As the proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; when you want to go far, go together.” Having a partner in business or in your personal life is invaluable to your growth—but only when it’s with the right person. In this episode, Kofi Nartey sits down with philanthropist, social entrepreneur, and his partner for life, Dr. Mimi Nartey, to talk about partnering up. When do you jump into a partnership? When do you avoid it? How do you choose a partner? Dr. Mimi answers these questions and more! Plus, they also discuss why you should avoid the hero complex and why you need to find equitable value in a partnership. If you want to avoid partnering up with the wrong person, partner up with us in today’s conversation!
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Partnering Up: The Who, When, And Why Of Partnerships With Dr. Mimi Nartey
When To Partner. When Not To Partner. Choosing A Partner
I’m excited to be back in the booth, giving you some gems and sharing some knowledge. Hopefully, they’re gems. If you’ve got room on your hands for diamonds and gems, we’re going to give them to you. I say we because once again, I am joined by my partner for life, my wife, Dr. Mimi Nartey.
Thanks so much for having me again.
This is the perfect episode to have her on. We are going to talk about partnering up, when to partner, when not to partner, and then some tips on how to choose a partner because we would always lean into that African proverb of, “When you want to go fast, go alone. When you want to go far, go together.” We both believe that this season, this economy, and this real estate market for my real estate professionals is a season to go together.
I’m excited about the opportunity to talk about this because partnerships are such an important part of growth in both your personal life and professional life.
Sometimes you reach a certain point, and then it’s time to partner. Let’s jump right in. I’m going to let you go first. Tell us. When is it a good time to consider partnering?
It’s a great time to partner when the workload is more than the work for one person. I know that this seems super obvious but it’s not always obvious for very competent or independent people who are accustomed to doing more than an individual share of work. Since you were in high school, middle school, and elementary school, when it was group project time, you were taking on the bulk of that work. That was your divine assignment. You were going to do more than an individual share of the contribution but there are times when you need to, at this stage of life, consider partnerships in the scenario when the workload is truly more than the work for one person because it protects the quality of your contribution through the mechanism of delegation.
I love you got deep at the end there. When you were talking about the first part, I was even thinking about older siblings. Older siblings often take on a lot more than the typical person. You’re forced into doing more than your share and more than what most people will typically do. This is the role of an entrepreneur who’s launching a business. You launch a business. You’re wearing every hat. You are the marketing person, the salesperson, the accountant, the CEO, and the assistant.
At a certain point, the quality of the work of those individual silos will suffer because either it’s not your expertise, or you’ve already taken on too much. That leads to one of mine. When you are in need of complementary skills to your own, that’s another time to seek partnership. If there is someone who can bring something to the table that creates those overlapping circles, that Venn diagram, or those types of circles where their skillset compliments yours, it doesn’t have to be the same but they’re bringing something to the table that you need for growth, expansion, and scale.
My next point was very similar to that. It’s almost a rephrase. Partner when you don’t have the experience to meet the demands of the task individually. You want to find a partner that you can engage with for mentorship and consultation. An important point is when you do find that partner, please listen to their advice.
From the tone of your voice, it sounded like you were speaking from personal experience.
We might be opening up some old wounds here in this episode on partnership. There are times when you may not have the full breadth of the experience that you need, and that’s when it’s time to bring in someone else and leverage the experience that they have to have a better or more quality product or to fulfill an idea or execute an idea better.
I gave a talk in Las Vegas at Inman, a big real estate conference, probably the biggest in our industry. I was talking about the idea of going fast, go alone, going far, go together. My good friend who’s the President of The Real Brokerage that we’re now a part of said, “They don’t have to live in isolation.” It’s not about going fast or going far but when you’re going initially, you have to go fast to a few key things. A couple of those things are fast to skills, fast to experience, and fast to a level of proficiency for those things that you don’t do as well.
When you were talking about lacking a certain skillset and even somebody who brings something else to the table, ideally you have a baseline level of proficiency. You don’t have to know it well but you have to know it well enough to even say, “I need help with this. In areas where I need help, I need to be able to do this better.” You go fast to get the experience. When you move with that type of speed, even that type of experimentation with what you’re doing will bring to the surface those things that you ultimately need help with.
There’s a relationship too between time sensitivity and avoiding having to make decisions by committee. That’s also part of the wisdom in that. When you want to go fast, you might need to go alone.
I’m going to ask you to elaborate on time sensitivity a little bit. What was the second part of what you said?
Time sensitivity and making decisions by committee. When you do enter into partnerships if you are being a responsible and inclusive partner, you are going to be making decisions in unison. To get buy-in and to get everybody on the same page about an idea, it can be a tedious process sometimes of explaining all of the circumstances, trying to share the research, and trying to tease out the nuances of what you understand to try to transfer what might be the strength of your experience to that person to try to then come to a conclusion on a particular point.
What I’m saying is that for preliminary stages, sometimes it’s easier to go quicker because you have one primary decision-maker who is going to be making decisions yourself. At a later stage, as you are in a stage of refinement where it’s about looking at details, it’s great to have mastermind groups and additional people to bounce off questions about small details.
The phrase, “Paralysis by analysis,” came to mind. When you have multiple people at the table trying to figure out multiple decisions, it can be a real challenge. Even sports come to mind. You mentioned the early stages. I was even thinking about the late stages of a game. Who came to mind is Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, more so Kobe than LeBron. Sometimes it’s not time to include your teammates. Sometimes you have the knowledge, the experience, the 6’7 frame, and the 280-pound weight to take it to the hole and win the game. It’s not time to delegate, hand it off, and work within the system. It’s time to take charge and go.
That’s largely dependent on how well you know yourself, the skills, the experience, and the mastery that you do have because, in the zone of your mastery, that’s where you don’t want to have to be making decisions by committee. In the zone of your mastery, that’s where you want to be able to execute quickly and decisively when you know what to do.
I’m loving the zone of your mastery. I think about the Marvel characters or the DC universe. When they come together to fight, all of them have a zone of their mastery, and they bring that to the table. This is for my comic book heads out there. My little brother is one of them. It’s so true, and it works in the corporate world as well. To your point, you have to know what is your zone of mastery and be okay with exercising that. I love what you say about humility because I’m thinking about that as it relates to humility. Sometimes people dim their light on the zone of their mastery, and that doesn’t make sense.
I say this all the time. I have a lot of coaching experience. I’m often coaching youth. I’ve got a couple of different teams of high school-age girls. It’s so important for me to explain to them that humility does not mean pretending not to be good at what you’re good at. That is not the definition of humility. In a leadership framework, humility means that I’m willing to do whatever I need to do in service to the team to get us toward the goal. That is what humility is.In a leadership framework, humility is about being willing to do whatever you need to do in service to the team to get you towards the goal. Click To Tweet
It’s important for people to understand that it doesn’t mean, to your point, dimming my light. I have a very good handle on the things that I know for sure in the zone of my mastery. When you are excelling in a certain space, on a certain topic, or in a certain discipline, and your potential partner can’t match you there, it’s going to be a drag on your progress.
It reminds me of something I heard Alex Hormozi say. He’s a great business leader and entrepreneur. He has a podcast. I heard him say, “Don’t do your best. Do what’s required.”
That would be humility.
What’s required may sometimes be less but it also might be even better than your best. You might have to put in extra effort beyond what you thought you were capable of to achieve the goal. I have another one for us. When you feel like you’ve peaked in terms of your potential, that’s a great time to find the right partner to unlock the next level of your potential.
I think about it as it relates to my business and even my team. We partnered with The Real Brokerage, and part of that was to unlock the potential of growth that we wanted to experience in different markets, the attraction of bringing people to the industry to take advantage of the platform, and the income-earning potential through different lines and different channels of revenue. It opened up all of those avenues. The challenge is recognizing when you’ve peaked but when you’re getting close to your full potential or your maximum capacity, then it’s like, “I need a partner. I need better systems. I need the right partnership to unlock the next level.”
If I can, I might modify the word peak a little bit to plateau. You called up an important point about being self-aware. You may not recognize the peak but you might be able to more easily identify when you’ve plateaued, which means that you are no longer accelerating. You’re maintaining the same velocity, and you can’t seem to find an acceleration through the different approaches that you have. To your point, that is a great time to find another partner. This is a little bit loosey-goosey but energetically mix it up. It’s a little woo-woo.
It’s not loosey-goosey at all. In 25% of the conversations that I have with businesspeople and specifically with real estate agents, they have reached a point where it’s time to mix it up. They want something different to feel re-energized. Sometimes it’s a shift to a new team, a new partnership, a new brokerage, or a new platform but it’s true. I like the word plateau. Sometimes that plateau is even an emotional state that you’ve reached where you need something to break you out of it.
I want to give a couple of more quick things if you have any more, and then we want to transition. I also think that even a partnership gives you additional accountability. When you have synergistic goals, and you know that the other person has similar goals to yours, when you come together and create that unified goal, you’re also accountable to another person to achieve the goal. This works well for people who have played sports before or who have thrived or excelled in group projects.
Accountability is a huge piece for people who haven’t played sports to a high level because I do know that those of us who have been athletes at the professional level or even competitive college level have a certain amount of discipline that’s instilled in us for investing so many hours into a certain practice. You do know how to hit the field by yourself even when you’re feeling a little under the weather or even when you’re feeling a little burnt out. That’s what has distinguished you to that level.
I do have the ability to continue to put one foot over the other even in less-than-optimal circumstances. This is the gift of sports. This is one of the reasons why I’m a huge advocate of people helping their kids engage in sports, some other activity, music, or something where you have to invest a lot of time and stay committed to a process, especially if you don’t have that. All of us need a little extra motivation, especially with the full scope of things that are going across our full mogul lives. It is great to have a partner who is going to keep you moving forward because you know that you have a responsibility for the commitment that you’ve made to that person in that project to keep moving forward.
Even on a subconscious level, our kids are partners in our journey as it relates to the accountability piece. You and I both feel incredible accountability to their success, even accountability that they’re not placing on us but we know it’s our responsibility. Let’s transition. When not to partner?
This almost could have been an episode in and of itself.
Do you want me to go first?
When your values don’t align, that is number one for me because sometimes it’s hard to detect. A lot of times, entrepreneurs have big ideas and visions, and there’s a big energy that goes into the front part of that, which even inspires diving deeper to see if this is a viable opportunity but when you find that person and you have that moment, “We’re aligned,” you have to pause, dig deeper, and make sure that the values are there because misalignment in core values and ethics can lead to so many challenges and conflicts.
I would even add to that. It’s not just the values but also consider working styles and visions because a lot of times, working styles and visions are also irreconcilable. To the best of your ability where you can already sense that and screen that, you will save yourself a lot of time, heartache, and frustration. For example, I had a good friend of mine ask me to partner on a project. I adore her. The mission of what she’s doing is worthy but I know that we have different working styles, and it would be a point of ongoing frustration. It would not be able to work. It’s not that match made in heaven that we wish it would be. It’s not partnering. It’s a polite decline or finding another capacity to support the individual that you want to support.
I’m going to give you a warning, and this is a warning to myself because I’ve learned the hard way from this. Don’t go on a hero complex for this one. Don’t be a hero thinking, “I’m great with group management. I’m great with leadership. I’m great at understanding other people’s values and positions. I can help maneuver it and get us back aligned.” If the core values and things like trust and integrity aren’t there, and there are glimpses of things to the contrary, please get out of your way. Save yourself the headache, save them the headache, and move on.
Trust is another big one. This is part of core values but also, beyond these values, skill redundancy is another one. You don’t want someone who’s exactly like you who does the exact things the same way you do. You want somebody who is complementary. There should be a slight overlap but complementary skills versus exact skills and personalities.
The way that I articulated this in my notes was something like, “You don’t want to partner when the partner isn’t able to match your contribution with some equitable value. You want to skip the partnership then.” What do we mean by equitable value? It’s worth taking a moment to break this down because it does not need to be a 50/50 partnership. It doesn’t need to be a 50/50 contribution to make the partnership worthwhile. To be honest, it could be an 85/15 or a 90/10 if that 10% is what’s going to get you to 100%.You don't want to partner when the partner isn't able to match your contribution with some equitable value. Click To Tweet
That is amazing. It’s worth another 60 seconds on that one.
That is still an equitable partnership. It’s about being honest and understanding clearly what is my goal.
I’ve been on both sides of that, even as it relates to real estate commission breakdowns. Agents are on 60/40 splits, 70/30 splits, 80/20 splits, or 90/10 splits. That additional value that I as a broker or team leader am bringing to my agents is exactly what they need to propel even beyond the potential that they came to the table with. I’ve been on the other side where I’ve needed somebody’s 10% contribution or 20% contribution to make what I’m working on work. Without it, it would not work, not that I could do it, and it wouldn’t be as good. It wouldn’t work without that 10% that they’re bringing to the table.
That’s having the self-awareness and the maturity to set ego aside and to be laser-focused on what the outcome is that you are pursuing. If that person isn’t able to close that gap, whatever that gap level is for you, then you don’t need to be invested in that partnership.
The last one I want to share before transitioning is the commitment to the overall goal and then the exit strategy. You want to make sure you’re on similar if not the same pages for what is the commitment to this. For some people, it’s a lifelong commitment. For building GLOBL RED, we’re partnered but that is a lifetime commitment for me. I want this to be a legacy brand that lives beyond me and that my kids can tap into if they would like to. If somebody is like, “I want to be in and out in three years,” there might be a way to latch on and be part of it for a certain stretch. We have that clarity in the beginning that our visions on the exit or the outcome may not be aligned but it will work well for this stretch, or it may not work at all.
You want to avoid a partnership where you can’t establish that. My final one on when not to partner is when the partner doesn’t appreciate the value that you’re bringing to the partnership. You don’t want to partner with someone who doesn’t get your worth. That’s in work, your personal life, and anywhere. If they can’t get clarity on your value, that is not the partnership for you.Don't partner with someone who doesn't get your worth, be that in your work or in your personal life. Click To Tweet
Let’s bring it home by selecting a partner. What are some tips and tools on how to pick a partner? Some of it is built into what we shared already but let’s get specific.
My first thing on identifying the right partner is you want to choose someone who is close to capable of doing the entire thing alone. That’s one of the screens that I use to vet partners. For example, we are parents. We are married. We have children. I feel that in my untimely absence, you would be able to parent without me. That is the kind of person that I want to be in a parenting partnership with.
One filter I’m going to give upfront for choosing a partner is to have a process that will allow you to exhaust some of these conversations and also guard against some of your weaknesses. What I mean by that is sometimes we go into a partnership out of extreme necessity. We know we need help. We need it right away. That can be a hindrance to choosing the right partner. In those moments where I not only want a partner but need a partner, and I might be blinded by wanting that too fast or too quickly, I build some barriers to protect myself against myself.
I tell myself, “I’m going to have at least five meetings with this person. I’m going to have a lunch or a dinner with this person. If they’re married, I want to meet their spouse. I want them to meet my spouse.” Partnerships can be at such a big level. It’s almost like a marriage. If you are going to enter into a big opportunity with another person or a life-shifting or altering opportunity with another person, you want to make sure you do the work upfront to vet that opportunity with that person.
That’s the framework first. In that vetting process, you would be able to identify whether or not you feel like the person has a set of skills that makes them close to capable of doing that thing alone. I also feel like when you’re picking the right partner, you want to look for someone who can clearly execute some aspect independently to reduce your workload or someone who can enhance a shared workload with innovative ideas to improve quality and efficiency. Those are the big things, “I can hand this off to you completely, and I know that part is taken care of. That’s going to work for me. I know that you are always coming up with creative ideas and ways to improve efficiency and the quality of the product that we have.” That’s also the partnership that I need.
Those people who are willing to raise their hand, speak up, tap you on the shoulder, and say, “Not only can I execute what you’ve asked me to execute but here are some ways we can make it better,” are bringing ideas and contributions to the table. Another way to select a partner, and it even ties into a little bit into when to partner, is when you can contribute something that will be exponentially impactful to somebody else’s journey. I had a conversation where I would be the 10% contributor but it’s 10% toward something where I 100% need that service but I could see the value I can bring in helping them structure the business and the messaging and help them go exponentially faster and further through the partnership.
It’s always tough to be in places where you don’t belong. This is something that my dad always said. What does it mean to be in a place where you do belong? It is a place where you can generate ideas and contribute because that contributes to our sense of purpose in the things that we’re doing and our life overall. You do want to find a partner where you have something to give because you’re going to be more satisfied in that dynamic also.
It’s so much more rewarding to give, even in partnerships. When you get a chance to show up for somebody and have the accountability, but you’re happy to show up for that person, especially because they see your worth, know your worth, and acknowledge your worth, that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
My final thing on the partnership or something that you have to look for is people who have a strong communication ability because all partnerships are tenuously predicated on communication. You don’t want to get involved with someone who you see the red flags. They have communication challenges. You want people who are going to tell the truth, come forth with information, and be honest about what goes well or what doesn’t go well. It’s those communication things. If you can find an effective communicator, this is a huge one for personal relationships and business relationships.All partnerships are really tenuously predicated on communication. Click To Tweet
That is so key. It relates to not just communication between the partners but how that person handles communication with others. I did a talk about brand and building your brand. Anyone you bring into your brand is a representative of your brand. You also mentioned it perfectly. If something happens to you, can this person carry the load? Not only can they carry the load but can they carry it in a way that reflects your values, your brand, and the vision of the partnership that you have formed? Those things are all critical. Here’s my last question. While I’ve got you here, why did you decide to partner with me? Why did you accept the ring that I put on it?
I might bounce that back to you. For me, what’s interesting is I took to journaling quite early. I had journaled out and created a vision of the partnership that I wanted and the person that I wanted to be with. I feel as though when we met and connected, and I began to learn more about you, I had a very well-articulated idea of the core values and experiences that I wanted that person to have. You had that profile.
The other thing that I tell people all the time because they ask me about our relationship is I met you when I was 22, which was a very long time ago. I was rather young. It’s interesting that I found my person at such a young age but I had done that work of creating a vision and understanding what I wanted to feel like in my partnership, and because I was so young, I did not have a lot of resistance built up or anxiety about the timing of finding that person.
If it had been at a later point in my life, and I was feeling anxious, “My biological clock is ticking, and I want to have kids,” I might be putting up psychoemotional barriers to attracting the person that I want but because I was so young, I had that clear vision, and I did not have a lot of resistance to allowing that person to show himself. There you were.
Out of thin African air.
The air has gotten pretty thick. It’s humid out there.
I love that answer. I love you. I appreciate that. Here’s a quick takeaway. We should even do an episode about figuring out that vision. We talked about partnership and figuring out what you want to do in terms of building a partnership and your company, who to partner with, and then letting it go because if you’re holding onto it, if you’re too anxious about it, or if you’re too eager, it can cloud your vision. It can impair your decision-making, and that’s not what we want.
That’s a great topic because also understanding that vision is a large part of understanding yourself. Much of what we have talked about is predicated on understanding yourself and your goals. That’s how you find the right partner. It’s looking in the mirror to understand yourself and your goals and where there are gaps to fill. That’s how you’re going to get to the right partnership.
With that, moguls, we are going to wrap up this session. Hopefully, you found this helpful. Please, DM us and find us on social media @Kofi Sellebrity and @MimiNartey. Share it with others and please stay on your full mogul journeys. We will talk to you again soon. Thank you.