If I was to be 100 per cent honest, I would not only say that ‘The sales game is no longer the sales game,’ I’d go so far as to say that there never was a ‘sales game’ in the first place.
Whether it’s been events and sponsorship (which was my background when I worked with brands like The Wiggles and Cirque du Soleil), publishing books (which was my core business for six years) or media (which is my focus now with Collective Hub), my commercial approach has always remained the same: we do not sell to people, we collaborate with them.
That’s why we don’t have a sales team at Collective Hub, but a partnerships team. That’s why we rarely broker flat advertising deals in Collective Hub magazine – which I’ve been pretty outspoken about since our launch three years ago – instead constructing multi-platform partnerships with a pre-planned win-win for all parties. And that’s why we didn’t hold a client Christmas party last week, we had a partnerships party instead.
You won’t always get the quick win with this approach, but you will always get the win. People still look at me with a head shake and an eye twitch, wondering how on earth we are surging ahead in a sea of media uncertainty when others are clearly not.
I am the first to say we are no better than anyone else, but (and it’s a bloody big ‘but’), we are different. As a business, we have all the good bits of a disruptive start-up – we’re nimble, we’re open-minded, we make quick decisions, we’re willing to take risks, we don’t wallow in our mistakes, but there is an even better weapon in our arsenal, and I say this with bucketloads of humility and gratefulness: we don’t do business for others; we do business with others. We are partners, allies, cohorts, friends. At the core of everything we do, we are collaborators.
Whether it’s arranging talent for an interview, crafting an event or discussing an advertising deal, we look at everything through the lens of partnership – how can we all win here, how can this be mutually beneficial for every person or brand involved? If it’s true that everyone sees the world through their own unique lens, then the lens of our business would unquestionably be that of ‘partnership’.
We have our own vision – to help others be the very best version of themselves in life and business – but we also grasp the vision of the people and brands around us; hoping to champion their efforts so we can all flourish in our respective fields. We’re building our saleable assets but we are also acutely aware of theirs. We’re strengthening our editorial voice but are also intimately interested in yours.
As an employer, I look to hire high-achieving, personable, forwarding-thinking collaborators to help us build a brand- or people-first, relationally driven business ecosystem. Don’t get me wrong, our partnerships team still has commercial targets to reach, but what I want to see is creative, collaborative thought to get them there, that’s completely on message and brand for us. Yes, please help us make money, but please do it in a smart, long-term way that means everyone wins.
Last week, our office rooftop rocked when over 300 people arrived for our partnerships party. We invited tons of people we have partnered with over this past year, across every facet of the business – from brand partners to editorial content collaborators, event speakers, stylists, publicists, photographers, CEOs, media agencies… you name it. We expected people to come and go quickly because of the crazies of these few weeks before Christmas, but instead, we had to kick people out at about 1.30am. It was total fun, plenty of hilarity, lots of great food, pumping music and a dash inside from a storm which just added to the memories.
It was certainly a well-run party (thanks to our brilliant events team), but I’d like to think people were here for more than the Aperol Spritzes and arancini balls. I’d like to think that they were here – and stayed well beyond an acceptable networking hour – because they felt like more than just business associates; that they felt like partners in an environment where partnerships, commercial or otherwise, are fueled by relationship. I’d like to think they also knew that they were part of a powerful and inspired community that is changing the world.
Collaboration is often understood to be the action of working with someone to produce something, but I’d prefer to put it like this: collaboration is acknowledging that together, we are truly better.
I love this quote from our new COO, who joined the Collective Hub team this week:
“There is a tsunami overtaking the publishing industry and the fact that we are swimming against it is extraordinary.”
He’s right, we are swimming against it – sometimes treading water, but let’s not get too technical now, and I do believe we have come this far because of our holistic approach to business and media.
So as I look to 2017, I have a handful of New Year’s resolutions, but one is this: to collaborate with brands and people like never before. To work together so everyone lifts and benefits. To grow the ecosystem. Internally, I plan to grow our staff and staff resources in our partnerships team significantly (seriously, if you want a job, now is the time to approach), and I hope to reinforce this message to my team at every level, feeling more adamant than ever before that brands and talent are looking to media for leadership in this area; they are looking for partnerships, not just business.
If you do want to be part of the Collective Hub team, we are currently growing our commercial partnerships team and are in search of exceptional, like-minded people to help us build a tribe of inspired world-changers. More info here.