How to Build Successful Business Partnerships

The power of creative collaboration

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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Forming a business partnership has great benefits when done right. What does it take to be in sync with your business partner? How can you overcome the challenges that come with such collaboration?

In this episode, I chat with SUPERCHARGED® siblings-turned-partners, Jake & Jazz Smollett, TV personalities and authors of The Family Table. Also featuring Todd Wadler, the CEO of BoxUnion & TITLE Boxing, and Felicia Alexander, the Co-founder of BoxUnion & CRO of TITLE Boxing.

Tune in as we deconstruct what makes a great partnership.

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In this episode, I chat all things Power Partnerships with panelist Todd Wadler & Felicia Alexander, co-founders of BoxUnion along with Jake & Jazz Smollett, TV personalities and authors of The Family Table. Here are additional links and resources from the show

Kwanza Jones 0:00
Please welcome to the stage Jake and Jazz Smollett. Now let me tell you about these beautiful people here. Not only are they amazing, gorgeous, talented, intelligent, they're siblings. So they've got that in common. A lot of other siblings in common too. Jazz is a writer, she's an influencer. She's a producer. She's worked in TV. She's worked on a book project with her, not just your brother, but all your siblings, called The Family Table. And that's sort of what we are here today. We are a family. And we have Jake. Jake has a show that was on a Food Network called Smollett eat. Jake and both Jazz, they come from an entertainment family, and so they're entertainers as well. So please have a seat. I am very happy to meet you.

Felicia and Todd are co founders of a studio called BoxUnion. It is a boxing studio. You will hear a lot more about it really soon. Todd, once upon a time was in another world. And that other world was called finance. And in finance, he didn't get to dress up in T shirts and shorts all day. He's just more like this every single day. Which means Todd knows numbers. And Felicia has been in marketing. She's been in advertisement. She went to Stanford University. She went to UCLA.

Alright. I've known them for a little bit. They've been the living group before. So I'm just gonna sit right here and tell you all their stories.

Ah.

Jake Smollett 1:32
Give it up for Kwanza.

Kwanza Jones 1:35
To start it off, Jake, Jazz, tell me, when and how long you all started? The first partnership that you had with each other?

Jazz Smollett 1:44
Oh, gosh, so… Well, I changed his diapers. Yes, that would be

Kwanza Jones 1:52
Ooh… yes.

Jake Smollett 1:55
So appreciated. Thank you for getting me to this point.

Kwanza Jones 2:02
You’re going over the world Jake, you’re going up.

Jazz Smollett 2:04
So, beyond that, when he… I guess maybe one of the first things when he was about 15, and I was in college and I was like 23 or something, we started something called mommies baked goods. And it was our mother's pie recipes vegan. We were going into, we ended up putting them in several health food stores. We worked together on several projects that I was producing. He was younger, he was a PA and then became associate producer. These were like, I used to work on a lot of unscripted award shows, docu-series or what have you and things like that. And behind the scenes of movie specials.

Kwanza Jones 2:43
Two questions, what's been the most significant partnership you've had together

Jazz Smollett 2:46
The cookbook for sure, right, or the cooking show.

Jake Smollett 2:49
I would say the whole cooking brand in general that we've created together is like… We started producing a cooking show for me in my Hollywood apartment kitchen, like a tiny apartment kitchen. And we remodeled it a bit and started shooting for the metro system, the TVs on the bus. So, we had little three minute segment cooking shows on the bus, $10 dinners and that started the whole blogs and the interest of you know, people riding the bus wanting to know these recipes for these $10 dinners. And that sparked us going to Food Network and selling that to Food Network. They bought it in the room straight to series. And so that really is what sparked us doing the cookbook, our blogs, and now doing shows together and all that side of things. But I would say definitely up until now the book has been the most significant work that we really have points didn't know if we would get through that because...

Jazz Smollett 3:51
Yeah, ‘cause you're sent off on your own. With the show, it's like you have a whole team. With the cookbook, it's basically… you're sent off by the publisher, you know, here's the advance and go produce the book.

Kwanza Jones 4:07
Good luck! You're on your way.

Jazz Smollett 4:08
And so we have to figure out how to divvy up that work between the two of us so that we wouldn't go too crazy end up hating each other, not be able to go to family holidays together. Or, and so that we could stay in our strongest lanes. One

Kwanza Jones 4:25
One of the premises of what we do with SUPERCHARGED is to make sure we're able to provide tools. And what Jazz just identified is something that I would call a power tool. In a partnership, she just identified that if you know what your strengths are and your weaknesses, then you're better able to communicate that with your partner. In this instance, her partner was your brother who was doing all the cooking.

So we're gonna move really quickly to Todd and Felicia, because yours, no recipes. No recipes. No dreamy stories about food.

Felicia Alexander 4:58
No, no, we're just building combinations.

Kwanza Jones 5:00
Okay. Hey! Talk to us about these combinations, food combinations and what type of combinations.

Felicia Alexander 5:06
So Todd and I met almost 12 years ago through our children. And it's really interesting when you meet… and I loved his wife, our kids got along great. And then there's that moment of like, we're gonna get the husbands together, and let's see how that works. And when you are couples, trying to make couple friends can be really challenging, but we actually hit it off. And it was amazing because my husband took to Todd, and they formed a really wonderful friendship. And over the years, we shared all sorts of, you know, stories about wanting to pursue different things. And we discovered that we had a shared passion for fitness. And Todd and my husband spent a lot of time over the dinner table talking about building a fitness concept. And the best part about the whole thing was that I'm the fitness enthusiast, and my husband had never taken a group fitness class in his life

Early on, we had a reorg, because I'm like, wait a minute, this is my passion. And it's really good that we did because Todd and Greg are still great friends. But I think like from a partnership perspective, that would have been a recipe for disaster.

Todd Wadler 6:18
No pun intended.

Felicia Alexander 6:23
But we set out to make the world of boxing more accessible, and create a whole market within fitness boxing that didn't exist by creating an environment that was inviting, where we got rid of the ring, where we brought people together in unison. Our name is BoxUnion, and we combine mind, body, music, and boxing and throughout our 45 minute classes, we work on building a combination. And a lot of what we're doing is, you know, the manifestation of time and energy and vision that Todd has been able to bring forth with the coaches that we found.

Todd Wadler 7:03
Yeah, and what I would add to that is, when you get into a business like this, you don't even realize how many different levels there are to the business. So there's the part that everybody sees, which is the class or the production of what we do, but there's so many other key elements to actually deliver the product the way you need to deliver it on time. That's where, you know, our partnership, I think, really flourish, because sort of playing on what you just said, we realized quickly that our skill sets were super complimentary to one another. And what we can't do is all be doing the same exact thing. And, you know, duplicating our efforts and our energy. And so, you know, we spend a lot of time, you know, apart, but we find those key moments throughout a day, at night, whenever it is to really communicate and have each other's back. And so I really think that in that partnership you need, you need someone who's, who's helping with the writing, and you need someone who's bringing the recipes, you know, together, and it's no different. You know, for us, we need people that are focused on the operations, we need someone that's focused on the product, how those, those things come together. And we spend a lot of time and we spent a lot of time with our people within the company, on how to kind of drive that communication, if you will, of a partnership because we really view all the people that are with us as our partners.

Jazz Smollett 8:35
I was on a panel last week in Dallas, and there was a woman there who is the vice president or something of the southwest region, Coca Cola, and she was suggesting to this new business startup that they ask their team, okay, what are your your interest? Because oftentimes someone's interests are their strengths. What are you really passionate about, and going through their employees asking that whatever they're passionate about, that is their lane, and they report to you and they get advice from you. But you need to give them space in their lane, so that they can thrive and grow your business and then there'll be excited to help you grow your business because they have a stake in it.

Todd Wadler 9:17
And one of the interesting things she just said was is passion. I think that's really important. We were on an interesting call this week with someone that runs a big yoga chain and we were talking about selling and how do you get your front desk people, you know, to sell and how do they think about it. And she was really interesting, this woman she said, look, I employ Yogis, like, by their nature, they don't sell. The only thing that they become comfortable in selling and it's not selling to them is something they're passionate about.

Jake Smollett 9:48
Like you said, one of the key points in picking a partner is like knowing your weakness first, what are your strengths and your weaknesses? But you need to find someone that can fill in the blanks of your weaknesses so that you can make a whole partnership. And one of our struggles, I think has been being siblings, you know. When you're with a sibling, you kind of get into the mode of let's hang out, let's, you know, you’re comfortable,

Jazz Smollett 10:18
Boundaries, like, okay, we're going to set this meeting at this time where we need to go over this, we need to get our other two members of this book on the phone, and we need to set a phone call. And, you know, if I'm texting everyone, hey, the publisher needs this by this date. And maybe it's a little less important, sibling. So people, you know, really keeping in mind those boundaries. And that yes, we are siblings, but we're also partners in this project, and how do we keep communication open as business partners, and not bleed into that comfort of being siblings or the emotional aspect of it?

Jake Smollett 11:06
Or having or having, like, for instance, having an hour to meet with each other, but not spending 20 minutes catching up?

Kwanza Jones 11:13
Would you say that challenge in particular, like, the division between the family bond versus the work or business bond is specifically because you’re siblings? Do you see it as any other partnerships that would have that challenge?

Jake Smollett 11:28
I would think of your friends and partners, you know.

Felicia Alexander 11:33
We waste a lot of time, like catching up and talking about our kids and things like that.

Kwanza Jones 11:37
Okay. So then what do you all do? What are your challenges? You said you like catching up and talking about kids

Todd Wadler 11:42
I would say it's a similar dynamic. I mean, especially when you're, you know, with siblings, obviously, you have, you know, years and years and years of experience with them. And while we've known each other, you know, 12 years, we've known each other in very different contexts, right. So, you know, now that we're like, you know, two to three years from when we actually develop the idea to bringing it to market and all that, you know, I think in the beginning, we were always like, probably like, oh, I don't want to offend the person, I don't want to be so direct. Now, she has no problem telling me to stop talking. And we got to get back to business. And, and so I think at first, you're just kind of like trying to figure out where those boundaries are and when do we talk about this, and when do we deal with that? So I'm not worried. Well, if I say something to her, is she gonna then like, say something to my wife that well, he's really not as nice as he looks.

Felicia Alexander 12:39
The one thing that I did tell his wife was, having been in business with Todd, I have so much more of an appreciation and respect for him. It was hard for our kids at first. I mean, my son would come home and he would say, like, I feel like you like Todd more than you like dad. And I'm like, you know, that's not the case. It's just that, like, we're getting this business, and we don't know what we're doing. And it requires a lot of work, or then he says something like, they come over, but like you guys can't spend the whole time talking about BoxUnion.

Kwanza Jones 13:09
Oh, wow.

So then, how did you overcome some of those difficult conversations or even beyond overcoming them? How did you have them? And this is for all of you, because you've all mentioned certain times, you just have to get in and get it done? Yeah,

Felicia Alexander 13:23
I mean, I think it is really crucial to be incredibly self aware, and to be able to acknowledge what your strengths and weaknesses are. And if you're going to be in a partnership, then there has to be transparency, and being able to, like be vulnerable.

Todd Wadler 13:41
One of the things we talk a lot about is sort of, more we less me, and, yes, we have this partnership. But we also have to be willing to bring more people into the partnership. You know, not many people out there can build something completely, you know, on their own, they all need more, more people involved more points of view. And so, you know, to me, the big thing is just really that statement and, and bringing more people into the partnership and making sure the partnership is set up. That allows more people in, but it has ways of making decisions. Because I think the other problem partnerships run into is sometimes you might make a decision for the sake of making a decision that you can agree on. But it may not be the best decision. And so you have to be willing to still have those tough conversations to really build a valuable partnership.

Jake Smollett 14:51
I would definitely say just respect for your partner. I think that that's the key ingredient and… because if you don't respect their opinion, then you're just going to turn into a know it all and think you're driving the ship all the time. And for our partnership, it's always been about mutual respect. Knowing that person's lane, knowing that, you know, just because that's their lane doesn't mean that you won't have to drive in that lane too sometimes and pick up slack and vice versa. And it's being siblings, it really does come down to respect, I think, more than anything.

Kwanza Jones 15:34
Well, that is all the time we have for now for power partnerships deconstructed. So, let's give a round of applause to Jazz, to Jay, to Felicia, to Todd

[00:00] Introducing the guests

[02:04] Jazz Talks about her first partnership with Jake

[02:46] Jazz & Jake discuss their most important partnership together

[04:26] The importance of power tools in power partnership

[04:58] Felicia explains how she formed a power partnership with Todd

[07:03] Todd talks about key points to consider when picking a partner

[09:48] Jake and Jazz talks about the challenges faced when siblings become partners

[11:33] Todd and Felicia explains the challenges friends face when they become partners

[13:09] How to overcome challenges that arise when partnering with friends and family

[15:34] Closing remark

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN

  • The huge benefits of creative collaboration
  • Why Power Partnerships are so powerful
  • How Power Tools can boost Power Partnerships to succeed
  • Key points to consider when forming a Power Partnership
  • How to rip through the challenges that develop when forming partnerships with siblings or friends

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