Building a Lasting Business Partnership: Business Alchemy Podcast EP #1


And when you’re looking for a partner, one, you’ve got to obviously have trust and all that, but don’t necessarily in my mind, look for somebody just like you, because Bethany or not just like each other, we compliment each other very well, but there, that also leads to some struggles long ago. I heard that if we all think the same way, then some of us aren’t needed.

And I think that’s the way it works with partners too. If you and your partner in business are always on the same page, if you’re always thinking the same way, chances are one of you doesn’t need to be there. And I think one of the things that’s helped Beth and I work together over the years has been the fact that, again, we complement each other in so many ways.

Hi, and welcome to the first episode of the Business Alchemy Podcast. I’m Jonathan, and with me is my partner, Beth, and we’re here to talk to you today about Entrepreneurship, working together, partnerships, all kinds of things related to starting your own business, running your own business, and sometimes working with other people that isn’t always so fun.

Beth, thanks for joining me today. I know we’ve got a lot to talk about and a lot of things we want to cover. Can you maybe take just 30 seconds or so and give us a quick introduction to who is Beth and Valor Circle? Absolutely, Jonathan. Thanks so much for having me today. This entire scenario is a little new for me, but I’m so happy to have the opportunity to be able to talk about what I do and how you and I interact.

So as Jonathan said, my name is Beth and I’m the CEO and owner of Valor Circle, a digital marketing agency. We have a team of, oh, about 16 right this moment, and just, I love having the opportunity to lead them and strategize and provide great service for our clients. And I know Jonathan because he and I have been working together for the last, oh, approximately 20 years.

And we just have a great dynamic and we want to be able to share that with you. Awesome. Thank you. And just a little bit about me, if you don’t know my obviously my name is Jonathan and I run an agency called Whitebeard Strategies and we help businesses basically make noise online, generate interest and create more sales by developing topical authority.

And then I’m a huge nut when it comes to all the new AI tools. And so we leverage those in the services that we provide to our clients, sometimes just teaching them how to do it and other times doing it with them or on their behalf as more of a concierge level service. So as Beth mentioned, we’ve worked together for about the last 20 years in different capacities, sometimes at the same company.

Sometimes like now at different companies, but we’ve really developed a partnership of trust and we’ve had our ups and our downs along the way. Sometimes when we thought it was crazy and other times when we thought it was working really well. And we just hope to share some of those stories with you guys today.

And as I mentioned, I think my goal, at least, and Beth, I’d certainly welcome your thought, but my goal is. We can encourage others that have an entrepreneurial spirit to go out and pursue those endeavors. Start a business, grow a business. If you need a partner, find a partner. And then talking about some of those partnership dynamics, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how we’ve managed over 20 years to Stay friends and stay partners in the businesses that we’re operating together.

Even though sometimes like now we’re operating different businesses. What about you, Beth? What are your goals for the podcast? First of all, I just want to say that having a partner and having a business, those are huge decisions. And so being able to talk through some of those and some of the things we had taken into consideration as we actually made those decisions, I think it’s really neat.

And I really want to share with people how to make some of those decisions, why to make some of those decisions, when to make some of those decisions, and then the end, what your personal goals are and what you’re trying to achieve in your life. So for me, I know that I have always wanted a certain amount of flexibility.

I, there’s lots of different interests I have and having my own business allows me to spend time on various things. And so that was really key. But. I needed a partner because I, by myself, don’t have everything I need. To really execute a business well, and that’s really where you came in, Jonathan, and again, uh, vice versa.

It was definitely two needs meeting that we had. I’m a visionary and an entrepreneur and I’ve got a gazillion ideas inside. When Beth and I first met, I’ll never forget one of the first times that we were chatting about opportunities. She was like, you, you need to stop talking because you’re driving me crazy.

I just, I’m full of ideas. I’ve always got ideas and I’m sharing them and I’m not an implementer. I’m not an executor. I’m that visionary guy at 30, 000, maybe 50, 000 or even a hundred thousand seat. I needed someone with best operational and delivery capabilities and candidly organizational capabilities to be able to make sure that the company that I wanted this found wasn’t just going to be me and three people looking for jobs because I was driving him crazy.

And I think that’ll readily admit, I certainly can do that. And so. As Beth was saying, it’s so important when you’re looking for a partner, one, you’ve got to obviously have trust and all that, but don’t necessarily, in my mind, look for somebody just like you, because Beth and I are not just like each other.

We complement each other very well, but that also leads to some struggles. Long ago, I heard that if we all think the same way, then some of us aren’t needed. And I think that’s the way it works with partners too. If you and your partner in business are always on the same page, if you’re always thinking the same way, chances are one of you doesn’t need to be there.

And I think one of the things that’s helped Beth and I work together over the years has been the fact that, again, we complement each other in so many ways. Does that occasionally lead to some strife? I think it does. Beth, what do you think? Absolutely, it does. When you mentioned the time that you were just rambling off all of these ideas, I’m an implementer and an integrator, and so he’d have an idea, and I’d immediately think about, okay, Can that be done?

How can that be done? What’s the timeframe that can be done? What are the details around that? I would start to break it down then literally 30 seconds later He would have another idea and so I’m like, oh wait, I guess which and I’ll look at this So what every idea that he would give I would start to think about how feasible it was to implement it And that was difficult and it’s like time out.

I need you to slow down Let’s hold some of those thoughts And let’s focus on what ones you really think maybe are the best one of the lot. So then you actually had a strategy for that, Jonathan. What was that? I just stopped telling you about all my ideas, 48 hours or something. And so if one kept rising to the top, you’d tell me what that one was.

And then exactly, which worked far better. But then when you really looking from the really highest level, I’m one of those people that hovers a little closer to the ground so I can see all the details, what’s going on, and then actually take that idea and implement it, but a partnership. It should never be two people of the same because then you’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna have a lot of conflict and you’re just going to be bumping heads with each other all the time.

And that’s really tough. Definitely. I even know there’s some good books out there that really talk about finding people who compliment you. The first step to that is to figure, you know, who you are, what type of personality are you. And how do you work? And I want to point out though, too, that while I say we have to be different, and I believe that’s important with partners, you and I do have some similar tendencies.

For example, in our own ways, we’re both very good visionaries. You are an incredible visionary when it comes to how do we need to be looking ahead and planning out operations, and planning out delivery, and figuring out how all of these things are going to happen. Things that, candidly, make my brain hurt.

I, on the other hand, I think I’m really good at being a visionary about new services and new products, new ways to go to market, new problems we can solve, but I’m not really good at being a visionary on how we’re actually going to. Execute that. I think one of the things that you and I have always struggled with is I’ve got this idea.

And in my head, it’s crystal clear. I know exactly what we’re going to do. And then you point out that crystal clear to me simply means that I was only looking at two out of maybe 2000 aspects of what that would take to deliver. And that’s, I think, where you brought that so much value to the partnership.

And again, I just want to clarify it. We both are visionaries in our own way. In my mind, and again, I’d welcome your thoughts, Beth, we have different skills and different tendencies that allow us to compliment each other because if it was just my vision on how to market, we’d sell a lot of stuff and have a lot of candidly ticked off clients.

If it was probably your vision, we’d have incredible operations that’d be set up and ready to run, but we probably wouldn’t sell all that. We need clients . Yeah. And so it was that combination. That allowed us to be successful working together and you’re good at details. If it’s something you really are interested in, and that’s key, such as you are brilliant in the area of sales and closing sales and marketing people, bringing those people in the door.

You’re also really interested in AI. And so your detail goes way up. Well, that’s something you’re really passionate about. Thank you. I appreciate that. And the thing is with me, especially for those of you don’t know, I got diagnosed with ADD when I was 43. I’m now 54, I think. So just over a decade ago, and that explained a lot about how I operate because I can be really passionate about something for four minutes or four hours or four days or four months, sometimes even for years.

But a lot of times those passions ebb and flow really quickly. And I think, Beth, that’s the area where you’ve added so much value because you’ve helped Me not focus on those four minute and four hour passions, but focus on those that are going to be four months, four years or longer type things, that consistency, Jonathan, when we first, uh, decided to be partners and we go into business together, what were some of the things you were looking for in a partner help?

I wanted to help. I knew at the time when we started working together, I don’t think I knew as clearly how much help I needed. I just knew that on my own, I didn’t have the capacity or the skills to be able to carry out that vision that I had for business. If you remember, if I’m not mistaken, I think our first business.

Was M four motors back in about 2003. Is that right? No, I do remember that. You’re right. Yes. Beth, Beth has a far better memory than I do, by the way, for most things. Once in a while I can surprise her, but I had a dream and that dream at the time was to leave corporate America. And I thought I was going to be brilliant.

Thousand three, the internet was still relatively young and I wanted to sell cars, I’m a, I love cars, at least I did back then. And I wanted to sell cars, not in a traditional. Means, but over the internet by literally having a warehouse that had cars in it. And that we were listing cars on eBay and everywhere else and selling it.

And I had all these great ideas, but I had no idea how to make any of it happen. And I think that’s really what brought us together in that business was for some reason, you were interested because I don’t think you cared much about cars. In fact, I remember the time you’re like, no, I’m just, I like what I like.

And that’s it. I needed that organizational part. And I knew that. And I think that’s important in any partnership, understanding what, where you’re weak and where you need to have support coming in from somebody else to make sure that you can do that, because again, when we compliment each other, it allows us to be much more successful, ultimately better serve our customers and hopefully the company.

Build a better business as a result of that. Although M4 Motors was our first endeavor and certainly wasn’t a success. It cost both of us a bunch of money. We learned a lot from it. And I think because we continued to work together in other ventures, I think it was a good example of how sometimes a failure can still lead to long term success.

Absolutely. You need to fail sometimes multiple times. To even learn the right way to do it. It takes time. It’s not just instantaneously, but as an entrepreneur, finding good mentors and doing a lot of research really helps because I think that’s part of the reason M4 didn’t work. It was a little bit more motivated by what we were feeling and just this idea we wanted to get out there and do something, but we really hadn’t identified the right something.

And that could be a whole other conversation of just walking through what we did right, what we did wrong in that particular scenario. But one thing I wanted to point out is we’re really talking about how partners complement each other. And one thing that you’ve really done for me is that you have great passion about things.

And that’s why I’ve always really wanted to work with you. Well, with you is because you have these great ideas. Mostly, and many of them are very solid and they hit a lot of key factors in what needs to happen for that business to be successful. And of course we’ve gotten better at that over the years with success and quite a few failures, but your passion and just the way you look at things really complicated my logic and my desire to put things in order and execute them.

At a more detailed level, again, looking for that partner that really matches and works with you is important. Now, one of the things I have to say is our communication styles are very different. Yes, they are. We agree on a goal. We’re both headed for the same goal. But the path that we take from that goal is completely different.

And I find that you and I can’t necessarily… We measure each other’s path or judge how the other’s getting there because it’ll be frustrating. We just, we do it so differently. And that, I think that’s probably something we need to delve into more, not just like now, but in other episodes and talking about how do you deal with the fact that sometimes the partner you’re working with absolutely drives you.

There’s times I know you’ve probably wanted to pull your hair out and dealing with me and I’ve had a few of those as well. And how do you work through that in that process? Because like you said, while we may have the exact same goal, we’re almost every single time going to go get there in a different direction.

A different way. Yeah, and both of them seem perfectly logical to us, and the others almost always seem totally illogical, and still after 20 years of working with you, sometimes you’ll share ideas with me, and I’m like, you come up with that, and I’m sure you probably feel the exact same way about me, probably even more often than I do with you.

There’s little lines on my forehead. It’s my incredulous look like, what do you mean by that? I’ve actually built up muscles there trying to figure you out. So I’m not surprised to hear that. It’s just, it’s been a great journey and it’s been a great journey. I don’t mean to make it bad at all. In fact, I think the success that we’ve had in business has been because of our partnership.

And I also think it’s, it’s so important to let people know that just like any, anything else, anytime you’re dealing with people. Things get messy sometimes, and you’ve got to have that commitment to work through it when those times get messy, because there are times when, again, we don’t agree. What might be interesting to talk about a little bit, Beth, it took us a couple years of working together to figure out That we both needed to stay in our own lane, so to speak, you might even say it took longer than a few years, because I know I’m a little hard headed about that, but can you share with everybody because it was really your idea and I remember one day, I think it was an M four might have been shortly thereafter, you basically came to me and said, Look, this isn’t going to work unless we can stay in our own lanes.

Can you tell everybody a little bit about what you may recall that conversation and why? Okay. Why didn’t you come to me and go, look, this, we’ve got to do this, or we can stop. Certainly. Yeah. I remember that conversation and it’s been a repetitive conversation on both sides. It hasn’t just been me talking to you, but it’s been you talking to me as well.

And that really goes back to our strengths and weaknesses. So there were certain areas and are certain areas when we work together that you are really responsible for, and that generally falls more into the sales and marketing of the business, the front end, the face of the business, where I really deal much more with the delivery, the operations, how are we going to provide the service in the best way possible?

And you would give me advice, Oh, maybe you should consider this or think about this. And I may do the same with you. And it really comes down to a point that is a little offensive because you really don’t know what I know. And I don’t really know what you know, we have to trust expertise in their own area and trust that they’re going to get to that goal, that end in whatever way works for them.

Now, obviously there’s something just. wrong. You’re just sure. Oh my goodness. If we do this, we’re going to lose lots of money or there’s just some big problem. You need to talk about those. There’s a place and a time for everything. And certainly how you talk about those and how you present that to the other person makes a big difference as well.

But when you focused on the sales and marketing and I focused on the operations and we trusted each other to do those things, things really went well and we were successful. No, agreed. And I’ll readily admit it took me a long time to, to get to that trust point. I knew I needed a partner and I knew I needed somebody with your skills.

But it was really hard for me to just trust that when again, you were going down one path, even though I knew we were going in the same direction, that it was okay for me to just shut up and go focus on the stuff I needed to do instead of constantly trying to speak in and improve. What you already had under control and that I know for me, just speaking personally, that took me years to figure out and you may still think I’m working on it because I probably still am, but I think we’ve gotten a lot better, certainly in the last decade or so of working together of understanding that if we stay in each other’s lanes and again, for those of you listening and watching, we spent some time discussing what those lanes were.

It wasn’t like we just snapped our fingers, but we talked about that and made a commitment to each other that, okay, um, Beth, I trust you in the operational side of things. And ultimately for me, not to make a joke, but the reality is that said, I trust you in anything that sales and marketing, but nothing else.

And that was good for us because that, that allowed, I didn’t like to hear that. Cause of course I always thought I, and I think most of us, especially us entrepreneurial ADD types, we think we’re great at everything. The reality is we’re not good at everything. And understanding that and accepting that has brought us additional success in business and in life, and that’s been so rewarding overall.

Could easily be the type of thing I could see partners could literally spend years and years butting heads together and not getting anywhere as a result of that. One, business itself is just, it takes a lot of work when it’s your own business. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to focus so much in a particular area.

To really be successful, you don’t have time to devote to all of the other areas. Oh, so true. So true. Beth, let’s take a little step back and talk to people about how we got started on our entrepreneurial journey. I know when we first met, I was actually working in a, what I would call a corporate America type job, a smaller midsize company, but I was traveling around doing sales training and things like that.

You were actually on your own business as an entrepreneur when we met. Tell everybody a little bit about where did your entrepreneurial tendencies come from? Because you really beat me to the punch as far as running your own business and things like that. Tell the listeners a little bit about again, how, what inspired you?

And then how did you start this entrepreneurial journey? Absolutely. So I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my life to look like as far as my day to day interactions. The amount of work I wanted to do, the amount of interaction I wanted to have with clients, with people, co workers, that type of thing.

And so with that, I then built a business that would support that. Now I took something that I already knew how to do, that I had a lot of experience in, and it just happened that the company I was working for actually closed. And, but I was then able to retain. The contacts that I had made through that company and I was able to continue to serve them on my own.

So I had this business where I could work however many hours I wanted because I would schedule all of that out. And that was just. That really gave me the flexibility that I was looking for. Now, my parents had businesses as well. And so I had seen this entrepreneurial spirit, spirit in them as I was growing up.

And I just, I really liked that kind of lifestyle. So it made sense. For me, once I had gotten the experience and knowledge I needed, and then I saw an opportunity through connections and this business closing, it’s wow, I can keep these people, these clients, like great relationship with, and I can continue on with them and serve them at even a more personal level.

Which is what they wanted. What about you, Jonathan? What made you want to be an entrepreneur? I think I realized I don’t work well for other people. As weird as that sounds, as over the years, we’ve got to know each other well. And I spent a number of years in different sales jobs and trying to find my way.

Before I landed in a corporate job that I thought I enjoyed and had its ups and downs like everything else, but I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My grandfather owned multiple businesses. My dad and mom owned multiple businesses back. My mom and dad worked together. I got to see that. I learned from that.

That was just kind of part of my life being an entrepreneur, having your own business, doing things like that, whether it was primary or just a side hustle. Cause my dad had multiple businesses and was always trying to figure out how to make a, an extra buck by doing something different. So I think that came really natural to me.

But ironically, again, when I got started in work, I worked for others. I worked for a number of different companies, trying to Yeah, about the time we met, I want to say, what was it, 2004, when I’m like, okay, it’s time for me to leave the nest, so to speak, of the job and the comfort of that job and go out on my own and do something unique and different.

And I made a huge switch at that point in time, thought, of course, I knew everything. It was going to take the world by storm. Confidence has never been something I’ve struggled with when it came to that. And quickly found out that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. And it wasn’t long after that, that again, you and I started working together.

Cause I’m like, I don’t know if I was in that fetal position under the desk crying, but I was close because I realized I didn’t have the skills that I thought I did. And then what for me has been interesting has been. Expanding upon that base, that kind of the way I was raised and all that to grow in so many ways.

And again, I don’t, I don’t know where I learned probably was from you that I needed coaches to help out. And I’ve always been real big on making sure that I had coaches to help me. Do a better job to learn things. And the first coach I got, I know it was before I met you as a sales coach. And he changed my life from a sales perspective, as you’re well aware in teaching me how to sell and do so in a different way.

But as we’ve progressed and as I’ve learned, coaches have still been a big part of that for me in helping me realize that I don’t have all the answers. And if I can learn from somebody else who’s walked where I want to go, uh, it’s a whole lot faster. And probably a lot more productive than trying to blaze that trail on my own because somebody else can probably show me the way.

Absolutely. It’s good to go to school, so to speak. Off people that have done it the way you want to do or have achieved what you want to achieve. One of the companies I worked for the company actually that ended up being sold and then they closed and I took some clients then from That because those clients didn’t have anybody to help them.

The owner of that was a very dynamic woman that was a local businesswoman in the Grand Rapids area and I really Admired her. She had built this business The scratch, she was just dynamic and then she ended up selling the business and it’s when she sold the business that I then became an employee. At that business for the new company, but I had seen what she had built.

Then it really inspired me. No, I think that for both of us has been unique that we, in our early days, neither one of us being in our twenties any longer, we were inspired by those around us with both our parents, our family, and then some of the things that we did in jobs. Same thing that a lot of the jobs I worked at were run by very entrepreneurial people.

And I think that was a great lesson and inspiration for both of us along the way. Beth, as we, as we talk about this podcast and our goal to help inspire others and all that, from your perspective, what do you think listeners can expect from the next couple episodes we do the future? What type of topics do you think we’ll be talking about?

Discussions might we be having? What are your thoughts as we look at that? And maybe somebody who’s listening to go, wow, this is an interesting pair. I might check in again. What do you think they can expect in the future from us? I think they can expect a lot of good information on how to start a business.

And the pitfalls to avoid when running a business. We have a 15 year stretch of successful businesses that we’ve done. And there’s just so much information and wisdom that we can impart. From that. I also think people really enjoy the dynamic between you and I, because we do really, we get along very well and we love to chat and talk.

We spend so much time strategizing and we really enjoy that process just because we complement each other so well. And at times we butt heads too. No, and again, you’ll probably, I think you will see both sides of that when we butt heads, it’s generally in a fairly polite and professional way, but we’re going to share some of those stories too.

And I don’t mean to make it sound like partnerships are bad because I would not be where I am today were not for partnering with Beth. And again, it’s brought a lot of success in life and it’s been great while that first venture M4 Motors was. A disaster in so many ways. I also think it was a lesson. We chose to learn from that myself in particular.

That was my idea of I’ll take full responsibility for it. That was my idea and my idea was flawed in a lot of ways, but we learned a lot of lessons from that. I learned a lot of lessons from that. And then, as you mentioned, for the last 15 years, we’ve been working together in growing a business together.

It was just this year that we decided to part ways on that, and I decided to pursue another dream of mine of starting another agency and focusing on that. And we’re going to share a lot of the things we’ve learned along the way. The good, the bad, and sometimes the great. So I think we’ve got a lot to do.

I know my goal as we share is that thinking back to where we were when we started partnering 20 years ago, had we had a podcast like this to listen to and somebody that we could have learned from, I think we could have really shortened our journey to get to where we’ve gotten today. And we could be further ahead in, in not just monetarily, but also in lifestyle and all the things that are important as each of us, as we look at things.

I would have loved that to have those resources and the most that we really had then is maybe some books that were out, but those were even few and far between. We had Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins and those were awesome. They truly were, but to have a more personal experience like this and to be able to even have the opportunity to ask questions and hope that our listeners will ask us questions so that we can guide them and make it a more personalized experience for them.

No, I totally agree and I want to encourage everybody, if you’ve listened with us thus far and you’re here, subscribe to the podcast. Our goal is going to be to put out episodes regularly and I can’t tell you the exact frequency, but certainly at a minimum of once or twice a month. Sharing our stories, sharing some from the past, sharing things that we’re dealing with currently and addressing them.

As Beth said, I would love it and we’ll put the contact information down below. We’ll be able to see it in the notes of the podcast. If you guys have got questions, whether you’re a startup, whether you’re just thinking about doing a side hustle, or maybe you’ve been in business for years and you finally realized I need some guidance, let us know what those questions are.

We would love to hear what you want. To hear from us, what stories, what experience, and if we don’t have it, maybe Beth and I have got a lot of connections. Maybe we can bring somebody else on to share some of those experiences with us. If it’s not something that we can share. Uh, I know I would love that if you guys would let us know your questions and that would be absolutely fantastic.

I’m glad that our 20 years have knowing each other has worked out from a business perspective because it might have made another aspect of our life. It might have, and we should probably tell everybody about that. You want to share with them? Certainly. Jonathan and I have been working together, obviously, for 20 years, but that’s not really the foundation of our relationship.

I’m happy to say that I am blessed to be his wife. And I, her husband. Which brings in some other interesting characteristics sometimes when you’re working, when you’re working with the person you’re married to. It can make for some interesting jokes, but the reality is… We know there’s other couples out there that work together or have thought about working together or that couldn’t work together.

And just like in a marriage, that business partnership has been about commitment. And we’re really hoping to inspire other couples in particular to, that are thinking about that. That’s such an incredibly intimate, committed relationship. If you can leverage that in business. Do it. It’s going to be have its ups and downs, but I can say for the most part It’s made our marriage so much better as well as made our life better Absolutely.

Absolutely. I have loved working with you most of the time ditto. Yeah, we have our moments, but they’re short lived and Again, part of it is we’ve learned how to work with each other through the years and I’m really excited to share some of those Things because we do have such different perspectives. I think we can bring a lot of value to other couples and other people that are looking to proceed or expand on their journey that they’re on.

This has been fun. Can we do it again? We absolutely can. Everybody. We want to thank you for joining us. If you’ve listened again, please subscribe. So you hear about the next episode, we’re going to be on YouTube. We’re going to be streaming out to Apple and Spotify and Google and all the various places podcasts should be showing up.

And we promise that we’ll do our best to be consistent. And Beth, we haven’t really talked about frequency, but I know I’m thinking probably twice a month is about the best we’re going to do. Am I being overly aggressive as I tend to be, or do you think that’s something we can commit to trying to achieve for our guests?

I am willing to do it just as often as you want to, honey. All right. I appreciate that. You guys heard it here. I’m sure you’ll hear some of that banter as we go back and forth. I want to thank everybody for listening to our first episode, and I do want to encourage you to send in your questions. Let us know.

We are so looking forward to getting to know you and just can’t wait to do this journey with you. Thanks, everybody. Thanks. Have a great day.

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