Thursday, September 4, 2014

The End of the Lone Wolf Model of Entrepreneurship: Creative Collaborations Between Powerful Woman That Make Money and Bring Joy

Next week, my dear friend, Ann marie Houghtailing, a brilliant business coach, speaker and solo performer, is flying to Santa Fe, where we are leading a four day intensive called Solo Performance Mastery together.

I am bursting out of my skin with excitement about our collaboration. Her focus on the business of solo performance and how to leverage one's show into a well paying caree,r is the missing link for many of my clients. While I focus primarily on the creative aspects of developing a solo show, this retreat will offer an extremely holistic approach to those who are devoted to this journey as their life time work.

Ann marie and I met when she flew out to Santa Fe to create her own solo show, five years ago, and, since then, I have hired her as a business coach and referred her to many other people. We overlap in experience and areas of expertise, yet each of us has a slightly different primary focus as well as complimentary, yet different tones, both personally and professionally.

We joke about our differences and Ann marie once famously said "Tanya and I are pretty much exactly alike except, not at all." 

The chemistry between us, I believe, has to do with the fact that we are each strong and individuated woman. Both of us are quite secure in who we are and what we do. We also both genuinely love empowering other woman. That impulse and wellspring comes from a very deep place inside each of us. I know that we recognize it in each other. 

We both dislike pettiness and small mindedness.Perhaps most importantly, we make each other laugh. In other words, we share values that enable a collaboration succeed.

My friend Candace Walsh and I have a similar, yet, "unique to us" dynamic. Candace and I have created a writing workshop called Author It! that supports people, over a six month process, to complete their memoir. Candace is an accomplished magazine editor and author herself. I have edited two books and coached hundreds of people on writing and performing their stories. 

As with Ann marie, Candace and I have a deep and abiding respect for each other's work and contributions. We also are somewhat yin/yang in style with me focusing more in supporting people through their perceived writing obstacles while Candace offers them tons of insiders knowledge about both writing and publishing. Again, I would say that our skill sets are both complimentary and overlapping.Yet, we come to the table with strong differences that only expand our offerings to our clients.

These partnerships with Ann marie and Candace have been a fairly recent development in my work. They have already been so fulfilling, that I am planning many more strength based collaborations to add to my service offerings in 2015.

As I celebrate and embrace these partnerships, I reflect on another less successful pairing I once experienced in business partnership and the differences in these two models. I also reflect on the fall out from that negative experience which influenced my decision to act as a lone wolf ,almost exclusively, for many years. 

Based on what I've experienced, I've come up with a list of Do's and Don't when considering partnering with someone in creative and financial collaborations~

1) Do, choose to partner with people one project at a time. 

I am a firm believer in steering our own ships. One of the reason's that things went south with my earliest foray into partnering with someone, was because we became business partners in everything, not just one project.This was an enormous mistake that ultimately cost us our business and our friendship. It took me years of recovery time to get back on my own strong path.Powerful people have different talents and interests. They also have different ways of doing things.The course changes many times throughout our professional lives.

When my former business partner and I were starting out, I think our own fears led us to think that our success was contingent on the other. Neither of us trusted fully that we could go it alone and be ok. This turned out to be simply not true and lead to irreparable conflicts. 

This is a warning; do not become business partners with someone in all your professional endeavors! Not in intention and definitely not legally. No matter how much you love them. No matter how you swear that your friendship can handle anything. People change over time. Be a free agent.

End of rant. You've been dully warned. 

Instead, partner with individuals who share your level of professionalism on a project by project basis.One of the paths stated above is the road to hell and one is the road to bliss. Seriously, this one point cannot be overstated.

2) Do partner with someone you know and respect professionally. They may or may not be a close friend personally.

The criteria for investigating partnerships professionally involve stepping back and taking a critical assessment of who this person is in business. Have they already had success in their own field individually? Have you interacted with them in a group setting? How do they present in front of other people?

You want to make certain that you will be able to trust the other person in a group situation. Because not only will their reputation be at stake but so will yours. You will forever be associated with anyone you share public billing with. I know this from personal experience, both good and bad. As I have become more experienced, I have become more discerning.

3) Do partner with people who will enhance your own brand.

I am very proud to share equal billing with both Ann marie Houghtailing and Candace Walsh in the workshops that we co-lead. Each one enhances the brand I have worked so hard to establish and I believe that I do the same for them.

Last year, Theo Pauline Nestor, the author of "Writing is My Drink" invited me to speak and teach solo performance at writing conferences that also featured Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg as speakers. Of course,I jumped at the chance. All of these woman, including Theo are well known writers and creativity coaches. Their work is complimentary and, indeed, I have used many of their exercises and techniques with my clients over the years. And, better yet, I got to share my own work with people who did not know of me or my work. It brought me several new clients and some came to me because of the credibility that was attached to the names of the other teachers.

In a win/win situation, this will go back and forth. Your good reputation brings credibility to your collaborators as much as theirs does to you.

4) Do, create a workshop or service where you each play slightly different roles. Define roles and responsibilities from the outset.

Who takes the sales calls? Who creates the poster? Who provides the workshop space? Who teaches in the a.m? Who speaks on what topic?

Even if you like to create in an improvisational way without every moment defined ahead of time (as I do), it is important to respect your collaborator and work things out for everyone's comfort level. You want to know what each of you will focus on and how you can support each other during the actual workshop. You don't want to step on each others toes on the day of the actual event. A little planning ahead of time allows for a smooth first run. Then after a while, if you collaborate on more than one project, you will intuit more and more things about each other that can lead to an easy flow.

5) Do Collaborate with Generous People (And always be generous yourself!!)

Candace sometimes shows up with home made goodies for our writing groups. Ann marie offers the services of her graphic designer and her technical advisor to deal with deposits and payments. Theo made sure that I was comfortable at the hotel as soon as I arrived to speak at her workshop in California.

I too am generous with my treasured colleagues. I'm always happy to promote their new projects on social media. And, when I initiate a project, I always suggest a 50/50 split with folks regardless of who is doing the lions share of promoting. There is no tit for tat. 

A spirit of generosity, both emotionally and financially is what leads to win/wins. Everybody feels valued and there is no hierarchy on the team. Both people are equally invested in making the event a success. This is what you want.

This is actually what moves your event to a higher level. More people will be attracted to it. It's what leads to joy and long lasting relationships. Generosity is what makes your business and life sublime.

People who are small hearted and cheap, may get by in the short run, but over time they never get the home runs. 

The people who get very close with me have huge souls. And part of having a huge soul includes generosity. They are the people who I want to continue to collaborate with, over time.


1) Don't give up your own individual projects no matter how much success you have in partnering. You are adding to your own value and reputation as you individuate as well as partner.

2) Don't work with people who are rigid or attempt to dominate you.

3) Don't go "off brand" or bend too far toward a collaborators brand.

Recently, I had an interesting experience with a planned workshop with a potential collaborator that flopped. We just didn't get enough interest in it to do it. On a creative level, I know that it would have been a wonderful workshop with great value for the right participants. However, when I closely examined it, I saw that it was slightly "off brand" for me. My expertise, that I have been developing for years, is centered very specifically around creativity, solo performance, therapeutic monologues, memoir writing and promoting all of the above. It is a niche field based on the writing and/or performing of a personal story.

The workshop that flopped was centered around living an abundant life. It was more esoteric in nature and the outcome may have been viewed as intangible and therefore less valuable. I was attempting to partner with a friend who is a healer and psychic. Now, many other people offer workshops on similar topics, many to great success. But for me, it ended up being a valuable lesson to stick closer to my already established platform. It is the area in which I am trusted and already known as an expert. 

4) Don't partner with anyone who you feel is competitive with you or jealous of your success. 

Even if you only feel a small inkling, stay away from these folks. You may be able to navigate some as clients who have this issue, though you will need to have ironclad boundaries. It's a skill I've mastered through trial and error over time. Therapists also need to learn this skill and some of my work is similar in nature. But, even if someone is talented and gifted, if you suspect that she has unresolved issues with other woman, run the other way. This is a hard won lesson for me as well as most of the woman I've partnered successfully with. It can be part of our on the job training as creative entrepreneurs.

A red flag in terms of looking out for these woman: First, they will put you on a huge pedestal. They will want to be your friend, flatter you and assume an emotional intimacy with you right off the bat that is one sided.

Later, when they see something in you that disappoints them, or you are not available for the connection they want, or they reveal themselves to you and then feel shame, you will not only come down off that pedestal, you will become demonized. You will especially become demonized if you have a healthy boundary with one of them.

Understand, that these people are dangerous and when you are considering collaborations, you must be very awake that these kinds of people do exist. And they will be drawn to you as you stand more and more in your own light.

Trust your intuition and never abandon yourself, especially if you feel any red flags.

5) Lastly, don't forget to have fun. Taking risks and trusting yourself to show up and do what it takes to have a joyful and productive collaboration is totally worth it.

Though I still love my one on one projects with clients, as well as spending time alone with on my own creative work, partnering well can offer much abundance and fun to our business'. It also combats some of  the fatigue that so many solo entrepreneurs face of having to always create and manifest on their own. 

Take a risk. Look down your list of friends and contacts. Who could you partner with for a win/win workshop or other event?