The Science of Partnerships with Mark Brigman

The Science of Partnerships with Mark Brigman

Aaron Olson & Mark Brigman 8 min

We recently announced the Nearbound Education Hub. Our Education Hub is the place to go if you want to learn more about partnerships. We’ve vetted the best courses on partnerships and put them in one convenient place.


I sat down with Mark Brigman, Ph.D., SPLP, CEO of Partnernomics, to talk about how he got started in partnerships and why he started teaching courses in partnerships.


Mark is a trained economist and takes a scientific approach to partnering. He has systematized his methodology into four partner courses to help partner pros succeed at their job.

I spoke with Mark about:


  • His systematic approach to partnerships.

  • How his courses enable partner pros to achieve success.

  • How he developed the only university-backed partnering certification.


Check out some highlights from my interview with Mark Brigman below:



Mark talks about his "aha" moment, the moment he knew there was a need for a course on partnerships.



Mark tells about his approach to partnerships. He applies the scientific method to partnering.



Mark explains how Partnernomics is the only university-backed certified partnering course.



Aaron Olson 0:00

I’m here today with Mark Brigman. Mark is CEO of Partnernomics. Mark, thank you for joining me today.


Mark Brigman 0:07

Thanks, Aaron; good to meet you.


Aaron Olson 0:09

Good to meet you as well. So, Mark, we partnered up with you on our education hub at PartnerHacker. Can you tell me a little bit more about your courses? When did you start to realize that you could take a scientific approach to partnering?


Mark Brigman 0:27

Yeah, I think for me, it started in the late 90s. Whenever I started working at Sprint, as a partnering professional, I’m a by education. I’m an economist. So I’m kind of an efficiency freak.

I like for things to kind of be orderly and predictable. And so the first organization that I was a part of was to build out the smartphone, build out all the different apps that’s on there.


And I had friends that were over in sales and project management and marketing, and they all seem to have methodologies that they followed. And so I just simply asked, what is the methodology look like for partnering? What should I be following? And I literally got laughed at. So I guess that’s a dumb question. So just as I, you know, went through my career, and then started to build teams.


It became apparent, you know, you kind of have like these partnering professionals that just seem to be rock stars. And then you have others that seem to be challenged to get great relationships, get profitable relationships, get deals done.

And I was like: "What’s, what’s the difference here?"


That’s when it really illuminated to me that there definitely is an underlying process behind partnering. And that’s when we kind of kicked off the long journey of mapping out what that process looks like.


Aaron Olson 1:51

Partnering to me, it sounds like it can be a bit unpredictable because anytime you’re dealing with humans and relationships, and partnerships, there’s a lot going on. So how does a systematic approach deal with the unforeseen things that may come up in relationships and partnerships?


Mark Brigman 2:06

Yeah, absolutely. No doubt that partnering is much more complicated. It’s hard enough to build out an organic growth strategy where everything is inside of your company walls.


Now, whenever we’re partnering, we’re working with organizations outside of our walls, different strategies, different budgets, different people, different cultures mean, all of these things just add a significant amount of complexity to it. But the thing about, like, bringing science into partnering is looking at cause and effect. I mean, that’s how we learn. And so in sales, right, Salesforce did a great job of starting that up, over 20 years ago.


In the last decade, marketing has made great strides in looking at data to understand cause and effect. And I think we’re just now at a point in partnering, where we’re trying to do that and partnering to really understand cause and effect and to be able to extract data to analyze data to be able to do that for partnering professionals.


Aaron Olson 3:13

There are four different courses that you offer. Can you kind of walk us through what those different offerings are and who they’re for?


Mark Brigman 3:22

Yeah, absolutely. So the first course is partnering foundations. And I call that the dictionary. So it just kind of talks about what is partnering? How is it similar to sales? How’s it different than sales? How is it similar to marketing? How’s it you know, what’s the similarity? What’s the differences? How do teams work together?


We talk a lot about mindsets. What’s the great mindset, what’s the best mindset for partnering professionals to have? And we go through a couple different frameworks and different analyses that we have; we have a construct called a partnership success pyramid, the five imperatives for partnership success, trust, alignment, and transparency, which has the highest level of commitment, then finally, to get to results, talk about power analysis, needs, once limits analysis, SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, we’ve all heard about that before.


But just laying out these baseline frameworks that partnering professionals can use as tools to, again, kind of make partnering become a science inside of their organization. Other courses that we have, one of them is the strategic partner leadership model course the SPLM course I call that the operating system.


So just like your laptop and your phone, have operating systems that kind of have these rules and methods and procedures of how applications work inside of your laptop, well, partnering teams and partnering functions, they need to have an operating system that does the same thing.


So there’s the vision, the team’s goals, metrics processes, and results. And we kind of dissect each of those six elements to give you tools and success practices to implement inside of your organization.


Then we step over into the third lane of different partnerships, as we call the partnering process. And so there are a couple different programs there. But the one that most folks go through is the channel partnering course, which is focused on revenue-generation partnerships. And there we lay out a six-phase framework, and all those different tools, so strategy, recruiting, contracting, onboarding, enablement, and then ongoing operations with partners.


But again, laying out the different tools, those success practices, those methodologies to give people really kind of this playbook but really a foundational system within their team. So that they can start to collect data and truly bring science into it. It’s no longer do we need to reinvent the wheel; every time we do a partnering deal, we can actually plug them into a system and have more repeatable, more predictable outcomes.


Aaron Olson 6:13

Yeah, I love that approach like that, you know, on the page on our education hub, it says that you develop the only university-backed Partnering methodology certification. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?


Mark Brigman 6:26

Yeah, absolutely. So we have a relationship with the University of Central Missouri. Going back about six years ago, now. They were interested, they saw this massive need. And this build starts with partnering with business-to-business partnering. And so they were interested in having a certification that the university could offer.


So we went through a three-year process with them to take a look at our curriculum and kind of build out an exam for that. So essentially, whenever people complete those three courses, the partnering foundations course the strategic partner leadership model course.


And then the partnering process course, they’re eligible to take the strategic partner leadership professional or SP LP certification exam, 75 questions, multiple choice. And if they successfully complete that exam, then they earn the certification, which is awarded by the University of Central Missouri, and they get a digital badge and digital credential I could put on LinkedIn and other places.


Aaron Olson 7:28

Awesome. Mark, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to be here with me to talk more about the courses at Partnernomics. Is there anything that you’d like to mention before we end the call?


Mark Brigman 7:38

I just like to say that I love what you guys are doing. The PLX event was absolutely awesome! I love the content that you’re putting out. And so we just really liked the work that partner hacker is doing in this space to help educate and mature partnering professionals and partnering teams of all sizes. So just really appreciate the work that you guys are doing.


Aaron Olson 8:02

Thanks so much, Mark. Talk to you later.


Mark Brigman 8:05

Thanks, Aaron.

Aaron Olson & Mark Brigman 8 min

The Science of Partnerships with Mark Brigman

Mark Brigman, Ph.D., SPLP, CEO of Partnernomics, explains how he got started in partnerships and why he started teaching courses in partnerships.

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