Do You Want Your Business To Grow Faster? Create Leverage With Partnerships And Sponsorships With Sheila Farragher-Gemma

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT 182 | Partnerships And Sponsorships

Do you want to accelerate business growth? Create leverage with partnerships and sponsorships. Penny Zenker’s guest in this episode is Sheila Farragher-Gemma, the owner of Connected Sponsor. Sheila talks with Penny about how the key to leveraging relationships is to make it a win-win. Everyone needs to make sure that each partner gains something of value from the partnership. Working hard alone has some merits to it. But what matters is the result and how fast and efficiently you get there. If you want to learn more about leveraging partnerships to accelerate success, this episode’s for you. Tune in!

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Do You Want Your Business To Grow Faster? Create Leverage With Partnerships And Sponsorships With Sheila Farragher-Gemma

On this show, we are looking for different angles, ways, and approaches to help you work smarter and Take Back Time. We know that that’s not possible to take it back. When we work smarter, then we can use our time in optimal ways that help us, in essence, take back our time because then we are capturing more time back for ourselves. We are working smarter on doing things that we need to do for work or in other areas. I’m excited to talk about sponsorships and partnerships and how that can be a way in your business to help you work smarter.

Sheila FG is here with us. She moved here to the States in 1989 for a job in Boston. As we do, she figured she would stay for a few years and then go back to Ireland. Many years later, she’s still here. This happened to me too, so I understand. She’s got a husband, two children, and a handful of successful businesses under her belt. She is here to stay, she said.

She has an entrepreneurial spirit, which has led her to the world of marketing and consulting. Through her company called Connected Sponsor, she helps event promoters to monetize their events by building longstanding relationships and partnerships with sponsoring companies. She is going to share some of those tips and tricks with us. Welcome to the show, Sheila.

Penny, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Where did you come from that you have gone to stay?

I moved to Zurich, Switzerland, and lived there for sixteen years. It was on a six-month assignment that turned into sixteen years, a husband, children, and all that stuff. I left with a few more bags than. I’m excited to have you here and I do love the topic of partnerships and sponsorships in a way to work smarter. One of my mottos is always, how do we create a multiplier in the things that we are doing? How do we create leverage so that the time that we spend can multiply itself? It can be multipurpose to the way that we’re working. I find that partnerships and sponsorships are fantastic areas.

There is so much you can do together that would take so much time to do alone. Share on X

It’s funny you say leverage. It’s one of my favorite words. I’m always trying to find something that I can call leverage, like a group of people. I love leveraging relationships and sometimes it sounds like a negative thing, “I’m going to use this relationship,” but it really isn’t. There is so much you can do together that would take so much time to do alone. Some people are money-motivated and some are time-motivated. I have always been time-motivated. My time is so precious to me. Usually, if I have a problem, I throw money at it, not time.

With money, you can always make more. With time, it’s gone. You can invest it into relationships, for instance, and those can be profitable. That is where you create the leverage. You can’t recreate time. How did this become your thing?

I started out as an entrepreneur when I had my first daughter. I wanted to have time with her. I didn’t want to be tied to a 9:00 to 5:00 job. I started looking around for things to do and ended up starting a business that then led to another business. I had two successful exits, which was awesome. Many years ago, I was working with a woman and we had a business together.

At the time, she was actively recruited by big digital marketing companies to work for them. When she did, they ran a big marketing event every year that has thousands of people go to. She asked me if I would come to help her with the sponsorship aspect of it. I did that and it ended up that people saw what I was doing. They asked me if I could hop on, too. It organically became this business that I had not planned on. I was just helping out a friend. There you go.

Those are the best businesses. It is a need for many people.

It has been fun. With COVID and everything shutting down, I pivoted again and started creating products around it to teach other people to do what I do. The one thing I find is there are not many of me out there. I have constantly been asked and turned down people because I don’t have the time or bandwidth to fulfill all of these things. I’ve started doing training courses and stuff as well. My goal is to create a whole bunch of sponsor heroes that can go out and find new sponsors for your events, podcasts, newsletters or whatever else that needs sponsorship and not do it myself.

That is creating leverage. Teaching other people to do it so other people can go out and do that as well. There are different people reading this. There are entrepreneurs, people running their own businesses, and people in a corporate type of setting. They’re all looking to take back their time. Let’s start not with sponsorship but with partnerships in general.

Partnerships can be suppliers that you work with. If you’re in a corporation, it could be partnerships with clients. I want people to expand their thinking to understand that partnerships don’t mean like another company that does the same thing you’re partnering with. There are so many different types of partners.

It’s down to leverage. If you have a goal and you’re trying to get somewhere and if you can leverage those relationships to help you get there quicker, why not? The important thing in any of these is that it has to be a win-win. Everyone has to be getting something out of it, which most people would have to make sure that that happens.

TBT 182 | Partnerships And Sponsorships

Partnerships And Sponsorships: The goal is to create sponsor heroes that can go out and find new sponsors for your events, podcasts, and newsletters without having to do it yourself.


Why go alone and be the sole person out there pounding the pavements where you can take an easier path if you need to? There’s no shame in that. Some people think that in working hard, there’s some merit to it, like, “I’m proud. I put so much work into this.” I’m like, “What is the result of that? That is the only thing that matters.”

I’m going to repeat that for everybody who is reading. It’s the result that matters. If we burn ourselves out and don’t even get the result, that’s frustrating and annoying. If there’s a choice to work hard and get the result or work a little bit and get the result, which is what we would rather do. It’s important for people to remember that we want to be result-focused, not time-focused. “This is how much time I put into it.” Who cares? It’s what result did you get and did you get the result that you intended. What is a tip that you could give? How do I become a good partner? How do I seek the right partners?

It’s all about what your goal is and aligning the people that can help you with that. You want to make sure that it’s working for both people and that somehow the partnership is going to bring them something as well. Otherwise, it’s not going to work out that well. I know myself when I get a task, I’m an implementer. I want to get it done. I’ll jump in and start doing those.

Take the few minutes or the time beforehand to map it out and figure out what are the different steps you need to take and do you personally need to take all those steps. Are these steps that can be taken by somebody else? Somebody can facilitate you, meet somebody else, have somebody else do it or whatever that is going to be.

Try to take a strategic high-level look at what you’re doing before you dive into the actual work of those. Gary Vee always talks about the clouds and the dirt. The dirt is where everybody’s there and doing it. The clouds are way up above, looking at the whole project. Spend some time in both of those places. Put in the clouds first, figure it out, get down, and do what you need to do.

I’m all about that too. My whole thing is how do we think, act, and be more strategic in the way that we do things. That means getting up in the clouds to look at it from above.

It’s your 30,000-foot view of the world.

What strikes me about when you’re at that 30,000-foot view and what I heard you say was to think about, “What is it that is going to be a win for this partner?” If you pre-think that, you can know this one isn’t a good partner because I don’t see what the big advantage is for them. When you approach somebody and know what is the win for them, you’ll be able to better discuss it and open up those opportunities because you’re both seeing that there is an advantage. It does take some time to think about it and pick the right partners who have that advantage that compliment you.

Sometimes as well the partner may not see it either. You may be coming to them with this thing and then they’re like, “I never even thought of it.” That is bringing value. You’re giving them a different point of view that they haven’t thought about for their business. You’re absolutely right.

Take a high-level strategic look at what you're doing before you dive into the actual work. Share on X

I’ve identified this potential partner. Let’s say it’s somebody who’s got a big list. There are people who want to leverage other people’s audiences. That’s a great use of a partner. Let’s say I see that that person could be a good fit for me, I have identified what the value that I’m going to offer them is, and I know the value that comes to me. How do I approach that person or that company?

I would start getting involved with and look at what they are doing now, what are they trying to achieve, and if there is a way for you to help out. If there is a way to be discovered by them even though you’re making yourself discoverable, it’s going to be so much easier than if you knock on their door, call and annoy them, and eventually, they take the call. Look at what they are doing because there are ways to advise them, and then put that out in front of them.

You want to take it from the point of view of what’s in it for them and not what’s in it for yourself. The more you can be of value, they are going to look at you differently than if you’re just another person pitching something that you’re trying to achieve. That’s it. It’s getting into a conversation with them and showing up at the places where they are going to be. I’ve done that before. I was like, “I happened to be at the same place as you are. That is so coincidental. You must be fate.”

It’s thinking outside the box a little bit. I see sometimes people would do it, but it’s all about them, “Let me tell you about me and my company. This is what I need. This is what I need you to do,” which is an awful line to tell anyone. Go with that giving, serving is hard first and create the relationship. It may not always work, but in a good amount of time, people are going to recognize that. They are going to recognize that you’re creating value for them before you’ve even become partners or done anything.

One of the things that I’ve seen is that if people come on too strong, you have to be genuine. It’s icky and it feels desperate.

Your guard goes up and you’re like, “What is their angle?” You’re trying to figure out what their angle is rather than what they are actually saying to you. I try and go into things pretty chill with no big expectations. If it works out, it will work out. I’m not desperate. If this doesn’t work out, I have somebody to go to. My whole business doesn’t revolve around getting you to be my partner type of thing.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are multiple partners that could be a good fit and whatnot. Are there any other tips and tricks or lessons that you’ve learned around creating successful partnerships?

The other thing is setting expectations. You want to make sure that you’re very clear upfront, that they are clear, and that expectations are assessed. You don’t want to be halfway through it and they’re like, “I thought that this was the way it was going to be,” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s setting the expectation as well. Partnerships can be tough, but if we set expectations of what we are looking for, what they are looking for, what will be a win for both of us, what is the point when we say this isn’t working out, then we can part and still be friends.

Expectations are everything in any relationship, not just in partnerships but the people that you work with, in general, and your team partnerships. If we look at those like that, setting expectations is so important. If you start to feel a little frustrated or angry, what it means is an expectation isn’t being met. It’s also good if we can recognize it like that. It’s an expectation that is not being met. Get to the roots, “What was the expectation? What’s not being met?” You can have a constructive conversation about it as well.

TBT 182 | Partnerships And Sponsorships

Partnerships And Sponsorships: When the sponsorship relationship is done correctly, it almost becomes a strategic partnership as well.


It can go either way. Your partner can suddenly become distant and annoyed as well and you’re like, “What’s going on here? I don’t understand.”

That is a way to approach it. Let’s switch to sponsorships a little bit. It’s a different thing.

When the sponsorship relationship is done properly, it almost does become a strategic partnership as well. Sponsors are usually looking to get the word out about whatever it is that they are doing, their service. It’s like a Venn diagram with three people. You’ve got your audience, you, and the sponsor. Everyone wants to win.

I use the example a lot if you go to a course. You go to a conference and you have sponsors out in the hallway. You’re in the conference teaching the people whatever it is that they’re coming to learn. The sponsors are going to be the resources that they need to do the thing that you’re teaching them. The sponsors are winning because they’re getting new clients, you’re winning because you gain sponsorship dollars and give value to your people, and your people are winning because they have all these resources to go to. You want to think about it at a higher level and curate it to make sure it’s going to be something that is sustainable and is going to benefit everyone.

Are you talking about event sponsors or that type of thing?

Yes. Event sponsors like if you had a sponsor for your podcast. Sponsorship is such a broad, wide range of things, even if you’re a company. There are so many different ways, like a strategic partnership with somebody or a sponsorship. It’s anywhere you’re having somebody pay you for access to something that you have within your business, and it’s usually an audience.

It could be a physical audience or a list of an audience. There are a lot of different forms. I’m in the event space. I do a lot of public speaking and events. Sometimes, people are like, “I wish we could afford you.” I was like, “Maybe you could get a sponsor.” People don’t think about that and creating value for the sponsor like, “Who’s in the audience that the sponsor might be interested in having access to and being able to promote?”

You’ve got 1,000 people that are coming. Even though they’re not paying you, the sponsor might want to have access to them or whatever it is. It could be a bank, an app, and a ton of different types of organizations that would love to have exactly that target audience and be willing to pay something for it.

Sometimes when I work with them, especially in events as well, they think in terms of like, “I’ll have the sponsor to sponsor this one thing.” The sponsor doesn’t care what the one thing is that they are sponsoring. They are looking for access. Put your sponsorship in a pool, and then you can get your keynote speaker or your big networking event that you’re going to do at night, have food and drink setters or whatever it is that you want to do to make your event better, rather than, “This is just going to pay for Penny.”

It doesn’t have to be single. Think more broadly and the big picture. What are some other tips that people don’t know or the biggest mistakes people make when looking for sponsors?

The sponsor doesn't care what the one thing is that they are sponsoring. They are looking for access. Share on X

The big mistake they make is they think that sponsorship is this big thing and that if they are going to get a sponsor, it’s going to be like an American Express, Marriott Hotel or something big. When I first started my first business, I’m going back a bit. I joined an organization called BNI or Business Network International. It’s a referral company. I’m sure a lot of your readers know about it.

One of the things in there when we were recruiting people to grow the chapter is a thing called to follow your checkbook. I took this into my sponsorship. The first thing I do when I’m sitting down with a client who is looking for sponsors is I ask them, especially if they do what they teach, “What are you spending your money on every month? What software are you using? What merchant accounts are you using? How do you send your emails?” All these stuff are great low-hanging fruit sponsors.

They may not be this super huge company that everyone knows. The important thing is that they are a company that your audience knows or wants to know. It doesn’t have to be big. Coca-Cola is probably not going to come to sponsor your 300-person event and that’s okay because it’s not a good sponsor anyway for you. Think in terms of what you have versus thinking it’s this big thing. The beauty of his sponsorship is you can make up the rules as you go. It’s not like, “This is the way we do sponsorship. There is no other way to do it.” You can make it work for you.

I like that. Make up the rules as you go along. For different people that are reading, we are trying to spark your creativity with these examples. I was speaking to somebody and I was like, “If you do get a sponsor, I have a show. I would be happy to run a commercial for them.”

That’s a huge thing for a sponsor.

The thing that you said was to use what you have. Recognize the players who are going to be, let’s say, at this event and how could they contribute. It doesn’t cost them anything and they could do something to contribute that would enable you to add more value to the sponsors. How do you get creative in this whole process?

I was on the phone with a friend of mine who is a realtor. She gets a lot of her leads from Zillow, so she does a lot of advertising with them. She told me the number that she spends on advertising. It’s a big amount of money, but she’s making $2 or $3 per $1 that she is spending. She’s okay with this, and then she found out that you can have someone sponsor you on Zillow. She has a mortgage company that is sponsoring her and taking up half the chunk of change every month, which is amazing. They’re happy and getting leads of people buying houses, which is exactly what they want. It does work.

In terms of what sponsors want, sometimes if you’re a speaker, you’re in a green room beforehand and someone might want to photograph with you and meet you. I had a sponsor who was like, “It’s so-and-so is the keynote speaker. I would totally do the platform packet if I could meet that person.” I was like, “I can do that.” That’s free. Obviously, they paid you to be there, but overall, that’s a very small ask and it was a huge give for him. That was the thing that brought him over the edge for sponsoring the top projects.

It’s not always what you think, too. It could be something that is emotionally motivated like, “I’ve read all that person’s books. I want to meet them, so I’d be willing to do it.” It seems like a good deal, but if you add that on top, it’s that emotional thing that says, “I want that.”

More often than not, it is that. We are all buyers by emotion anyway. We use logic afterward to back up our decision, but it’s like, “I want to drive a Formula 1 car, so I’m totally going to sponsor this thing because that is part of it.”

TBT 182 | Partnerships And Sponsorships

Partnerships And Sponsorships: Think outside of the box. There are no set rules.


I was thinking that it goes beyond picture taking. It could be a dinner with that person.

You want to go to the green room and meet the person. For him, that was a defining moment and it was the biggest deal. He spent a lot of money for that platform sponsorship to be able to do that. Think outside of the box. There are no set rules.

Is there anything else? We have covered those two at a high level to give people a taste of some of your experience, tips and tricks. Is there anything that I didn’t ask yet that you’re thinking is important to share with the audience?

I do have a small fifteen-minute training that they could do for free if they wanted to do that. It’s all around that follow your checkbook thing. What it is it’s designed to stimulate your brain to think of things like other sponsors and potential sponsors. As you go through and answer the questions, you start making a list, and that list then goes to another list because you think of one company and you’re like, “These other companies have similar to that as well.”

I was thinking that a lot of people might be saying, “This is mostly for entrepreneurs and event planners,” but I could see ways to do this in corporate as well. There would be opportunities within your leadership team if you wanted to have an event or give some giveaway to the group.

It’s shared resources. There are so many ways. It’s limitless. It really is.

Before we jump off, what is the most unusual creative idea that you’ve seen somebody put together to make a sponsorship for?

I know somebody who was very involved with Richard Branson. There was a lot of sponsorship around when he went up into space, the people that were there, and stuff like that. That is what I call ego sponsorship. They were there. The thing is, if you’re in that world where you’re creating content and everything, that’s worth paying for to have those pictures, that story, and all the rest of it. There are no rules in this. It really is limitless.

Thank you so much for sharing, for our discussion, and for offering that free training for people.

No problem.

Thank you all for being here. I hope you took away one tip or creative idea that you can use to be a better partner, find better partners, or sponsor something that you would have otherwise thought not possible for you. You can take back time by utilizing the resources that you have available to you even if you had not thought they were available to you. Make them available to you. Thank you all. We’ll see you in the next episode.


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About Sheila Farragher-Gemma

TBT 182 | Partnerships And SponsorshipsSheila FG moved to the states in 1989 for a job in Boston. She figured she would stay a few years before returning home to Ireland, but 30 years later, with a husband, two children, and a handful of successful businesses under her belt, she may be here to stay. Sheila has an entrepreneurial spirit which leads her to the world of marketing consulting. Through her company, Connected Sponsor, she helps event promoters monetize their events by building long-standing relationships and partnerships with Sponsoring companies. Some events she’s helped are Traffic &Conversion, ProfitCon, Underground, and MFA Live.

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