Friends With Benefits #11: The Benefits of Community with Chris Samila

Chris Samila, Co-Founder and Chief Partner Officer at Partnership Leaders, joins the show to discuss his perspective on partnerships, what he’s learned running Partnership Leaders, and advice for partnership professionals looking to grow their careers.

Chris shares tips for creating a great partner experience. He also recommends sales training resources he found useful in his partnerships career.

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Highlights from the show:

  • The human element of business relationships. 2:42
  • A new era for partnership leaders. 5:51
  • Managing a long tail of partners. 9:18
  • Elevating partnerships as a whole. 16:01
  • Managing the member experience side of Slack. 17:51
  • The importance of a partner strategy for success. 24:14
  • Driving revenue and marketing strategy. 26:56
  • The launch of the company. 32:29
  • What is driving the rise of the community? 35:31
  • Where do you see this all going from here? 40:53
  • How to lower the barrier to entry to the network. 44:22
  • How to overcome the fear of curiosity. 49:02


Jason Yarborough 0:00
to the show, Chris Smilla.

Chris Samila 0:02
Jason so good to be here. Thank you for the wonderful intro and I'm blushing. So it's, it's a real pleasure

Jason Yarborough 0:10
to have you man and right before we were recording salmon are talking about the big thing. And for those listening to home, I was sitting on my back porch, Chris and I were on a zoom and I hear what sent it to be like a helicopter coming behind me. And Chris, oh, my face kind of contort. I believe you may have seen something, but it was a literal swarm Hive cloud of bees.

Chris Samila 0:33
Yeah. I thought it was like a zoom anomaly. Like there's some artifact on the screen. I was like, AI. And then yeah, and then this swarm of bees attacks you. That was a surreal experience.

Sam Yarborough 0:45
And a third perspective, from the story. I was sitting in this seat, and I hear screaming from outside so

Jason Yarborough 0:53
little, all I can imagine was like Macaulay Culkin, and my girl and that was it for me, man, I was like, just run inside from my life.

Sam Yarborough 1:00
I'm googling is our well done.

Jason Yarborough 1:04
Carried Away? Anyway, that's, you know, we're far away from the topic at hand. But you know, we've got some history. So glad to have you. Did you hear?

Sam Yarborough 1:13
All right, Chris, we like to start the podcast by asking all of our guests what the term friends with benefit means to you in the context of business partnerships.

Chris Samila 1:23
Yeah, so I think this one's it's a great question, because I think the essence of partnerships is, is something where it should be, there's bidirectional value that should be passed back and forth to both parties. There's a limit on calls right before chatting with y'all. With somebody talking about this specific topic, which is, so many of the especially bigger partner programs, it's just like, you're in a machine, and it's just yours part of these processes. And there's, there's a lack of like, the human element to a lot of it. And so it's challenging, because there's only so many resources to go around. But it feels like in recent years has been a refocus on like, how do you create that great partner experience, but the core of it is like, there's a human usually on both sides or managers that there's some when they're, whether it's one party is getting branding exposure, the other one's getting source deals, like there's got to be something that's bidirectionally helpful, because the world of Partnerships has changed. It's like, we're not all the partners are what we call historically transactional partners, where you're getting paid as a reseller to talk some products, like a lot of times, especially tech burger, a tech partner, there's not a referral fee back and forth. And so you have to find other ways to help each other and support each other. And that's create a lot more surface area of like, how do you create value for each other?

Jason Yarborough 2:42
Yeah, that's, that's a really good answer. And I'm gonna pull something out of that, because I want it recorded. In his head, you said it's the it's basically the human element within sort of business relationships. And like, I love that that approach that that talk track, there is like there really is, to your point like is human aspect that we forget about, and I've been high on this kick that right now, with all these layoffs, we have a trust attrition issue. We're not we're not looking at the human element that's in these business relationships and what we as partner people can bring to the table within that relationship. And so yeah, the the SAS world, where the business world as a whole is changing new partnerships.

Chris Samila 3:23
Yeah, that's as a great call out I think the the number of layoffs in our industry has been painful to watch. We've seen this through partnership leaders and the number of people that are open to work. And I've definitely been thinking a lot about, like, what happens to all these companies when you lose all this talent, and it's like, the narrow view of what those partner people were doing might have been like, oh, they generated this many deals, or they did this many webinars. But it's like, as you as everyone knows, that does this job. There's months if not sometimes years of relationship building to get to the point where you have these highly efficient partner programs. And it's like in partnerships, and so like losing that talent and all that, like builds up sort of karma and social equity is like, that's, that's painful to try to rebuild that. And it will be it'll hurt companies that have let go, there aren't teams.

Sam Yarborough 4:14
Well, and it's not immediately transferable, either. It's, you don't put a new person in that seat, and they can immediately pick up where the last person dropped off to your point. There's social equity there. And those things take time.

Jason Yarborough 4:27
Our perception, I think back to last week's guest, Mr. Schneider arisin Dosso, right. He's kind of like you, Chris been around for a while doing this partnership thing. He brings a wealth of a network to the table wherever he goes. And so like, you're, you're bringing that and you're establishing trust for them on behalf of that company. So if something goes awry there and you lay them off, like they're gonna have way more trust in the individual of, you know, Cory or yourself than they are in the company. So something happens and like that's, you know, that's where we're getting this trust attrition. So let's So let's talk a little bit about what you're building right now with partnership leaders. And I think most of our listeners are going to know you know what that is what you guys are up to. And in the context of, you know, friends with benefits and the human element, like you guys are quite literally fostering relationships, pretty much what building community is all about, to make people better at what they do provide a place for enablement and empowerment within their roles. Right. So how do you? How do you guys focus on continuing building purpose built relationships and driving the progression of those relationships? So it's not just like transactional and like, you know, me reaching out to you, Hey, do you have a reseller form I can use kind of thing, which is a real thing I've done.

Chris Samila 5:45
Yes, you've been a great PL member, you've been leveraging the community to get things done, which I love to see. Yeah, this is kind of like everything. A lot of this recently, because we are entering like a new era for partnership leaders and for context, anybody who's not familiar with it, we're in essence, like a blend that like a community and an industry association, that also dabbles in industry research and physical and digital events. There's a lot of different facets to PL but the goal is to really help people build better or build great barber programs and become great partner leaders. And so like the early days of PL it was, in essence, a lot of the like, direct relationships is specifically in sorta like the MAR tech, SAS space, it was like, we started the community. And every, everyone sort of knew each other, or at least was like one connection away. And we just finished this European tour where we visited a whole bunch of cities. And it was fascinating meeting, folks in the partnerships world that some of them weren't even in the SAS industry. They were in, you know, aeronautics, or car manufacturing. And so like, this is forcing us as partnership leaders, because, you know, it's, it's not just a home for SAS party professionals, our goal is to be the home for any partner professional. So we're thinking a lot about like, how do we when we have lots and lots of people in here? How do we make this a warm, welcoming home for all these folks, no matter what their background is, and so you start to see over time, we've broken into different seniority levels and partnership leaders so that, you know, a VP has the chance to meet other VPs and, you know, share confidential, really challenging problems. And same thing for ICS managers and CXOs. So there's been like seniority segmentation, but also industry segmentation. So we're trying to like get HR folks to collaborate together and meet each other, FinTech, cyber, etc. So we've like, if you kind of backup and think about what's happening in the world with like LinkedIn, it's almost like this, like unbundling of LinkedIn, this occurred where you have communities like partnership leaders that you know, are serving different professional personas. But within those communities, you have sub communities, women and partnerships is another great example of this, where we try to like create environments so that it does feel like you can know everyone and build some relationships. There's some psychology of how many people that you know, that can fall into and tech companies built their offices in Silicon Valley based on those numbers and stuff. But like there's, there's that we've seen this come true, where it's like, you got to create these micro communities or sub communities, within the broader context of our community. So that it feels more human. And it doesn't feel as daunting because, you know, if you're new socially renewal partnerships, you look around in the members of TL and you're like, Okay, this is like, some of these people have been doing this for a while, it can feel a little scary to ask questions sometimes about something that, you know, there's probably 50 other people that have the same question, but they're also nervous to maybe ask that same thing. So we spend a lot of time thinking about like, how do we how do we create that kind of safe zone for people to meet each other and share share things?

Jason Yarborough 8:52
Is there anything that you're finding that's that's that's working that's creating that engagement? That's nurturing that relationships like I feel like there's kind of a parallel path that some of us that are managing larger scale partner programs can take from this right how to create engagement with your partners how to build those meaningful relationships and how to you know take it beyond just the a voodoo you know, that I should know kind of thing.

Chris Samila 9:18
Yeah, so this is an interesting one. So I was talking to Adrienne Coburn yesterday from moister and she was fantastic. I Asian Asian is great. If anybody hasn't met her, you're gonna go meet Adrienne. She's, she's incredible. She's building the partner program at oyster and she was asking me like, how do you use PL and she was talking about this concept of like, she kind of like dips in and out of partnership leaders based on kind of what she needs, whether it's a business need or personal needs, sometimes she just wants to make sure she has a strong network and is dialed in. I think like there's a direct corollary to how you think about managing a long tail of partners where you're not always going to have a partner that's going to be super engaged because they're busy working on other stuff. And so you got to have have sort of authentic touchpoints with them that feeds them education or knowledge, which if you're, you know, a technology company, that's product news. But when I was a partner manager at Optimizely, I did this thing called shaking the tree where like, I would literally send to my longtail partners, an email that was like, here's all this industry news that I hope is relevant and is interesting to you. And like I did that consistently enough that like, I was in someone's inbox, then on an annoying way, but like it, they remembered to come back and talk to us when they when the need or you know, was was prevalent for them. I think for a community we've kind of think about the same thing is like, people have day jobs, Pl is not your day job. So like, we have to be finding ways to engage with you that is easy. And that you can find stuff you need. I think it's the same way with managing your partner program where we try to do this blend of like, sort of programmatic, you know, newsletters and things that are scheduled, per se, we also are hiring more sort of like CSM, as we call them member experience managers that actually meet the members spend time with them. And that's like the equivalency of like our managers. So it's kind of the same interface with a partner team working with the marketing or our marketing team. And then combining that with the partner manager sort of human element component.

Sam Yarborough 11:22
I love what you just talked about, too, and how Adrian kind of mentioned it, I was actually having a very similar conversation with somebody last week. And they're new to partnerships. They're new to partner leaders, and they were asking me like, how do I use it? How do I find value in it? And my question back to them was, what are your goals? Why are you building a partner program? What are you trying to accomplish? And that's going to help you articulate where to start who to talk to, because similar to LinkedIn, like you can go to LinkedIn, and you can meet anybody you want. But that's daunting. So if you can understand who you're trying to accomplish, and find those sub communities, it's going to be really helpful for you. And you guys have done a great job of setting that up for your members. So kudos,

Chris Samila 12:06
I think that I love that I appreciate that feedback. I mean, I think the this, the thing we've learned in community is that a lot of people are sort of mentioned earlier, as they're a little bit nervous to engage in a public way. And like, over and over again, the folks that actually like posting the public Slack channels or lean in and participate in blog posts or things that we can do to help build their professional brand, they get a lot more value out of it. Because other people who are working on the same thing, want to reach out and engage with them, then I think there's like there's again, sort of similarities to really great partners, where if you're visible and present, you ask questions, and you're engaging. It's not just like, hey, I got a deal. It's let's work on it. But it's like all the other stuff that goes around that, like, you're going to be just thought of more often and probably get more resources. So if you're trying to especially partner, we're like a bigger company, like, how can you try to get visible to the partner marketing team, to the solutions architects to the partner managers, of course, but like, build that, you know, consortium of allies at your partner, because we all know that partner managers change jobs decently often because of the reality of the world we're in right now. So it's like, if you have a really important partner, and you're single threaded, that that potentially is a dangerous situation for you. Because as we mentioned earlier, all that sort of like history of all the goodness you've done, could potentially go with the person who's leading that business.

Sam Yarborough 13:40
Absolutely. So as a community leader, I have a question about is it a priority for you? Or how do you manage like, elevating voices that maybe don't do that themselves? So that it's not just an echo chamber of the same 10 people? Is that something you guys focus on or work on?

Chris Samila 14:00
Oh, yes, yeah, no, this is this is something that we work on. Because a lot of times, you know, there are folks that they did not grow up in the Instagram, Facebook, even LinkedIn world, they've been in the industry in the professional world for longer than those things existed. And they maybe have not built their muscle on feeling comfortable sharing things in the same way that younger people may. And so like, we hunt down and try to find filter of like, okay, I'll meet with somebody, for example, I'm like, wow, you know a lot about something that we haven't seen people talk a lot about, like, how can we get you out there and more visible and like, are the PL staff are constantly caught doing that process where we're like, hey, you know, what, what are you proud of that you've built in your partner program or processes or things that were hard initially, but then you figured out really efficient ways to do it, so that we can collectively share that knowledge because unlike sales or marketing or even customer success, like partnerships, there's so many different types of partner programs. And it's changing so quickly because the tooling and the processes are literally every year, like if you leave our industry and come back and you know, 18 months, like, completely different, probably going to be in a very different environment than than what you know, you were in previously. And so like, we definitely try to find folks that are not as vocal themselves and given a platform of like, the partnership leaders content network with us, you know, seven, eight different podcasts, we have multiple YouTube channels, we have blog posts, we have industry research with Catalyst. So there's like, I'm really proud, we have all these, like ways now that we help people get more visible. And so yeah, like, we encourage you, if you're listening to this, and like you haven't participated participated in one of those, like, reach out to us, like, we'd love to hear from you. Because like, and there's the, there's so much value and goodness out of sharing those experiences, you know, for the folks that are actually in the trenches, building these programs.

Jason Yarborough 16:01
Yeah, absolutely. And your guys have really just been elevating, you know, partnerships as a whole. I think, you know, both of us have been a member since the early days, you know, I've taken a ton of value out of it. And, you know, we've got some, some more questions around, kind of like what you're seeing within that, but I want to stay on this kind of tall track for just a second, I love this parallel path of partner programs and community, right. Like, even when I was adrift in terminus, I treated my program as such, because you've got, you've got the typical three silos, your ISP, your strategic Salesforce, whatever you call it. And your channel, the goal, even as a drift was to kind of bring them all together to create this one thriving ecosystem, if I may, and treat it as such, right. So. And that's our job to build purposeful relationships and treat, you know, build that community so to say, so you've done this as a partner program already full story Optimizely, all the way back into like the green industry days, right? And now you're kind of, you know, building these purposeful relationships via community. Right? So, you know, a, what have you taken from those experiences and be kind of how have you translated that into what your day to day looks like? Right. So more so what I'm asking is like, what does your day to day look like right now? Yeah, you got an hour ways to partner managers.

Chris Samila 17:24
Ah, I you know, what's funny is, we didn't partnership leaders three years before we actually work on it full time. And then I was when I transitioned out of crossbeam. And worked on PL full time, it was like, this magical moment, I was like, I agree, I can like work on you know, this all day long. And just, you know, and there's, it was really a very freeing feeling. And I of course, loved all the companies I've worked in on the tech side of things. But it's like, because the three founders are all Business Development Partnership professionals. It's like we're constantly trying to figure out how do we find a win win with like, service providers or tech companies. And it's like, so there's, like, so much surface area of interesting partnerships that, like, we can just help each other. And so like that part of is like, super invigorating, I also manage our member experience side of the business. So like my lens to this comes through, like, what are our members need? And how do I connect somebody that can help them to that? I'll give you one example. I got I was on a call yesterday with spur reply, which is a consultancy, that helps partner teams, and we were just talking about, like, what are the things that you're really good at? And the companies you've been helping? And like? How do we transfer that into something we can like, share with the community, so that like, they can get better and get inspired and like, figuring out different ways to do that. And you know, whether it's roundtables or webinars or field events or catalyst, it's as a partner person, it's really fun. I feel like I'm still doing partnerships. But I'm also like, I've layered in this like, ces motion, because like, I've also had to learn, how do we like, help make the experience for everyone, more sort of streamlined, but also consistent, because we have some people like yourselves, like you've been in the PL since early days, you're the OG you kind of get how to interact and you're not maybe nervous to reach out to people. But we have other people that join who have never been in Slack before. Like we we've had 40 People from Microsoft join partnership leaders.

Sam Yarborough 19:27
When they're asking for teams, they're on different world. How do

Chris Samila 19:33
you how do you navigate that? So like, there's some interesting stuff that we've had to like, get really thoughtful about how do we scale up our sort of like member engagement, ces motion and making sure that, you know, we have 1500 people in here now, it's like, I don't get a chance to meet everybody. And so it's like, how do you create a personalized experience for them at scale through messaging and using we're actually using data now to help kind of look at again Each man figure out like who's struggling, who hasn't logged in and all that kind of stuff. And thankfully, the community tech space, you can partner tech spaces in mature look at the community tech space. It's like Wild Wild West, it's there's only a handful of companies that actually have tooling that is, I'd say, like enterprise grade. We're starting to use these things. And so it's like, I think going back to kind of like, what makes perfect professionals just exceptionally valuable for any company is that like, you are a chameleon, you're constantly changing colors and figuring out how to do new stuff. Like, I've had to start figuring out how to do customer success, you know, as well as all the partnership stuff. And I think like any group or person is constantly kind of figured out how to do stuff, especially in those like kind of army of one scenarios.

Sam Yarborough 20:47
Absolutely. I love that be a chameleon. Okay, so you kind of touched on this. You left, one of the hottest jobs and partnerships, we'll call it, you were building partnership tech for partner leaders. So literally doing business with people who get you, you were your ICP. That's the dream. So what learnings did you take from your time at cross beam about our industry as a whole? Like, biggest challenges opportunities? You see? How did how did that influence what you're doing at PL now?

Chris Samila 21:22
Yeah, I mean, I think the advent of things like cross beam reveal, or tap, like these sorts of account mapping technologies, I think had been wildly helpful to our industry in the sense that like, it made harbor data programmatic and so you could actually be more efficient. You know, my dream was, especially on the integration side, like taking that partner data and putting it into things like Marketo, or other other tooling to like, make just Arbor team and other departments more efficient around them. So I think that that piece from like a sort of aspirational, like, like really invigorating, like it's made me happy as a as a partner professionally working on those types of challenges. I think like one of the biggest learnings I had was just like that, it across the board, a lot of partner teams lack partner ops resources, they lack the resourcing to get things done to actually use that partner data in the way that they really want to. And so I think like, as an industry right now, we're fighting hard to to get the credit for the things we're doing, you know, as we left this sort of, transactional partner world of, it's relatively easy when you have a reseller, or distributor who's moving your widget, like, you can point to the person that's making an impact in the world of influence revenue and tech partnerships and integrations and CO selling. Managing that and tracking that and actually getting the credit for all the energy being expended is still really hard. And like there is no, there's today still not a tool that really does that and the end. And I think like as an industry, like until we make a lot of progress on that we're still going to be fighting to get the credit we need. The good news is that, like, we do have venture capital firms that are telling their startups that like there's, you know, the CEOs, the startups that like, partnerships is the right competitive edge for you to scale correctly. And see, do you see, you know, we saw this actually, in my time from I joined crossbeam in I think it was 20 years late 2020. Like even in a timespan of like the two years I was there, we did see like the venture capital community having an influence where, like companies that are still seed or Series A, they're starting to think about partnerships, even if it's like a fractional partnerships person to bring into the business. Like that wasn't happening as often I feel like you know 2020 And earlier and so I think like that's really encouraging but you can talk to any any anybody who's you know, anybody's listen to this or talk to anybody in PL like, I still think a lot of us are fighting super hard to actually get the resources we need to do our jobs and the scale these programs. We're just not Yeah, it's just it's just we don't get the same love that other departments get today I feel like

Sam Yarborough 24:13
yet. Yeah,

Jason Yarborough 24:15
yet. It's rare to see people like you know, Scott lease and some of these others and to your point like Justin gray and Josh Wagner, what they're doing in revenue capital, like they want to invest in a company unless they have a partner strategy. Right. And you've got people like Scott Lee's who's one of the, you know, top sales voices on LinkedIn talking about partnerships and near bounds are like we're, you know, we're slowly pushing this thing to the tipping point. We're not quite there yet, but it's getting closer and it's it's really great to see. It's also very, very hopeful pushing your partner program strategy forward.

Chris Samila 24:48
At mean like the whole How do you describe the value of the partnership teams bring and the whole new year round concept and being able to like, put this in terms that the marketing team and The sales team, the CES team understands how they might want to be interfacing with the partner team. Like, I feel like we've made good strides on that in the last few years, and in a way that like, just hasn't happened as much prior. And it's this interesting moment in time where there's like, like, because STRS are less effective than they used to be. And because marketing is more expensive, like, it's our time to shine as as sort of a department. But I'd say like the, you know, Sam, your question of like, what else I learned? I think a lot of, especially like heads of partnerships, even VPs of partnerships, they're striving to be able to, like, do things that are just like, best described as like, executive level training, I think is like things that they need, like, how do you read read a p&l? And like, how do you stand toe to toe with your CFO and ask for the things that you need and defend that in a very data driven way? Like, that's one of the most vibrant sort of conversation areas we see for some of the like, the more senior partner people. And it's just like, it's also like a massive opportunity, because like, the faster we can solve for that, the more resource resources we're going to get. But it's like, it's kind of like a, it seems to be very common challenges is some of the folks who are missing some of the skills they need to kind of fight those battles inside their companies.

Sam Yarborough 26:21
I think that's a really valid point. I personally am feeling that now. I'm having deja vu to many of the conversations we've had with like, we talked to Mason Cosby. And his whole thing was like, how do you build a team around you to support the places where you're not as strong? And I think that's one of the most valuable skills you can have as partner leaders too. And you know, Mike stockers has four pillars of partnerships. It's like, how do you go to your individual to your individual org, seeing your company, improve values, so that their resources become yours? And that in and of itself, is a skill? And then you add on top of it, driving revenue building marketing strategy, talking to you CFO asking for a budget and like, yes, you're a chameleon, and you have to learn how to prioritize, but it's tough out there.

Chris Samila 27:14
Yeah, I mean, session yesterday with the Chief Strategy Officer of consultancy, and he was like, to some extent, like a chief channel officer or chief partners offs, or job officer almost has a didn't say, harder job. But like any equally as hard as you have as a CEO, because you do not have direct influence over the people you're asking for things from you're you're using carrots and sticks with us a stick to heart because you need that you need to feed him the carrier shortly after, like, you kind of run around the business trying to build allies and stuff. But it's, it's it's different than being the CEO, but you are, in essence, to some extent a startup within a startup being you know, leading a partner program inside a lot of these these technology companies.

Jason Yarborough 28:02
Absolutely. Yeah. And doing it with less resources. Right, but still expected to hit the same amount of numbers and contribution to the company's goals.

Chris Samila 28:12
Yeah, totally. And it's, I was heartened on that European trip to run it, some folks that they were making massive impacts for their companies, like, you know, sometimes doing 3040 50% of the revenue for the business. And some of it's also just regional specific, where like, if you're selling in the German market, they want a local partner that speaks German and things like that. And it's like, you see, almost like, interesting vibrancy to some of these parkour programs in the European market. But like, those stories, don't I think that there's when stories aren't making it around the world in the same way. And that was like one of the things I was really intrigued by I was like, how do we take what we learned, we did the same thing. We did a an elevation tour in Australia, New Zealand, we learned a bunch of stuff down there. And it's like, how do you take the learnings and the challenges and stuff that people are getting through in these different regions? And like, share that with the other parts of the world? Because there is commonalities, I think, but there's also like, if you're a technology company, to some extent, you're you're going to be selling into one of these international markets at some point. And so it's like, how do you take the learnings? How do you operate successfully in these markets and share that out to everybody else? Like I feel like that's gonna be something we spend time on next year in 2024 is like, getting that sort of regional knowledge disseminated around the industry, because it was, it was surprising how different some of the strategies were to win some of these markets.

Sam Yarborough 29:40
super interesting.

Jason Yarborough 29:41
I want to dig into so many things you just talked about, which may be better for an offline question to learn from your ticket to the PIO community, but I kind of want to sit on the community thing for just a second. So you're, you're building it at full story and move into crossbeam started to get all these learning So in talking to all these programs, learning what's happening across the globe, at what point did, did you guys kind of realize that you had something in that you had to begin to invest more energy to get this to full time, and knew that, that you had to kind of take this community to the next level?

Chris Samila 30:24
Probably a few different inflection points. So early on. So Ty Asher and I, from the very beginning, we were like, Okay, this is this is cool, we're helping each other this is, you know, like, it was emotionally fulfilling, seeing folks help each other and stuff. And it was, you know, pretty low complexity. And what we're doing is literally just kind of the slack environment. And then at COVID hit, and all of a sudden, because we started the community, actually, in December 2018, to 2019, you know, steadily grew, and then March hit 2020. And it was like, oh, okay, there's a lot of people joining. I was like, Oh, our messages are going away. That sucks. I was like, oh, slacks business model is actually really smart. You need to pay for it to keep your history. I was a little, it was probably one of the 20 firms. Hey, we gotta like hate for this. I was like, I'll just expense it. And I was like, as like, you know, I use this for partnerships at fullstory. And I went to go pay for us, like, oh, it's like, $26,000. Like,

Sam Yarborough 31:22
that's gonna be a hard one to justify.

Jason Yarborough 31:25
I get some questions, Chris.

Chris Samila 31:29
So that was like, Okay, well, we need to charge for membership. So we can actually pay for slack and maybe hire some people to help us do the admin side and stuff. Because we, you know, in the early days, we still do this as like, we make sure that people are actually in partnerships where they can join in that kind of thing. And so we needed to pay for tooling and processes. And so that's sort of like late 2020. Move, actually, is August 2020. Shifting over to a paid community was actually one of the best things that will ever happen. Because everybody who was kind of tired kicking, they didn't pay and they left and the people that stayed, were in it. And they were like really keen to build and help each other. And so like, the engagement actually went up tremendously on the backside of moving to a paid model. And then we just kind of built from there. And if you fast forward to 2022. In the late spring of 2022, we realize that we love this slack environment, we love the digital webinars, we love all that kind of stuff. But like the world was opening up again, and we're like, we could probably do a physical event somewhere. We took a major bet, and we'd like, you know, totally bootstrapped. We literally just rented the Miami Beach Convention Center, and like major high five, so the reveal team, like they're like, hey, like, we'll support this, they became the title sponsor. And it was like, I was hoping we would get like, 175 200 people and we got to like 400. And I was like, huh, this is actually like, it's just a thing. This is like, there's a real movement here. I think seeing everybody in person and then being like, this, like physical manifestation of like, years of everyone kind of build the relationships and hanging out together. And it was like, everyone was so excited to see each other in person. I was like, Man, I love working across them and working on partner tech. But like, for me, personally, it was like, this gives me even more energy to see these folks in person building these relationships, and just they he was he was so good. Like, you know, for anybody who was in Miami, you know, we're talking about minus, minus or being hot as crap outside, it was super humid. Everything else was all. Yeah, that's the

Sam Yarborough 33:37
guy from Georgia.

Chris Samila 33:40
We're really glad to enter this year for he's,

Jason Yarborough 33:43
I'm really happy about that move. That's, that's a good one. And, you know, I think to like thinking about my experience, I guess the tribe mentality, right, we haven't had a tribe, we haven't had a group or community of until then, like, I can remember in 2018, you know, me and Asher spinning, like, once a week on a call, just talking about partnerships and trying to you know, just figuring things out, or the hell he was probably lean data back then. And joke with him and Jeff Cavani, and Fabian Eckstrom. And some of these guys are, you know, G's in the space are like, five of us, that all knew each other, right? And now, all of a sudden, you've got this thing and you're putting it in person events together. And, you know, I think that's part of too is like, you know, how and why this is so necessary these days.

Chris Samila 34:28
It's like, it's definitely one of those things that in the latter half of last year, it was like, things started snowballing. Whereas like big catalyst, we started doing industry research, we had, you know, successful sort of business processes around okay, we do this much marketing, we can get this many members we can, you know, as it is like, we started to really run it like a SaaS company to some extent from a metrics perspective. And it was like we realized that we could still support our families and go work on this full time. And so I moved over first in November 2020. Me too. Asher shifted over in February. And we just have, you know, Ty is still at deal leading a huge program with like 50 partner managers. So, you know, we're excited for anytime we get from him, but I think this is like the this year in particular was when we were like, okay, cool, like, we can really scale this up and start to do a lot more stuff because like the wheel is turning so much faster. Like today, we literally announced that Salesforce is going to be a key sponsor for Catalyst this year. And so like, we're gonna get a ton of people from the Salesforce ecosystem coming. And it's like, Microsoft added all those people, we have great relationships with Amazon. So it's like, it's mind blowing a little bit to like, go from a small, very small tribe, as you say, you know, a few years ago, to now like, we can actually really elevate the industry through all the different activities you're doing and all the members helping each other because it's still at the root of it like, it is a human human thing where it's like one talking to another person can literally change the life of that person. I'll give a shout out to Chris Lavoie, he has met with so many members, and he started doing these mastermind sessions, sharing what he learned at gorgeous and some of the processes around tech partnerships and how to drive more source revenue. And like, seeing the output of the masterminds, where he's met with people, like some people may have lost their jobs if they didn't implement the things they learned in these masterminds. And they would tell us that they were like, You changed my career? Like any like, you know, you're like, so good. Because there's, it's been a dark year for us in some some cases, but people helping each other at the core of it is how we're getting through this.

Sam Yarborough 36:44
Yeah, I mean, I think that's why we started this podcast, it's like the people, the people, that that's the basis for everything. So we kind of touched on it. I mean, there's some few nuggets, I could assume COVID, it's been a terrible year in the economy. But if you are digitally savvy at all, you've seen a huge surge in communities. They're all serving different groups, or professions, you know, rev, genius, Po, you name it, there's probably a community out there. So aside from the obvious, like connecting people to people, what else do you think is contributing to the rise of the community?

Chris Samila 37:21
Yeah, there's probably two flavors, or maybe three flavors we see out there. There's like the persona, professional persona type of community. So pavilion rubbed genius, like, think of any kind of go to market. And they probably have a community that's like that exist at this point, that would probably help serve them pretty well. You also have like the vendor communities where it's like a technology company realizes that they can add their, their customers and prospects to a place where those people can help support each other and learn about the product and all that good stuff. You know, I'm in uncommon room, which is like a community for common room, which is a piece of community tech, and it's like, it's great. Like, I can talk to other community people about how to do stuff, you know, it's like, so I think that's like the second flavor. And the third one is like, there's, there's obviously tons and tons of like, volunteer free communities on all kinds of different topics out there. I think the the one that I find most interesting, partially because I'm running a professional association is like, the sort of maturing of how do you build and operate one of these communities in a way that's, you know, you're making revenue and you can support expanding it and, like, it is very interesting because there's, there's no models that everybody's following as a you like a unanimous way of doing this. It's, it's, it's similar partnerships in that sense, like, everyone's, I think we're starting to like will align, you know, here's how you ships and here's how you might approach our partnerships in the community world. Number one, the tooling didn't exist so that for the for a large part, you know, and I want to talk about community I'm talking about like the usually slack base, some kind of like, you know, non Community Room Yeah, digital communities where it's like, there's there's always been BBs boards and things like that, you know, like news groups are up. But like, yeah, read Reddit. shed a tear for Reddit and all the challenges that have happened there in the last six weeks talking about community. Wow, tough. But I think like the is a very interesting time for the professional communities because I think what their purpose is, is starting to become more apparent, you know, like, I'll give you an example this like in PL like we, we've had a Angel syndicate components, investing in partner tech companies. And so a number of the members were investments like, you never saw that in the traditional like industry associations per se. You know, it's like I think it's the fact that all these things are digital. And there's people that are thinking about what the role of community could be for folks, you're seeing all these experiments to some extent of how do you create value for all these community members? And it's, it's really cool. I mean, it's really exciting in that sense. And you can feel the energy when you go into these, like, Slack communities for the community management space, where that everyone's like, running around trying out all kinds of stuff, including web 3.0, and all kinds of like alternative ways to tokens, etc. So it's not boring.

Jason Yarborough 40:37
Not at all. No. So as you begin to experiment, and you're going to lead down this this track a little bit, as you are in these communities for communities, common room and common room, what are you learning? Or what do you see in about the future of communities? And like, Where does where does this go from here? Because it's, it's young, its nascent, it feels like the early days of tech, and we know where we're at now with that, and so this is kind of fresh, it's new. Where do you where do you see this going from here? Yeah, I think like,

Chris Samila 41:08
and we see this in partnership. So there's a lot of commonalities here is business rigor is not always something that I feel like people are coming to the table from that background, it's like, I think there's a lot of people in community that they love the human side of it, and they love, like the stealing of helping people. Especially, yeah, which is great. It's like, it's like the, you know, it's the people with high IQs are a lot of times, you know, community managers. And I think the, if you look at like the job growth opportunities, like, even PL, like, we're hunting for people that have a blend of like, business professionalism, and like, you know, a lot of times working at SAS companies in some capacity, and freeing that kind of rigor to also operate in the community. And so you have this interesting thing, where it's like, you need to have high EQ, where you can actually talk to the members and create a warm experience for them. But then, like, take the learning of the challenges that person has, and scale up solving that challenge using data, diagnosing it the right way. And it's it's this interplay between those two skill sets that the faster that the community world can build those capabilities, like, it's just going to scale a lot faster, because we see a lot of thrashing happening, where people who are passionate about community are have amazingly good intentions, but they lack some of the like, the just, like, operationalize this as a company to actually make this so that it can be sustainable. And that's, that's I feel like that's kind of the stage they're at is there's a ton of these folks that are they're struggling some extent, and tooling is helping, like getting technology in place where you can actually manage these things more efficiently. Is has helping, but I think there's great career opportunities, and we're hiring right now for a customer success leader. And like we have partner people that are applying for this role, which is, which is great. You know, it's like, I think they can take their skill sets from the technology world in partnerships and apply it to being someone that works on a day to day, to some extent and like a CS role. But again, kind of that chameleon thing of like you're evolving your skill set based on where the market demand is,

Sam Yarborough 43:31
yeah, there's every podcast, I'm like, can we spend another hour together?

Jason Yarborough 43:38
I know why ritual and Joe Rogan do three hour podcast now.

Sam Yarborough 43:41
It's Same, same.

Chris Samila 43:45
Whether there's, it's like this interesting intersection of like, I'm in the partnerships world, and there's a lot going on there. But you're also in the community world. And like there's a lot going on over there. And it's it's this is a fun podcast to some extent, because I get talked about both of them. But it's I encourage anybody who's listening, like if you're striking out on on finding an opportunity in the artist world, peek around in the community world, because there are some amazing business communities especially they're looking for talent right now. And like, that's, that's a new surface area for you to potentially take your skill sets and grow career around that hot. Yeah.

Jason Yarborough 44:22
I haven't thought about that one before. But that's yeah, that is a great Hot Tip. That actually works really well.

Sam Yarborough 44:27
So yeah, cat plays on the chameleon thing you don't We don't fit into one bucket. So expand your expand your reach and your horizons. So we've kind of touched on this, but as a community leader, as a member of many other communities, how can What advice do you have? How can you lower the barrier to entry to put yourself out there and network if that's not your strong suit, or that's not your favorite thing to do? How do you what would you say to people?

Chris Samila 44:57
That's a great question. So we were benefiting a little bit and yell from having people that are naturally a little bit outgoing, if you're in partnerships, but that being said, they're not everyone is engaging in a public fashion, I'd say like, that's the that's like the number one thing we see that results in successes, like, you're probably working on a handful of problems, and guarantee there's a bunch of other people that are working on the same problem. But you'll never find each other if you don't put it out there that you're trying to work on scaling your reseller program, or going into an international market or figuring out cloud marketplaces. So I'd say like, being visible and being present, and putting yourself out there is like the number one way to like, elicit people to engage with you, especially if you add the right level context. If you feel like a one, one sentence thing, you're like, I need resellers help, you know, slash x point, you're probably not getting a lot of people engage. But you can see you can pattern match and look at folks that ask questions, but also give enough context and they sort of are already giving back in a sense, like a some of the best questions I'll see are folks that are like, I'm trying to do this, here's where I'm at so far, anybody who's willing to collaborate with me, I'm more than happy to share what I've built so far. And like, maybe we can come back and share this with community. And you can't bring that human side of like you, you want to answer your problem. But you also want to be able to share that back, those folks end up in amazing conversations with other people. And they, they solve their problems a lot faster. So I think that's like, that's one of the most common things I say, also, like, leverage the resources that are on the market, like it kind of drives me a little bonkers when people are like, they're stuck on something, but they're unwilling to go and listen to the podcasts that are out there, like your podcast, or any of the other ones are there. There's think about all the content that all the partner tech companies are building today, like, you could probably literally spend a few weeks and get incredibly versed on partnerships, just by investing time and reading all the goodness that's out there. And so like, and this is especially true for anybody who's like transitioning from the traditional channel, kind of channel partnerships world, take the time to go learn from, you know, what are all these tech partnerships that people are doing? What are these cloud marketplaces like, if you learn those things, you're going to get hired faster, like, you know, just to touch on kind of where we're at reality wise is like, there's hundreds, if not 1000s of partner professionals out of work right now. And the ones who are sort of, have spent a long time maybe on just one type of partner program, they're not getting hired as quickly as folks who have a wider breadth of experience. But you can pick up a lot of those learnings, a lot of different programs by going out and just reading a lot of the stuff that's available. And so like the people that do that hire really quickly, I see people they get let go because their company had some traumatic event, and they had to let folks go. And if you're kind of up to speed on what these programs look like, and you don't have to like have it on experience, but you at least got to have surface level knowledge of these things. You're gonna get so much further in the interview cycle than some just on, you know, one type of partner program for the last decade at a company kind of thing.

Jason Yarborough 48:19
That it's really interesting, it's like, the two things I took from that was to kind of put yourself out there and begin to know work is one being curious, like come to with an element of curiosity, to learning, like consistent constant learning. Which, funnily enough, I'll be enough volley only though word funnel is a word now is got the two triggers the two elements to peak performance and flow. talked about this on the podcast a couple times. I've read a lot about this right now. But curiosity and learning, those are the things that continue down the path of peak performance in how you continue to grow, you know, find that state of flow, etc. I want to have one last random question. You can say pass if you want to, but this is not the final question. But in your conversation with the community members, helping to coach them to stay engaged in the community. Have you had any conversations with those like how they can overcome their their fear of curiosity, if I may, or feeling embarrassed by asking silly questions. You had any of those interesting conversations?

Chris Samila 49:28
I definitely run into folks that are like a little nervous to ask that or they feel like if they talk about it, they might be tipping off their competitor that they're even thinking about that type of partner or that challenge area. Which which happens, you know, so I think like, it's like, this is where the human side of this comes into play. Sometimes they have I talked somewhere like that, and they're like, there is for whatever reason can't post publicly. I keep a record of that. And I'm like, okay, cool. So I know It's working on that kind of problem area, we'll try to like match them actually connecting to somebody on a more like a one to one basis. The alternative to that is like, if you don't want to have a public slack conversation, would you want to get on a roundtable maybe, and we can probably find a co host or the can get into like a small group of eight people where it feels a little, again, going back to that kind of, like, small group mentality. You know, does that sound intriguing for you? And that's like, something that seems to work well is like, you're they're going to be hopefully comfortable with a Slack channel or a roundtable or one on one connections. And if none of those makes sense, like, they're probably just not going to excel as quickly in their career as someone who's who's open to do that. So I feel like this is just one of those, like, you gotta you gotta grit your teeth, and just get good at being openly curious and willing to engage with others. And like, one last kind of thing of just like career guidance kind of thing. Don't wait until you get fire to build your network.

Sam Yarborough 50:59

Jason Yarborough 51:00
100%. They doubt went away. That's, that's for sure. So, yeah, can't express it can't can't sign off on that one enough.

Chris Samila 51:09
Cool. Yeah, it was, I think you like being Jason, you had a changing career recently. And like, you have invested in your network for years. And it was like, I could see you moving around, and very quickly, finding opportunities for yourself. And like, I just encourage anybody who's on this call, like, take that time, 30 minutes a week, make sure you're staying connected, because you're gonna be in a tough spot if something unforeseen happens, and you don't have that network of folks to be able to help you.

Jason Yarborough 51:37
That's it. That's it. I can't imagine a better place than right there. It's like we're all about building the purpose built relationships. And that's it in a nutshell. So we'll just we'll wrap it here. We'll come with the final question. Now, Chris, we like to end with something that's kind of, you know, fun engaging for the friends outside of the norm. Sometimes they're silly, sometimes they're, you know, personal whatever. This one, I like to ask you, if you had to recommend one book for the rest of your life, to everybody, Utah, to what book would that be? Oh, man,

Chris Samila 52:10
I feel like this should probably change every year because I read good books.

Sam Yarborough 52:15
Just a rule.

Jason Yarborough 52:18
You can read as many books as you want, you can only recommend one.

Chris Samila 52:23
Oh, man. Man, I'm like struggling to think of it is as likely if you only had one video game to play on an island. Which video game would you bring? Like, this feels like a hard?

Jason Yarborough 52:33
It's a tough one. Yeah, I've read so many different books as well. So to say I'm not sure if I could actually give it to you.

Chris Samila 52:40
Like if I think about like books that had the most impact on my life, we're just gonna like change the way I thought about things like guns, germs and steel. Like, I feel like that just kind of comes to mind is like something that like, Why Why does society look the way it does? And like kind of the the human experience, like that kind of stuff I find super fascinating. So whether it's guns, germs and steel or something in that world of kind of like, help you understand why human society is the way it is, like that kind of stuff gets me fired up. So it's a quasi answer for you.

Jason Yarborough 53:15
wrote that one down? I don't know. Okay, so let's make it more personal. Like if you had to recommend one book to a partner professional? Is there one out there that you say, this has the answers? Look you're looking for?

Chris Samila 53:25
I would. So how this is like it, I guess there's, I think he has a book. So skip Miller, I went through his training, his sales training, I've that in the Challenger sale. Really be essential things for me as a working professional, to like, you know, as a challenger sales name implies, like, You got to get comfortable with challenging people to get to the outcome, you, you know, you want and they want as well. And like that kind of any of that sort of sales training, to be a really great, you know, revenue leader for the business having some some acumen around those topics is going to pay dividends. And I think like, that's another area where like, if you didn't come out of sales, you may miss some of those kind of like skip Miller training or, you know, other other stuff like that challenger sale. And so like, maybe doesn't matter as much which one you pick up, but pick up one of them and start kind of getting getting a sense of what they're talking about. Because you're going to use those skills for the rest of your life as a professional.

Jason Yarborough 54:29
Absolutely. guns, germs and steel, the challenge of sales and fun beach reading, they're

Sam Yarborough 54:35
relaxing, but it does bring us full circle like curiosity and keep learning. So I think that's an awesome takeaway. Chris, this has been so great. Thank you for all that you do for us as friends, but for the partner community. I mean, you've built such a community that both Jason and I and I know many of our friends find so much value in so thank you. We really have enjoyed this car. recession I'm sure there will be many more. But that's it. We'll see you next time friends.

Unknown Speaker 55:15

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