you make decisions on expenses, right. And when those accruing get paid. All of those are things that will make your relationships so much better, if you figure it out at the beginning and talk about it than if you wait for there to be a situation where a lack of information means people make up information. And you do not want people making up information when it comes to money stuff.
38:03 – Pam
No, it’s critical. It’s definitely a best practice that I’ve done for every single partnership, is just to have the shared Google Doc from the very beginning where everything that comes in is recorded, everything that goes out. As you said, you have a conversation in the beginning of talking about the split of money.
I’ve always referred to all these years later, Andrea Lee’s 30-30-30-10 that came from an original class that she taught about how not to screw up a joint venture, and that was not saying, ‘How famous or how big of a platform do you have, Charlie? And how much do you have, Pam?’ that sometimes plays into partnerships. There, you’re more looking at what work needs to be done in design of a program. The development of the materials is another section of 30%. What about the delivery of it? And then, what is the administration that goes to managing registration?
I think that I ran it through my business if I remember right. That was the way that we tracked it. I’m almost positive because I have it in my keep. It used to be Infusionsoft. But, like, that, again, was another determination of how it is that we would track it. And making sure that before we even got rolling, we knew the percentages felt fair to us. So, it wasn’t, you know, none of that was up for determination.
So that is a best practice I recommend for everybody, is set that up in the beginning. It can be for longer term ventures. It gets a little bit into the technical and legal parts of partnerships. But for some things that might be long term or bigger, then you could create an actual, like, business structure together and a separate account for it. At some point I think we even considered it before, as I’ll talk about in just a minute. Like when we decided to wind down when we knew that we were done. But just clarity about that I think is totally important.
Yeah. And clarity but also proactive clarity.
40:03 – Charlie
Treat it like a bank account that everyone can log in and see what’s going on. Simplest way to say that, right? Don’t have one partner who knows what’s going on. It just will create information and energetic asymmetries that are really hard to reestablish.
Staying Real About Your Money Situation
Yes. And then make it safe to be talking about the reality, the realness of your money situation. So, we’ve always been able to say, ‘You know what, I am broke right now. Like, help me figure it out.’ And then in the context of what’s appropriate to make sure there are funds in the program if people need refunds, you know, et cetera. But I love the fact that we can be very upfront. We’re not pretending to have it all together. Because if one partner is going through a momentary cashflow crisis, which we all do, then it’s really important to know that and to support each other through it.
Talk about that at the beginning. Especially if you’re in service-based businesses, because we always know that there’s the pendulum; the sales are good, then services are high, and then you’re overwhelmed. Like that’s a pendulum that happens, and seasonal cycle. Like, please ask, ‘What do we do when one of the other of us is going through a cashflow crunch? How do we support each other in that process through this venture?’ Just to put it on the table. So, plan for it to happen, because it’s likely going to happen, and then you don’t have a solution for it.
Giving Credit Where It’s Due
Exactly. The other big piece I wanted to touch on is my classic peanut butter and jelly partner definition: in The Widest Net, I say people who have highly complementary but noncompetitive skills. We’re not classic PB&J partners. I think we have very highly complementary approaches to work and unique IP, and we are often competitive in the market. There could be a client talking to you and me at the same time to be hired as a coach, which I love. I’m like, you will be served by either one of us.
But for that reason, we’ve laughed through the years that sometimes because we develop so many inside jokes, right, names, processes…we don’t always know, like, is that your IP? Did you say that first? Did I say that first? So, talk a little bit about, from your perspective, how it is that we navigate that. Because we are both passionate about giving credit to the person. And just because we are deep friends and partners does not mean that I can claim credit, for example, for cash flow, visibility, and opportunity, which I share every single day in, like, all my classes but with attribution to you. So, how do you think about that when we have developed work together?
42:35 – Charlie
First off, I want to just acknowledge how really great you’ve been at remembering ideas and where they come from and how much I’ve tried to do that at the same time in respect for the relationship. And part of it is, I actually had this – I don’t know if I told you about this; I had this happened like two/three months ago – because I was talking to one of my clients who’s also read The Widest Net. And I mentioned something about building your beacon, and I was talking about it, and she’s like, ‘That came from Pam’s book!’ And I was like, ‘Did it?’ Did we did we build this one together? I’m not sure. But you know what? It’s frickin’ amazing. It’s in Pam’s book. Yes, it’s that thing. Right.
43:16 – Charlie
And I’m not saying that tongue-in-cheek. Like I legit couldn’t tell you where the genesis of that came from in the way that it was being said and in the way that my client heard it, right? So, for me, it wasn’t like a defensive like, ‘No, it’s my idea, or it’s Pam’s idea.’ Like, okay, well, it’s there, and it’s here. And in case it were ever an issue, then I would talk with Pam about it, say, ‘Hey, so did this come up? Are you okay with me using it this way?’
You know, momentum, the word momentum, is so much a part of my brand and things like that. And then we realized that we both have programs with that in there. And Pam’s like ‘Ooooh,’ right? And then we realized that Jenny Blake was using it, too. And like, ooooh. And so, what did we do? Like, talk to the person. I know that sounds harsh. But it was like, ‘Oh, I’m not sure where this came from. Like, was this yours? And if it’s yours, I can sort of work with that and change things around, or I can give you a footnote, or I can tell people when I’m talking about it. Like, there are different ways that that can go.
But I think just being okay with the fact that one, you might not remember where you got something from; two, your partner may not have remembered where something came from. Because, especially in the type of thing we’ve done together, which is, you know, coaching and speaking in events, I might be talking in a corner about something and just going off on a rant like I’ll do, right. And you heard that but didn’t necessarily know that that’s where it came from. And then a few years later, it pops up, and it’s yours. And like, wait a second. That’s almost verbatim what I said. And so, for me, it’s always like, wait a second. This is this. Like, she would never do that intentionally. First, never do that intentionally. Second, did I ship it?
45:05 – Charlie
Because if I didn’t ship it, if I didn’t publish it, if I didn’t do something with it, then I can’t blame her. Like, I don’t get to claim everything that I’ve said is mine and no one can do it if I don’t do the work of actually publishing my IP and things like that.
And third, like, this is just a conversation, right? Obviously, it gets weird if you like, go and patent or trademark or, you know, legally protect an idea that you’ve unintentionally co-opted from someone else. That gets weird. But most of us don’t do that, right? And so I think, for me, it’s just one of those things of just pleasant surprise when I notice, ‘Oh, yeah, that was in The Widest Net. You are correct. It’s in The Widest Net. And it’s all cool. Let’s talk about it. Well, first off, super glad that you read it. Second off, did you leave the woman a review? Did you leave her a review? Go leave her a review now, please. Right?’
And just in this particular case, I legitimately do not remember like a link back to you, but for that particular word, for ‘beacon.’ But it’s an example that it very well could have happened with the way that we are so, you know, aligned in our work. And as you said, the practice, it is almost impossible to not have that crossover, not just with your partner’s work but with anybody’s work on the internet. And the thing is to immediately address it, have a conversation about it, amend where you can, right? Where it’s something where somebody is like, ‘Well, actually, that was a core thing that I was working on for my next book idea.’ And it’s part of why you want to maintain communication with each other, figuring out the things that you’re working on. But as you said, other times, you’re like, ‘Well, okay, you know, there’s other words or other concepts that I can use.’
So, it is an area of nuance that I think is so important. And there can be very specific legal implications where the partnership doesn’t end up well. And that’s something that can end up being extremely problematic if you don’t have clarified, like, who owns the IP that might come from a particular event or a joint venture.
I know we’re winding the time we have together for the podcast.
Best Advice for Building Partnerships
47:17 – Pam
One, just in thinking about for your clients, when you talk to people about forming partnerships, what’s kind of your best nugget of advice about forming partnerships? Besides that which we’ve talked about already.
I only get one nugget? Oh, man, you’re killing me here.
47:35 – Charlie
Most people under plan for success. So, really think about what happens if this is wildly successful. And the reason I say that actually ties into some of these issues we’re talking about, right? Because it can be really awkward for one client to be going through a cashflow struggle, and the joint partnership have $200,000 sitting in open cash because it’s been wildly successful. But the partner who needs the cash can’t get access to something that they desperately need right now, right?
Similar with, you know, IP stuff. Like, if this program blows up, it’s all fun and cool if we’re sharing IP and phrases and things like that. It’s not as cool when an agent approaches me to write about something that has come from the partnership. And I’m like, ‘Cool, yeah, let’s do it. It’s totally my idea.’ And then your partner’s, like, ‘Wait a second. We kind of created that together.’ Right?
And so, I’ve seen more friction actually happen not from when partnerships fail or ramp up, or not when they’re mediocre, but when they’re wildly successful. And just as foundations have not been set up to navigate that – foundations legally, you know, all that sort of side of things – but just the conversation with each other. Like all the conversations you didn’t have will pop up, right? If you haven’t learned to talk about cash flow, blob asymmetries, or timing, and then you’re in that situation, it gets awkward.
Don’t just plan on like, you know, it being okay or planning for failure, which a lot of people do. A lot of people think success is, you know, different than what it is. But, like, what if this is wildly successful? What if Oprah friggin’ Tweets about this? Or mentions it? Or whatever wild, you know, black swan event could happen that shows up for this? How are we set up for that so that we can enjoy this ride together, be great friends, be a part of each other’s life within integrity and joy and longevity? Or, are we going to be stuck fighting over $50,000 that we lucked into because of this work that we’re into together?
It’s A Wrap: Deciding When a Partnership Has Run Its Course
100%. And what we ended up doing – the short story, and we could end up doing a part two at some point for season two into in some of the specifics. To be to be continued. But what we ended up doing in Lift Off, is about Lift Off Four – we did six total – at Lift Off Four, we looked at each other at a certain point. And we were like, ‘You know what? I think we have about two of these left, and then we’re going to be done with this project.’ And it was such a good conversation. It was a good, like, wrap up. We ended up having wonderful groups in Lift Off Five and Six. But it was something that was a complete cycle, and then it did shift us into a, you know, beautiful friendship/partnership, where I still believe there are exciting new projects for us in the future to be determined. Because you’re one of my favorite people.
50:43 – Charlie
I know there are those projects. And yeah, to your point, it’s like, I think because we knew that our relationship transcended the project and that it was a clean project all the way through, we could end it, right? I still miss jamming with Pam in that same way. But I don’t have to miss Pam, because I can call, Pam, right? Or text her or send her a Loom or whatever we do with whatever time and deadlines that we have available. So yeah, I love that, too.
What I loved about it was the alignment. We were both thinking it, and we just looked each other like, ‘It’s about time to wrap this up, right?’ Not in a bad way. But, like, just like you want to end a show with people wanting more, you want to end a partnership when people want to remain in holistic partnership with you. You don’t want to end a partnership after they’re so done with you that they just want out of everything.
100%. Yeah, I totally agree. So, for those folks who want to learn more about your exciting upcoming projects, Momentum software, your new book coming up, where’s the best place for people to connect with you?
Well, if you’re only going to go to one place, the best place to go to is productiveflourishing.com, because you’re going to see just about everything that I do, between my upcoming book called Team Habits, between my previous work Start Finishing, or between the new app that we’re starting that really does help people avoid the Frankenstack of 18 different projects and apps and really pull their scheduled goals and projects into one place. So productiveflourishing.com will get you everywhere you might want to be when it comes to the world of Charlie’s body of work.
I love that. Well, I appreciate your time so much. Charlie, I appreciate you. I love you so dearly, and I really do look forward to whatever idea’s gonna come up for us in the future.
Same, same, Pam. If you want to do b-side, I’m here for it.
52:33 – Pam