Today’s episode features Erica Castner. Her focus is to help business owners create a sustainable business. In this episode we’re going to take a dive into the world of Strategic Partnerships.
Erica comes out of the world of business trade associations where strategic partnerships are the life blood of building a great organization. We’re going to investigate what she did with the Chamber of Commerce she worked for and how you can apply lessons that she’s learned.
Here are some of the things we’ll be covering in this episode of The Sustainable Business:
- Some easy ideas on things you can easily do to create a strategic partnership.
- Helping you understand what might be a good strategic partnership versus ones you should stay away from.
- Where being a leader in your industry makes it easier to get the right strategic partnership.
- Why great strategic partnerships start with you asking what you can do to help your potential partner, not the other way around.
And, here’s a special gift from Erica. http://www.thequeenofresults.com/sustainablebusiness
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In the Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick at the Sustainable Business podcast.
Today, our guest is Erica Castner. I’m really excited to have her here. She bills herself as the Queen of Results, so we’ll have to find out what that means. She’s a frequent guest columnist in Southwest Florida Business and a Gulfshore Business Magazine “40 under 40” alum. She’s also the host of her own podcast series, Proclamation of Persistence: The Busy Professionals Guide to Triumph & Success. She’s married to her husband Ed. They have two daughters and a new puppy, I guess, named Ogie. I love Ogie. That’s a great name for a dog.
So let’s bring Erica in and welcome her.
Hey, Erica, how are you today?
Erica: Hey, Josh. Thank you so much for having me. I’m wonderful.
Josh: I’m so happy that you’re with us. First of all, what is the Queen of Results?
Erica: Why, thank you for asking that. In a nutshell, I founded the company back in 2015 because from my previous world, in the Chamber of Commerce world, my main role with the Chamber of Commerce was to help business owners create strategic alliances or strategic partners with other members and other people within the community. As much as I loved that job, I had a major shift in my family that changed about three years ago and it caused me to think, “Well, you know what, as much as I love to work for somebody else, this really isn’t fitting into my lifestyle anymore.” So how do I take what I know – strategic partnerships and helping entrepreneurs and business owners connect with awesome resources to grow their business? How do I take that and implement it into a business model? And therefore, Queen of Results was born.
Josh: Wow, that’s cool. What is a strategic partnership, first of all? And then how do you help people create them?
Erica: Well, when we’re in business, obviously there are particular relationships that we want to build. I think a lot of people think of building relationships, they think of networking. They automatically go to that. And as much as I love networking and face to face events, like if anybody’s ever been a part of a chamber of commerce, or a trade association, or another meetup, or networking group, sometimes you go in there and it’s like there might be, depending on the group, there might be 50 to 100 people there. Where do you start? How do you know that that room is people that are going to (1) be the good fit for you to build a strong business alliance with and give you the referrals or the leads that you need for your business? So when I think about strategic partnerships, I think about, “Okay, what industry do you represent?” And then from that, what other industries can partner with you so you can build relationships, you can build referral partnerships, collaborate on ideas or projects to really help build what you’re doing to grow your business in a strategic way as opposed to just going into a networking event and saying, “I’m just going to guess that these people in this room are going to be a good fit for me.”
Josh: Okay. So this is—an interesting thing is that here’s my problem with that, because when people approach me and say, “I want to develop a strategic partnership with me.” I would say it’s probably 99% code for, “I really want you to send me your clients and I’m not sure I’m going to provide anything back of you value.” So how do you get away from that – what I consider really sort of swarmy way of being a one-sided partnership?
Erica: I love that question, Josh, because I think there’s a lot of people out there that have maybe tarnished strategic and networks. So, when I teach, primarily my one-on-one coaching approach, but in a few months here, we’ll be launching a platform where people can actually get a lot of these learnings and teachings at their pace online. But a lot of that really just means “How are you as a business owner or the business leader in your industry showing up? How are you providing value to other people?”
Strategic partnerships does not necessarily give the A-Okay for people to say, “Well, you know, I’m going to automatically send all of my business referrals to you because there’s a relationship that has to be developed there. So strategic partnership planning, it really isn’t necessarily like an instant win. It’s usually won over time. And quite honestly, I have to tell you that I have been in my immediate area of the Fort Myers area. I’m originally from the Midwest but when I moved into the Southwest Florida area back in 2005, I didn’t know a single soul in this area. So really, it was a matter of me just reaching out to other people and saying “How can I help you?” I don’t know enough about this town. I don’t know enough about your business but I am out there in my capacity with the Chamber because that was the job that I landed on. “So how can I help you?” And from that, people were then like, “Okay, well this chick’s pretty reliable. I mean, she’s obviously doing enough for me so what can I do for you?
But that wasn’t like an overnight thing. That was something that happened over time. And there are still people to this day that I might have met back in that time space, you know, it was like in 2005-2006. We might have dropped off from the communication but now they’re picking up what I’m doing because I’ve got this new business now and we’re reconnecting but they’ve always kept tabs on me. I just didn’t know about it. But, you know, I’ve always provided value. And then we pick up the conversation and it’s a matter of reestablishing what is it that they’re doing? Well, how can I serve it? It’s a repeatable process over and over again.
Josh: So, when you provide value for somebody, what is it that you actually do?
Erica: Well, I think it depends on the person. I mean, I think sometimes just asking that question “How can I support you?” I think, when I ask that sometimes people are caught off guard because they’re not used to it. So, for me, it is just a matter of listening and saying, “Okay, what is it that they truly connected with?” Is it an introduction into an organization? Maybe they want to write an article for something and they really don’t know how to get their foot in the door without publication. Obviously, with all of my connections in the community, since I work very hard to establish good rapport with those publications and other things, I can literally pick up the phone or e-mail connect them but I think it really depends on that person.
But (1) as an entrepreneur or the business owner or business leader out there, if you’re listening to this. Listen genuinely to what they’re saying. And if you can’t provide it for them, if you can’t provide that connection, then is there somebody in your network or is there somebody in your back pocket that you can make the introduction and say, “You know, I can’t help you but I know somebody that can.”
Josh: Well, there’s a couple of things that just have come up here. (1) For me, is to authentically ask. You know, too often, I’ve had people say the exact words you’ve said and I haven’t believed one thing that came out of their mouth. I think others probably have had that experience. And that phrase that came up for me is like “authentically ask.” So how do you authentically offer your help to somebody? It sounds like that’s what you’re really interested in, and not just giving them to give you something.
Erica: I really wish I could answer that in a 30-second sound bite but there’s also—
Josh: You’ve got a couple of minutes, go ahead.
Erica: I think that we have to start the intention, so if we are genuinely tapped in to helping people and if that’s our only agenda, is to help people, we are going to—I don’t want to sound woo-ey when I say this but energetically, people are going to pick up on that. They’re going to know if you truly mean that. And if you’re on the receiving side of somebody saying “Hey, how can I support you?” and you just know that this person is not in it to win it for the team, then gracefully say things, like throw out something. I mean, if you really have an asset you want to or you have something that you want to—you just say “Hey , you know what, go ahead and help me out with that.” See what they do. See how they react. Do they come through for you?
I’ve had people, in the past, that have actually asked me that question and I say “You know, like this is how you can help me.” And I wait to see how they show up. And if they don’t show up in the way that they said that they were going to do, then I know that’s a sign that that’s not a good strategic partnership. And again, I don’t think there’s any like secret formula to figuring that out. I think, intuitively, you just got to be in a place saying, “Okay, that person said they were going to do something and they didn’t.” I’m all about giving people another opportunity to show up because I don’t believe that it’s a one chance kind of a deal and then that’s it but consistency is key. So if you say you’re going to do something and you don’t do it. And then I give you a second chance to do that and you don’t show up again, then guess what? We’re not strategic partnerships. We can’t play nice together. So it doesn’t mean that I tarnish that person’s relationship. I just know, moving forward, that they’re not a good fit for my network.
Josh: So, in other words, what you’re saying is that if–and sort of my mantra which is “win-win or don’t play.” If both sides don’t get a good deal, it’s probably time for you to move on to your next try.
Erica: Yeah. There’s too many people out there that need our help. I mean, like Josh, I know that there’s a ton of people that follow you, I’m sure they gladly want your help. And so, if those people out there want to take, take, take and not do anything to play nicely with us and especially with what you do for the show and provide tremendous value for your pips, then there’s what—7.1 billion people on this planet. I mean, we have some opportunity to connect with people that truly want us.
Josh: You mentioned something which I think is really important. And I think too many owners of private businesses are sort of ignoring it, which is managing your Rolodex. If you can’t do it yourself, do you have somebody you can bring in, in literally any area that you’re likely to have a conversation with a potential client about? Could you expand on that a bit?
Erica: I guess, the simplest way to answer that question would be simply like, “Oh, if I’m listening to somebody”, so if I’m genuinely showing up and asking people “how I can support you?” and then they come back and they say, “Well, you know, I really need support in this area” and it’s something that’s outside of my scope, I like to research things. I mean, I’m kind of a nerd like that. So, I’ll literally go out there and try to find those people and vet them myself.
It’s a little bit of a process on my end but I know that if I’m providing the most value for my network and my audience, then I’m going to go out there. I’m actively listening so part of that actively listening is going out there and saying, “You know what? I don’t have that resource” so I need to probably—you know, it might come up again. I mean, chances are if it’s been asked from me once it’s probably going to come up again. So, if that does happen, I want to be prepared. And then I have those conversations. And then again I might go through that process through a few people to find that resource but it’s not hard once I know what people are actively needing and then I can go out there and find those resources for other people.
Josh: Why don’t we talking a little bit about the word trust? Because it seems to me that if I’m going to do a strategic partnership, it really is about building trust. Do you have any tips for how people can go about doing that?
Erica: I think, the first and foremost, trust building within yourself starts with you investing in yourself. I think, for the longest time, I was in a place where I was very cautious to trust people and their reasons behind connecting with me and partnering with me. A lot of that stemmed from something that–it was a trust issue and we’re not going to get into that story today. But there was a trust issue that I was working through that happened to me when I was an eight-year-old kid and it kept showing up in my professional world. I mean, it wasn’t like the forefront of my conscious mind but it was something that was very limiting in my beliefs. So, I think first and foremost people out there who are listening to this and they feel that they have trust issues, tap into that, maybe see a coach or a trusted adviser that can help you through that – that’s #1. Number 2 is, I know there are a lot of people out there that are not doing business with the best intention but if you’re always leading with “Well, this person’s a scheister or everybody is a scheister.”Well, guess what, that’s what’s going to keep showing up for you. So, if you can show up—
And then know if you’ve been burned about something then take into consideration, not necessarily for the next person, but put it into practice. So what I do is if I’ve ever been burned by somebody, I don’t hold that grudge against them but I say, “You know, what would I have done differently in that situation? What would be some red flags for me to look out for the next time I’m seeing a pattern with another relationship I’m building. And then how am I properly equipped to react?” I am a little more proactive in that approach as opposed to just, again, putting people face value, just letting them bury themselves first of all. But don’t lead with that, just give everybody the benefit of the doubt and then recognize patterns and know how to proactively get yourself out of that situation if people are throwing up red flags.
Josh: I’m going to do a little pivot here. So, one of the things that you help people do is help leaders position themselves as experts. What do you need to do to position yourself as an expert?
Erica: Well, again, this isn’t something that happens overnight. There’s a lot of people out there right now that are like, “Hey, if you pay X amount of dollars, I can make you a celebrity brand.” And, to me, I think it’s BS. I have really built my business and my credibility. I’ve only had the business now for 14 months but I have been working very hard since 2006. I moved to the area in 2005. But really, in this market of working with entrepreneurs I’ve been helping them since 2006 in some way, shape or form and just providing awesome information.
I do that in a number of different ways. Obviously, I do that in a short video series that I have. It’s a weekly YouTube series that I do. So I do 2-minute videos predominantly on networking tips, sales strategies, how they can connect and communicate with their audience or the people that they’re—you know, maybe they’re in a social situation or a business social situation and how do you deal with that? I also do that on a weekly blog. I have a weekly blog series. And then I also have my own podcast, as you mentioned. So, I’m aligning myself with other leaders out there that are sometimes smarter than I am to share their knowledge and their words of wisdom with my audience. And so, again, it’s not just me doing it. It’s me saying, “I want to help you align yourself and be the expert in your industry. Let me show you who I’m partnering with and how I am doing it in my world as well.”
Josh: So, what I’m hearing you say is that if you really want to be recognized as an expert in your field, you have to take some proactive action – write blogs, articles, do a podcast, have videos on your site. It’s really in your place. It’s not something people give you. You develop it yourself.
Erica: Absolutely. And you said something really interesting, you’re saying “Okay, podcast and videos and blogs.” For a lot of people out there, they hear all these like messages and they say, “Oh, well you know, I’ve got to be on 27 different social media platforms. And I have to be in people’s faces all the time.” No, no, no, you don’t. But whatever you’re doing out there—
So, I started with the video series way before I even started with my business. I just knew that that information would be helpful to entrepreneurs out there. I was fortunate in the fact that I didn’t brand that with my Chamber job. I just branded it from Erica Castner and I was able to take those videos with me. But I saw a need for people to get that information out there, so I started with that. And I just did it on a weekly basis. And that was my consistent activity. So, it doesn’t mean you have to do 27 trillion different things to get yourself out there but whatever you are doing, do it consistent. If you’re going to do a podcast, set a consistent schedule for that. If it’s going out once a week or three times a week, then by golly, it better be going out consistently, every single time you said that you were going to put it out there so people can begin to follow you.
Josh: Well, Erica, we have time for one more questions and I’d like to end up with having you tell us about your “I wish I could” moment. What is that?
Erica: Thank you for asking that question. I guess, that in the context of this conversation, for me, it was really about me having the confidence in myself to run a company. It was something I had never done before but I had had a lot of experience in talking to other entrepreneurs and leaders and helping them craft their message and position their brand in front of people. And so, I felt that I had a lot of experience of connecting the dots and I felt that I could do that for other people. So, I think for me, really just having that pivotal moment in my mind to say, “You know what, I do have enough credibility behind what I do and how I help people. I could absolutely leave my full time job and do that behind my own brand. I’m going to work my tail off to do it but I know I can do it and my family was backing me on that too. And I also had a professional business coach that was helping me through the process. So it was a lot of working on my own mindset, my own limiting belief systems to help me get through that transition. But that was the defining moment for me was just saying, ”You know what, I can’t continue working for somebody because it doesn’t fit in my lifestyle anymore and I need to find another way to do it, and I know that this is the plan, if I just stick with it and be consistent with it.”
Josh: So, we’re out of time and I’m going to bet that some of the people listening today would love to get in contact with you. So, if they want to, how would they go about doing it?
Erica: They can contact me thequeenofresults.com. And if they put thequeenofresults.com/sustainablebusiness, they’ll be able to get my free gift which is my strategic planning guide. So, this is actually just my one sheet on how you can build better strategic partnerships, what to look for and what to do to start that process.
Josh: Well, Erica, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. This is a great episode.
And for those listening, you really do want to be thinking about strategic partnerships because they’re valuable into so many different levels. So thanks a lot for listening and I hope to see you back again soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business Podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2 or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at email@example.com.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.