For Partnership Leaders

Episode 15: Curtis Davey, Partnerships Manager, NiceJob

Curtis compares partnership relations with dating, shares tips on streamlining corporate comm. and tells us when it's time to shake up your career path.


This week on The CoSell Show we are especially excited to have with us Curtis Davey, Partnerships Manager at NiceJob.

 

Topics Covered:

    1. How partnership relationships are actually a lot like dating

    2. Top tips on streamlining corporate communication

    3. How to know when it is time to shake up your career path

 

More Questions for Curtis?

Brought to you by our host: Taylor Baker for CoSell.io

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Follow Along With The Podcast Transcript

Taylor Baker:
Hello listeners and welcome back to the CoSell show. I'm your host, Taylor Baker, and today we're going to talk about how to streamline corporate communication, how partnership relationships are actually a lot like dating, and how to navigate the new age take on career paths. Who better to talk about this with then Curtis Davey, the partnerships manager at Nice Job. Welcome, Curtis.

Curtis Davey:
Hi, Taylor. Thanks for having me.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, of course. We're thrilled to have you here. To kick things off, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your current role at Nice Job?

Curtis Davey:
Yes, so I've had quite the eclectic career path. I studied marketing and photography in college. That led to a short career as a photographer where I worked in fashion for the most part. But then after several years working in that rather superficial industry, I craved something a little bit more real and found myself in some far-flung destinations such as Afghanistan, shooting some projects. When I came back from that, I worked in visual effects on some Hollywood films, so I have some credits on Inception and The Bourne Legacy are my most recent ones. And then from that transitioned to a new career running a cultural nonprofit that I founded, which focused a lot on bringing people and brands together through experiences.

And from that, I learned that I had a real knack for bringing people and brands together and finding that common ground and common value between them. And that led me into the world of partnerships where I've had several roles recently with BroadbandTV, a company called Silo that does influence marketing, data measurement. And then most recently Nice Job. In my current role at Nice Job, my day to day involves a lot more conversations I would say. A lot of conversations with current and prospective partners and building out a really strong strategy for growing a world-class partner program here at Nice Job.

Taylor Baker:
Wow. I have like so many follow up questions. You have such a colorful history. I know, I love ... Actually a lot of my listeners will be like, this isn't exactly what I thought I would be doing, but I love it. And I love the jagged path that led me here. Wow. Inception. I mean, so many good things. I love Inception, so great job on that.

Curtis Davey:
Yeah. Working with Chris Nolan I have to say is a highlight of my career and watching that man work is truly an inspiration. He was out there in third minus 30 weather with nothing but a fall jacket and a warm cup of tea, and he was the one digging into every shot and every little detail of his movies with such dedication and such focus that it was truly inspiring to watch.

Taylor Baker:
Wow. I actually heard through another podcast called The Moth. They had a guest. He's a scientist who blew up in sort of like an accidental fashion because he wrote a paper or did a video on dream coding, which is essentially what Inception is about. And it was sort of falsely blown up where they're like, it's a real thing. You can really do it. And apparently Christopher Nolan reached out to him and was like, we need you to go on tour with us and talk about the science behind this. And he was like, it's not, this was an act. This is a misunderstanding. I was not saying that. But all that is to say that scientist in that podcast mentioned that Christopher Nolan was talking about Inception two. Is there anything that you know about that? Is this real life?

Curtis Davey:
I wish I could give you a hint, but I'm firmly out of that loop these days so I have no insights into that. You probably know more than I do.

Taylor Baker:
It sounds like something you would say if you were in the loop and you [inaudible 00:03:25]. You are now my six degrees [crosstalk 00:03:27] Chris Nolan. Thank you for that. Well, this may have been your thing, but I'm going to ask you anyway because it's one of our favorite questions here at the CoSell show. What is something fun about you that our listeners cannot find on your LinkedIn profile?

Curtis Davey:
I mean, yeah, that's, that's sort of on my LinkedIn profile. So it's not really hidden, that fact. If you ever do look at my LinkedIn, you'll see just how broad my career span. When you see some of the job titles and some of the projects I've been involved in. Probably something you wouldn't notice as much from that is just how much I love adventure and more than that, the discomfort that adventure brings. I love challenging the boundaries of my own comfort levels as much as possible through challenging treks in nature, or foreign travel places off the beaten track, or even learning something new and weird like knitting or a new language.

Taylor Baker:
I love how you go from foreign travels and sort of like dangerous foreign travels to knitting.

Curtis Davey:
It's a great skill to pick up while you're traveling or adventuring. You just pull out some needle and thread and there you go. You're working on something new and weird.

Taylor Baker:
I'm more of a crochet gal myself, but I do appreciate the subtle art of making things with your hands. Anyway, we could talk about crafting and Christopher Nolan all day, but let's scoot on over to partnerships. On your LinkedIn, and you've sort of explained a little bit, you have such a colorful past. But you specifically work as a head of partnerships, facilitating these partnerships. And in this show, we mostly talk about why companies should build partnership ecosystems. But I'd really kind of like to talk to you a little about how or why someone might want to get into the business of partnerships itself.

Curtis Davey:
Sure. Yeah. I mean for me the business of partnerships is very much a business of people getting to know people in other organizations who are striving for the same goal, or who maybe are interested in what you're offering. Getting to work with them and collaborate closely with them on the day to day, especially with people from different walks of life, be it graphically or culturally speaking. It makes the work so very rewarding and it's pretty fun at the same time.

Taylor Baker:
So for someone who does want to pursue a career in partnerships, what advice would you give them?

Curtis Davey:
Well, if you're a people person and genuinely like to help others, this is definitely a great career path to pursue. I would say go for it. You don't have to have a title like partnerships manager to do it or even a job with a company at that point. I mean when I first started getting started in partnerships, a lot of it was just projects that I felt passionate about and would go out and try to bring the people together to make that happen. Or you know, bringing on a brand or two to support it financially.

Whatever it is, take initiative, focus on bringing value to those groups that you're bringing in, be it a collaborator or a brand that you're trying to sell. And then learn what it takes to get a yes from people, and getting really good at building processes. Partnerships require a lot of constant contact and touchpoints, and things can get really messy really fast. So the better organized your processes are, the more efficient you'll be and the easier things will get, not only for yourself but for everyone involved. And while not every partnership is the same, very few are in fact, the framework is often very similar. So if you have a good understanding of how to build out a partnership, you can reuse those steps often from time to time.

Taylor Baker:
What would you say if you sort of deconstructed it? I know every partnership is different, but those sorts of steps that you were mentioning, what would those be on sort of like a basic level?

Curtis Davey:
Good communication and having a solid communication strategy is definitely number one. You want to understand what's the best place to communicate with your partners, be it by email or a Slack channel or constant calls. And then having a good structure in place where you both understand what you're getting into. You know, have a roadmap for a week, a month, two weeks, two months. Build out definitely a two-quarter strategy at first. Even if you don't stick to it fully. If you have those steps have laid out, people understand that this is going to be a long process. It's going to be a constant collaboration and the more you can continue to reference back to that strategy and optimize it, the better it's going to be for everyone.

Taylor Baker:
So having worked as a partnership manager and a director at so many different companies, you've definitely seen a lot of different partnerships go through the pipeline. What are some of the most successful strategies that you've seen?

Curtis Davey:

So I'd say, yeah, again the number one strategy to any good partnership is communication. It's super important to have those clear lines of communication with partners and work towards a place that you can be truly, brutally honest with them as if you were talking to your best friend or a sibling. My sisters and I, for example, can be pretty frank with each other and pretty brutal in the language we use when it comes from a place of love. And so we accept it and it's actually some of the best advice you'll ever get. So if you feel comfortable saying something that would upset your partner, but you can do it with a good reason and you have a good relationship to the point where you can say that and not completely destroy what you've built, I think that's a great place to be.

So that communication would be the foundation of any good relationship or partnership as even a dating relationship specialists would say. And then number two I think would be bringing value to those partners. You're never going to get very far trying to form a partnership that only benefits you, and those initial approaches and those sometimes awkward first conversations can go much more smoothly when you're approaching them with kind words and maybe a tangible offering that will make their life easier, or their products better, or help get them promoted is a big thing, or certainly helps solve a problem that they may not have been able to do alone.

Taylor Baker:
I've found actually more often than not, that sort of relationship like you mentioned you have that rapport with your sisters that you can just be honest and there's that level of comfort and truth that comes out of your conversation. I find myself and both my guests also making those same observations when it comes to partnership relationships. Like it is a professional [inaudible 00:00:09:06], so you may sort of edit yourself a little bit about how you talk. But at the end of the day, you want to have that sort of level of trust and comfort that you would just like you would with your sister or your husband or wife.

Curtis Davey:
Absolutely. Yeah. It doesn't happen overnight. Right? You can't meet somebody on a Google hangout or in your first initial meeting and be best buds with them by the time the call's done. It might happen but if it does, it's rare. It's definitely more of a process of building up to the point where you're sort of professionally dating. The first date's very cordial. The second date maybe you get to hold hands. Third date, you're kissing each other, and then you're at that really close personal level where you can get into some of those more personal details, and you can feel free to just share a bit more, be a bit more honest. It's important maybe to build up that trust slowly but also to really strive towards it and be upfront about it from the get-go. Communicate to your partners that you are looking for that kind of relationship, that this is the way you like to build partnerships and relationships, and hopefully they get on board with that from the get-go. And if it does, I think things move a lot more quickly and smoothly when they do.

Taylor Baker:
Wow. Professional dating. I love that analogy so much. I'm definitely going to put that in the show notes as one of the like main topics of this. How to professionally date. What is the third date really mean?

Curtis Davey:
What if the professional date equivalent of kissing? We'll have to think about that a bit more.

Taylor Baker:
Yes, sharing your spreadsheets. Ooh.

Curtis Davey:
Ooh.

Taylor Baker:
So on the other hand, I mean that those are some best practice tips. What are some major partnership mishaps or challenges you've maybe seen some of your clients go through?

Curtis Davey:

I would say that mistakes happen. Learn from them, even if they're not your own. I've been fortunate not to have made any big blunders that would make for a good anecdote right now, so I don't have anything to share personally. But I would say reach out to those people in roles that you are striving for, or maybe counterparts you've got relationships with. Hearing stories from them and understanding the trials and tribulations that they've faced certainly helps you understand how not to have those situations for yourself. I would shout out to the [inaudible 00:11:10] software association as an awesome resource to sort of get involved with. They have an incredible Slack channel with regular Q and A's and many people in partnership positions willing to share their experiences, both good and bad.

And I found in my sort of short experience with these guys and just chiming into the Slack group that everyone's very forthcoming with their own experiences building their partnership programs and yeah, all the successes and failures that they may have faced along the way. If you asked me again another six months though, I might have a story for you but hopefully not. Building your own processes sometimes does take or require a little bit of trial and error and everybody goes through their own sort of ups and downs throughout the partnership process.

Taylor Baker:
Definitely. We actually on that very Slack channel and you reached out to me. I was so excited to hear from you. It really does bring people together and everyone in partnerships that I've spoken with on that Slack channel or on this podcast is very forthcoming about talking about their experiences and wanting to knowledge share so people don't make these are the same mistakes they did.

Curtis Davey:
Yeah, totally. It really solidified that partnerships was a role in a career path for me just by meeting all these other people who are so very similar in nature and approach. It seems like everybody who works in partnerships has that genuine desire to help other people to strive towards meaningful goals. And when you see it all come together and you start working with them more closely, it's just infectious. And it rubs off on you how fun it can be to really build these, and how important it is to have that human touch.

Taylor Baker:
Wonderful. So you've clearly been working in partnerships among many other things for quite some time now. How have you seen partnerships evolve over the past several years?

Curtis Davey:
I would probably have to say technology has been the biggest change that I've seen over the years. You know, we obviously have always used Excel spreadsheets or now maybe Google spreadsheets, but just the tools that people have at their disposal to build partnerships and processes and then really optimize those partnerships. Even just in my experience at Nice Job so far, I never really came from a tech background per se, but now that we're working for a tech company and that I'm collaborating closely with other tech companies, I've been exposed to so many tools and platforms out there to share data and simplify the process of building partnerships and programs.

It's really been mind-blowing. There's a plethora out there that you know can really help you share that data, to really dig deeper into maybe where that overlap exists between you and a potential partner. There are avenues out there for you to collaborate more closely with your partners across those tech platforms. And it's just been wild to see how 10 years ago none of those things existed. Maybe even two or three years ago none of these platforms existed. And we continue to see new companies being built to help really evolve and develop this partnership space, especially for software and service companies.

Taylor Baker:
Like CoSell.

Curtis Davey:
Like CoSell.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah. We are working on bringing people together and helping streamline the partnership process. So definitely technology is a huge part of what's evolving. So as we look forward and move ever closer to 2020, what do you predict is on the horizon in the world of partnerships?

Curtis Davey:
I think the importance of data will continue to grow. Data, data. I always wonder which way to say that.

Taylor Baker:
User preference.

Curtis Davey:
I would say with the GDPR legislation in the EU and the Right To Be Forgotten move into here in North America, the more important aspect of that data will be proper management and protection I think. We all understand how data's the goal of the 21st century. We see it almost daily in the news headlines with companies like Twitter and Facebook and all of the breaches that we've seen, just how much data is in the forefront of politicians’ minds, but also consumers’ minds. And of course that extends to every corner of our life, and people do care what they're doing with your data, even if they don't realize how much of it out there already.

Curtis Davey:
So being able to incorporate data practices into your company, you need your partnerships that are obviously helpful and allow you to optimize and really improve, but while also giving it the respect and the privacy that it deserves. I think there are other elements that might be out there and that we'll continue to see change is the notion of exclusivity. A lot of partnership ecosystems have been built so far to be marketplaces and very open free for all. But I'm also seeing a flip side of that where there's a move back towards more curated ecosystems with exclusive partnerships.

And this is beneficial in two ways because A, it really helps you narrow down out of the plethora of options out there, which of the companies you truly think would be your best partner. Maybe test it out for a little while and then form exclusive partnerships with key value adds from different segments into your platform. But the other side to that would be the management of that data becomes easier when you have those exclusive partnerships. It may stifle business, not having as many partnerships or as many collaborators and potential customers to speak through those partnerships. But I think it all depends on how the next decade evolves economically and geopolitically to see is this going to be a growing trend, or is it going to be sort of a specialized strategy that companies deploy.

Taylor Baker:
So one thing about your career, I mean we've touched on it a little bit already, how you've kind of, I mean you started with Christopher Nolan and now you're doing this Epic partnership job. We live in an age where people no longer do the traditional, I graduated from college with this degree, I'm going to go work at this company, and I'm going to start as an intern and by the time I'm done in 40 years I'm going to own the company. That's just not how the workforce is anymore. And having had such a colorful history with jobs both in different industries and different paths, how do you personally determine when it is time to switch jobs or companies?

Curtis Davey:
It's a great question. Tough to answer. You know, when you reflect back on the career changes or company shoes you've made, I can't say that there's ever been a catalyst. Well, I suppose the one catalyst that I would see most frequently in my history would be just sort of the lack of challenges. When you've gotten to a point where you feel like you could do more within a company and you're either not being given that opportunity or you feel that there's an opportunity to do more elsewhere. There is a certain amount of willingness and interest of course in everybody to want to go out and do it alone and try to build something for yourself. But that is a huge commitment. And being able to understand how you work as an employee versus how you work as a leader is obviously something very important to consider.

At times I have gone out and tried to start a company or a project on my own and if and when that fails, you realize, okay, there are some other things I might need to learn. So maybe you go back into the workforce and try to build those skills some more. So personally, when it comes time to switch jobs, a company, I would say the one thing that stands out to me is just always having that ability to grow and to challenge yourself and new opportunities. And if you're not being given that at your current workplace then maybe it is time to go look somewhere else,

Taylor Baker:
Have you found in your own path leading up to where you are now, have these opportunities or these shifts come because of a relationship you had or kind of been out of the left-wing? Or have you actively been searching or wanting to make these changes?

Curtis Davey:
I find a lot of times doors or windows sort of open by themselves and it's just up for you to walk through them. So be it somebody you might've met at a conference or a friend of yours who recommends you for this job they think you'd be great at. Being open to ideas and possibilities is the biggest thing. You just want to give yourself the opportunity to think about it and to imagine yourself living in that opportunity. I think everybody, no matter who it is or what career path you're pursuing, just wants to find a place where they feel challenged but also comfortable, where they feel empowered but also supported. It's finding that perfect sweet spot where you feel really excited about coming to work, where the people you work with really motivate you and empower you. And being able to find that and keep it is something that I find is even more difficult these days.

You know the employee is really a [inaudible 00:19:12] position anymore. It's not something that, as you said, we look to find a 40-year employee position. Millennials, of which I am are reluctantly a member, often seem to have that I want more kind of mentality. And while I've certainly never had that sense or that pursuit, for me it's always about finding things that make you happy and also give you that discomfort that I was talking about earlier. You always want to feel like you're slightly out of your element, that you always need to work that little bit harder, and that you think you can do just that much better. And then if you stop feeling that you kind of start coasting, I think that's not only not good for you, it's not good for the company you work for either or your colleagues. So it's always about staying happy and motivated and challenged.

Taylor Baker:

That is a perfect way of putting that. Sometimes what is best for you is that window that opens and you have to find the balance between being motivated and having goals and like actively searching for things, but also being open to take those opportunities that you maybe weren't expecting.

Curtis Davey:
Absolutely. And what you think you want you might not always enjoy when you get it. Like when you get that dream job, it might be that double-edged sword where great, you have your dream job but now you're stuck in that dream job, or whatever the circumstances might be. So happiness lies in the eye of the beholder, and if you just leave yourself open to those opportunities and open to being happy with what you have, and certainly practicing appreciation, you find that life can be pretty great just with whatever you have.

Taylor Baker:
Absolutely. Words to live by. So Curtis, do you have anything exciting coming up either professionally or personally that you maybe want to share with our listeners?

Curtis Davey:
Yeah, well we have a bunch of new integration partners being rolled out here at Nice Job over the next little while. So very excited about those. I can't spill any details until they're live, but you'll see some great new updates coming on the partnership side of Nice Job. We also have some new product features coming to Nice Job including introductions and incentives to give your customers the opportunity to introduce you to new potential business. And then personally looking forward to a great ski season. Hopefully, the snow starts falling here sometime soon, and just between you and me and all of our listeners, I'll be getting engaged soon enough.

Taylor Baker:
Oh wow. Do they know yet or did you just like spill the beans on this podcast? It's amazing.

Curtis Davey:
Yeah. Pretty bad if we hadn't talked about it or if I'm sharing it with you before I spoke with her. But yeah, she's fully aware it's happening. I've gotten the blessing from her father and now I just need to summon up the courage and find the right moment to make it happen.

Taylor Baker:
Oh my gosh. I'm so happy. I mean I don't want to ruin the surprise but I mean you can yes or no this question. Do you have some like an extravagant plan or even just like chill romantic plan for the proposal?

Curtis Davey:
I had some grand romantic ideas and the moment for those ideas passed me by twice now because I haven't been able to find a great ring.

Taylor Baker:
If I may personally recommend there is a jeweler in based out of Los Angeles called Trumpet and Horn. They are more of like a vintage sort of inspired jeweler. They have an impressive array of like options as well as prices. So I could not ... and it's they're just so unique and so beautiful and so wonderful.

Curtis Davey:
Well, that sounds exactly what I'm looking for, and yeah, the price doesn't turn me off nearly as much as just trying to find the right one. Right? I've got the guidelines. She's given me all the information I need, and now I just need to pull the trigger. And it's one of those things where every time I just find a new site or a new company to look at there are another thousand options for me to evaluate, and it gets that much harder to find the right one.

Taylor Baker:
For sure. How can our listeners reach you? You've had so much great advice. I'm sure they're going to have more questions for you.

Curtis Davey:
Yeah, I mean jump on the CSA Slack channel if you can. I'm happy to send you an invite for that, or maybe Taylor can put a link to it.

Taylor Baker:
Will do.

Curtis Davey:
You can reach me at curtis@nicejob.co if you want to reach out by email, or find me at Curtis M Davey on LinkedIn would probably be the best ways.

Taylor Baker:
Perfect. Wow, Curtis, this has been an amazing interview. You have been a wonderful guest and had some really great insights. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Curtis Davey:
Again. Thank you very much for having me, Taylor. I'm so glad I found you.

Taylor Baker:
And to all of our listeners out there, thank you for listening and be sure to tune in next week for even more exciting co-selling content. Now go get your partnership on.

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