Insights on Building Partner Programs from the Ground Up

Insights on Building Partner Programs from the Ground Up

Nick Thomas shares his insights on partner program planning and resources that have helped him effectively scale partner programs.

This article is part of our Q1 spotlight on Partner Program Planning, Goal Setting, and Forecasting. Learn more in the series introduction.

Nick Thomas has worked in software partnerships for nearly ten years, prior to which he had a career in investment banking. Nick’s experience is with high-growth software companies. In both of his roles, he has started at zero and built the program from the ground up. In his current role as the Vice President, Partnerships at Turtl, Nick is working to grow and scale the partner program while defining the underlying roles and structures. 

Today, Nick joins us to share his insights on partner program planning and resources that have helped him effectively scale partner programs.

Establishing Your Goals & Direction

nick thomas turtl

One of the most important things to establish early on in your partner program development is your long-term goal. Nick Thomas explained, “In an early-stage company, you’re reliant on many other areas of the business in achieving your goals. This makes communication around the direction you want to go really important. When you’re operating in a high-growth environment, prioritization and focus are essential. Goal setting is vital to help you figure out what you need to do, then figure out how to communicate that to everyone in the organization.”

Put simply, when you’re building out a new function, you must continually prove your value in order to continue getting the resources needed. Nick shared, “There is a huge wealth of things that partners do for you that isn’t just about a financial revenue target. Outside of just the immediate financial goals, having those specific OKRs that have an overarching goal of what you’re going after is helpful in securing resources to get you to the right spot.”

It’s important to consider that not all members of your team will be motivated in the same way. Nick highlighted the value of understanding how individual team members operate, “At my last company, we did quite a few psychometrics assessments and the like, exploring how we work and how we best can gel as a team. We discussed who got excited about different goals and different timeframes. With partnerships, there are a lot of longer-term goals, especially when you’re starting out and many different things partners can do to help you grow the business. Some people need those more immediate goals to get excited. In a basic sense, your CTO might be quite keen to buy into a long-term vision, but your CFO may want to see the immediate next steps. As such, you need to ensure you have objectives that align to both types of people’s sense of what’s important in order to get buy-in from the team.”

OKRs at Turtl

At Turtl OKRs begin as financial goals and broader business goals from the leadership team. Nick explained, “Once the leadership team sets a financial goal, we have a qualitative discussion about what the leadership team wants to see from the partner team. As part of my role leading the partner team, I define goals and strategies for achieving those financial targets and business goals.”

OKRs aren’t a set-and-forget strategy — they need to be revisited regularly in order to be effective. Nick shared his process at Turtl, “I meet with the exec board on a fortnightly basis to revisit our OKRs. With my team, we have a weekly meeting to review those key targets and determine what we need to do that week to continue our journey to achieving them. We also have a weekly phone call with the whole company where we update the organization on the things we’re doing. I continually remind everyone of the goals we’re working toward so they’re on board and understand the reasoning for the asks that we may send their way.”

When it comes to tracking team goals, the Turtl team has kept its technology fairly streamlined. Nick explained, “We’re small so we don’t have a litany of solutions yet. Instead, we use HubSpot to keep our goals in the same place. Ultimately, a lot of our tracking happens in Excel. We also use our own solution, Turtl, to present these.”

Nick and his team work to review goals on a weekly to bi-weekly basis and try not to change targets more frequently than on a monthly basis. He explained, “You need some level of consistency and focus across the business. Also within the partner business, you’re working with other companies. Those partnerships will have their own OKRs, and we have a quarterly business review process for discussing those with partners.”

Advice for Getting Started with OKRs

Nick had a few key pieces of advice to share from his experience utilizing OKRs to build partner programs. He highlighted, “A goal needs to be understandable to everyone in the business, and something everyone can buy into. It’s essential to communicate these within the company and with your partners to the fullest extent – there is no such thing as over-communicating. Particularly in early-stage, you don’t have all of your own resources and are reliant, for example, on the corporate marketing team to support your goals. Over communicating about what those goals are internally and externally helps to ensure everyone is aligned. If every single ask you make can be pulled back to those original objectives, your wider team will know to prioritize accordingly.”

Especially in today’s working environment, it’s easy to forget what your colleagues are working on. Nick recommended, “You often need to do internal marketing to communicate your role and goals. Take ownership and define what the partnerships team is doing. People will then be more likely to understand and support you.”

OKRs will be essential as Nick continues to grow the partner program at Turtl. Get more advice for setting actionable OKRs to align your team and reach new partner program heights in Strategies for Achieving Partnerships Goals.

Further experienced partnership professionals will join us over the next few weeks to share their insights on planning, goal setting, and forecasting. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to catch all of the interviews as they’re published. 

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