When you’re building your business through partnerships, some will say you need an iron-clad contract, not so with today’s guest. In this episode, Christine McKay is joined by Kevin Thompson, the Co-Founder of Tribe for Leaders. Kevin has built a multi-million-dollar business without using formal contracts. He’s grown his business by discerning the right people to call partners and then simply shaking hands.  Kevin elaborates on why and how he has done that. He shares some of the successes and tribulations he’s experienced and lessons he learned along the way while building a very successful business and collaborating with partners all over the world. 

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Let’s Shake on It: The Power of Informal Contracts with Kevin Thompson

Welcome to another amazing episode. I am so excited to bring to you one of my mentors, Kevin Thompson. Kevin and I have not known each other for very long, but he is an amazing force to be reckoned with when it comes to networking and building relationships. Kevin focuses on creating a positive change on a global scale, and he does that by facilitating connections between increasingly influential people. He’s been the trusted connector for highlevel entrepreneurs for over a decade. The introductions he’s made have been worth millions of dollarsHe’s close friends with so many influential entrepreneurs and business owners and professionals, he is able to cut through all the red tape, eliminate rejection, and guarantee you a red carpet reception for your ideas and your proposals. Whether you’re looking for trusted connections that will allow you to take advantage of your biggest opportunities or solve for your biggest business challengesKevin is your go-to guy. 

One of the reasons that I’m super excited about having Kevin here with us is because Kevin, in my short time of knowing him, has some very amazing negotiation philosophies. One of them is focused around the topic of renegotiation. For those of you who have seen me speak, the topic of renegotiation is a big deal for us at Venn Negotiation. The other thing that’s amazing about Kevin is he’s built a multimilliondollar business out of using informal contracts to manage partnerships. You’ll have lots of attorneys, sitting, rolling over in their graves, and throwing things at the screen right now, going, “What do you mean with thatWhat do you mean you’re doing partnerships and those contracts in place?”  

It’s important to understand that there are two kinds of contracts, formal, which your lawyers are writing, and informal. I guarantee you that there are informal contracts that Kevin uses without using the legal instrument of a formalized contract. We are going to be talking about that and hearing his stories and the great things that he’s experienced and maybe some of the not-so-great things that he’s experienced and lessons he’s learned as he has built a very successful business doing amazing partnerships all over the world. Kevin, welcome. Thank you for joining us. I’m honored to have you here.  

This is my pleasure, Christine. Honestly, until you reached out to me and said, I would love to talk with you about this, I had not even given that much thought to how I’ve been doing what I do. I’ve just been doing my thing. That comment you made about attorneys, I have close attorney friendsEven at that, I still haven’t been doing any written contracts.  

The thing that I admire about how you’ve built your business is that you’ve built it oproverbial handshake. Your word is your bond. What the audience should know is how I met Kevin. He is the CEO and the Cofounder of a program called Tribe For LeadersWhy don’t you explain a little bit about what Tribe For Leaders isI’ll explain how I got introduced to you.  

You can have those breaks in relationships, but because you had such a good experience together, you pick up right where you left off. Click To Tweet

Tribe For Leaders is a community of established entrepreneurs who have years of experience, of expertise, of resources, of connections, who on the other side of the coin, they are also some of the most giving, generous, leading with a helping hand, people of integrity on the planet. My partner, Jules, without her, Tribe For Leaders would have never even been born. She saw things that I didn’t see like you. You notice things in people that they might not notice for themselves. She saw in me some things that I didn’t see for myself. She was like, Here we go.”  

This is an amazing way of doing business and attracting people to you. Instead of running a typical mastermind group where people invest $25,000 $50,000 a year to be a part of it, she goes, “What if you gave them the opportunity to invest less on the front end and let them share in the revenue that gets created and have that be the benchmark and the focus of creating results for the members?” When you do, they’ll want to share with you because that’s who you are. You’re this giving person, and they want to give back to you. That’s how Tribe For Leaders was born. I look at what we have accomplished and who we have attracted to this community. I was like, “Look at these amazing people.” It’s been such an honor.  

It’s a remarkable group. I am a member of Tribe For LeadersThat’s how I met Kevin. The venerable and amazing Patty Lawrence introduced me to you guysI am blown away by the quality of people. What you say about giving is amazing. We’ve got people who’ve written books. One of the members who just wrote a book, his book was sold out. I pre-ordered and I can’t get it for another weeks, weeks. It’s an amazing support system. It’s such a phenomenal group. Part of what struck me when you and I and Jules first had our conversation, was this conversation about what this revenue sharing component would look like and how that would look.  

You had said in that meeting, you were like, “If this is what we think will work, that’s awesomeWe’ll do it this way.” We’ll keep in touch base frequently and say, “If it doesn’t work, then we’ll renegotiate it and figure out a different way of doing it. That blew my brain becauseas we’ve talked about before, renegotiation is something that’s super important to me. My attorney friends laugh at me when I say that a contract, whether it’s formal or informal, it’s a document of hope. It is about the hope that we will have a better future together than we would not with each other. It is about that promise of the future. That is what drives the negotiation, to begin with.  

When you think about it from that perspective and I know you’re married and have family, you’ve got kids and grandkids even. We’ve seen relationships change and morph over time. My husband and I have been married for 27 years. The deal that we entered into when we first got married is not entirely the same as it was as it is now. In business, we often enter into relationships. For whatever reason, we assume that those are going to be the same thing. The deal that I did that I had before is the same deal I’m going to have in 10, 15, 20 years.  

I’ve negotiated contracts that are twenty years old that have just been through pseudo amendment after pseudo amendment and throw some paper here. Not a reevaluation of, “Is this relationship still working for us? Is it still working for both of us? Is there mutual benefit? Does that still exist? Not necessarily equitable, but is this now still a fair distribution of value amongst the people involved in the negotiation, to begin with? Tell us a little bit about how you decided to avoid using contracts in your relationships and your partnering. How did you come to that decision?  

From the very first strategic partnership I did, which was in 2003, it was with a close friend of mine. He put on these seminars for the carpet cleaning and restoration industry. In fact, that’s how I met him because I used to be in that industry. I was a client of his. Throughout our relationship, one of the things that I had done in my business was I added a website component to it. When we did that over a couple of years, that website component alone produced an extra $12,000 to $13,000 a month for our company. In early 2003, he was like, Kevin, why don’t you come down to the annual event in October and show everybody what you’re doing with your website? I think they would get a ton of value from that.  

I was like, “That sounds good. He was like, “Before you come, make sure to document what you do and how you do it, put it into a system that you can offer these people because there’s going to be people in the audience that once they hear from you, they’re going to want your help. Make sure you’re ready to give that to those people.” I did that. Come October, I was ready to go. I didn’t even know how this stuff worked. I had to call Joe‘s assistant and I said, I’m getting ready to come down and speak at the event next weekend. Joe asked me to put this system together and make it available and I’ve got it ready to go, but I don’t even know how this works.  

She said, Kevin, the way that Joe usually does it is anytime he has somebody speaking who’s going to be offering a resourcehe usually does 50/50 split with that presenter. He’s gone to the effort and invested the time and the money and the resources to be able to get the audience, then I’m like, “Sounds great. I spoke at that event. We made $35,000 in sales of that training that I’d done. I was like“How cool was that?” I did a 50/50 split on that with Joe. At the time, that was my very first strategic partnership. I didn’t even realize enough to know to call it a strategic partnership at that time. It was just two guys having a conversation. There was no conversation about, “If we do this, we’ll make all this money. We’ll make a killing. There was no talk like that. All it was, he was like, Kevin, you have something of value to offer. The people who come here will appreciate that. 

Joe doesn’t need my help making money. He already has a successful business. For him, what it was about was furthering the relationship with his people. That’s what it was aboutHe wouldn’t have put that relationship with those people at risk for any amount of money. We did that with no contract. It was just two guys who I had immense respect for him because he’d already helped me in my business. I was quite honestly flattered that he would say, “Come and share with all these people. I wanted to do right by him, and I know he felt the same exact way. That was my first experience. I was like, I want to do a whole lot more of this. That’s what kicked things off. I got no contract, no nothing, just two guys who respected each other and wanted to do something cool together.  

You hit on a word that is critical in terms of how you’ve built your business and that is respect. One of the things that we’ve done in Venn Negotiation is we’ve taken some research that was originated out of Cornell around negotiation styles. We’ve put our spin on the names of them. When a lot of people talk about negotiation, they talk about it in terms of this combative thing where they get defensive. It’s a battle. There’s a negotiation style for whom negotiation is, in fact, a battle. They see it as something to conquer 

They go into it armed and armored, and they don’t often have respect for their counterparts. You lose the respect of the people. Certainlyin my interactions with you at TFL, Tribe For Leaders, you have so much respect for everybody in the group. That makes your level of respect and how you build that is one of the things that makes it easier for you to do business the way that you do it. If somebody had that champion style, personality, or negotiation style where they didn’t have that transfer of respect, then that becomes a lot harder. Have you seen where that situation has come into play?  

I have experienced that firsthand on several occasions where people go into a negotiation with like you said. It’s concrete thing. Their thought process is, in order for me to win the negotiation, it means I have to get the upper hand. I have to get the better end of the stickI met Joe in 1997 and so much has come from that one relationship in my life for both of us. When I look at Joe or anybody else for that matter and when you’re negotiating and your whole thought process is like, “In order for me to winI have to get the upper hand,” as soon as somebody feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick, that relationship starts to deteriorate.  

If they don’t feel that they can talk about that, if they don’t feel they are open to sharing like, “This isn’t working, then they won’t share. Now, that relationship deteriorates. It starts to break down. Before you know it, there is no more relationship. I’ve always been at the point of like, I want to have long-term mutually rewarding relationships where both people are happy. Once you open that, when you start the first relationship, who knows what’s going to come from there? After years of doing this, I can tell you the whole outcome. I’ve had so many more rewarding relationships in my life and strategic partnerships because the lines of communication are open and where both parties are wanting to make it a win for the other.  

Informal Contracts: Make sure you document what you do and how you do it, and put it into a system that you can offer to people who want your help.


You hit on something else that’s important is around lines of communication and being open. What are some of the things that you’ve been able to use to keep those communication lines open? That’s a challenge for a lot of people.  

When I think about some of the longest-term relationships and the most profitable and the most rewarding relationships, I got this friend of mine, Jesse. When we started working together on this one project, he was the one who said to me because he was like, “Kevin, here’s how I propose that we do this. I’m going to help you grow this piece of your business, and we’ll make that our focus over the next couple of years here. Instead of me charging you a monthly consulting rate, what I would like to do is to have 25% of the additional revenue that we create through our efforts. What we’ll do is we’ll look at where this portion of your business has been over the last year. We’ll get a twelve months benchmark of where you are. That’s where we’ll start. Anything that we create revenue over and above that, then that’s what I would like to share in the revenue with you. He was like, “Are you open to that?” I was like, “Yes, Jesse. You’re 25% of any dollar you put into my pocket and you’re not going to charge me anything upfront? Yes, I want in. He was like, “Perfect. If at any time, Kev, this isn’t working for you, let me know so that we can revisit this conversation. I’ll tell you what like you mentioned, that struck me. It hit me so hard. was like, I’m going to start treating people the same way,” because I know how that made me feel in that moment.  

Over the next couple of years, I sent him some pretty doggone nice monthly checks. The thing was, I was happy to do that because my revenue and impact were increasing. It finally got to the point where we had moved on and that relationship got to the point where we didn’t need to have regular communication anymore, yet the revenue continued to come in. I continued to send him his monthly check, even though we weren’t in regular communication at all anymore. Finally, at one pointhe got a hold of me and he was like, Kev, you may compensate me all this time. I think I’ve been paid enough for this. You don’t need to keep on sending me checks.  

I was like, “Fair enough.” He and I had a couple of year stretch where we weren’t in communication at all. Some other things came up in my life and in my business, I was like, “Jess, can we talk again?” I got some stuff I want to rebuy. We picked up right where we left offand we started doing some more stuff together. When you create a relationship, you can have those breaks in those relationships, but because you had such a good experience together, they pick up right where they left off. Tribe For Leaders is a good example, but because of the formatit puts me into regular communication with the people in my life that I care about.  

Not only is it benefiting them, it’s benefiting me as well because I’m taking such an active role in those relationships. I’ve done these strategic partnerships with people throughout my life. People will say, “Kevincatching this refer business to me,” even if I’m not trying to lead her. I was like, “That would happen.” When it comes up in conversations that I’m regularly involved in and I’m thinking, “I need to connect you with so-and-so because based on what you shared, they’re the exact person you need to talk with.” Sometimes we refer Tribe For Leaders members to people who are not in the community because that’s the right person for them to talk with. The people that I did regular communication with, they’re top of mind because communication versus somebody who’s not in the group. They might get a referral here and there. They might get some set up. The people who were in regular communication with, that’s where a lot more is going to happen because the focus is there.  

We have lot of different opportunities in Tribe For Leaders to connect with each other. All of the different members have got all these other things going on. I’m going to be interviewing Blair Dunkley in a little while. He has his thing that he does every Tuesday night on Facebook Live. I’m glued to everything he’s saying because I’ve learned so much. It’s hugethat ability to stay top of mind and how do you do that. One of the ways to do that is being part of a group that fosters and creates that opportunity. You get to dive deeper into people’s businesses and what’s working for them, what’s not working for them. You both get to learn and be a student of what’s worked for them, but you also get to be a teacher in terms of what’s worked for you.  

That is an incredible thing. When you talk about your relationship with Joe and stuff, that’s one of the things that I hear you talk about. There was a studentteacher relationship that worked both ways. There were times you were the teacher and then at other times, you were the student. I think negotiation is very much that way and if you believe that negotiation is about relationship that has fiduciary responsibility attached to it. Please do not get me wrong because whenever I talk about negotiation. It’s not about equality necessarily. It’s not about dividing things in the middle. It’s about finding a fair deal that works for both parties and creates mutual benefit. When you have that teacher to studentthat relationship aspect with your counterparts, you’re able to do that much more effectively in my experience. It sounds like that’s consistent with your experience.  

When you enter into relationships like the one with Joe and the other ones you were talking about and even with those of us at Tribe For leaders, what are some of the things that you pay attention to that become alarm bells for you to say, “This situation, this relationship might be going off the rails a little bit and that you need to circle the wagons.” I am from the West. I grew up on a ranch in Montana. I do lose a lot of Cowboy colloquial every once in a while. I may live in Los Angeles, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.What are some of the things that you look for as your relationships progress that may raise alarm bells? Many small businesses don’t use formalized contracts, but they’re not necessarily in tune with observing what might be going on in a relationship and then correcting it for it fast enough.  

Don’t risk everybody else for one bad person. You’ve got to keep an eye on the community. Click To Tweet

I have a friend. One of the things we do, especially around Tribe For Leaders is host these small gatherings on Zoom. In the past, we called them round tables. Now because we’re getting so many referralswe’re getting people who all have been referred to Tribe For Leaders by existing members. Now we’re hosting these round tables. We call them TFL Preview Events now. We get to entrepreneurs on a Zoom call. In one way, it’s our way to give to the entrepreneurial community by getting these people together. It also allows us, Jules and I, to see how people show up. I want to see people showing up, like I said, being of service, being of contribution, being of help to other people, and contributing from their expertise and their knowledge to serve other people. That’s what I want to see.  

When I see people showing up that way, that’s a good sign that there’s somebody that I want to get to know better. Whether they become a Tribe For Leaders member or not is irrelevant. Anybody who is about contribution first, that’s the sign of a real successful entrepreneur or a CEO is when they’re about contribution and helping and serving and having that servant’s heart if you will. Every successful entrepreneur that I’ve ever met, that’s where they come from. That’s what I’m always looking for. Wdo vet it heavily. We turn people away because one bad seed, one wrong fit person, it ruins the whole pot, we want that person out. Fortunatelywe’ve done well. If we were to have a misjudgmentwe would have to rectify it. We would have to get that person out of the group because I’m not willing to risk everybody else for one bad person. I don’t care how much money they’re willing to pay or anything. It doesn’t matter because it’s the community as a whole that we’ve got to keep an eye out for. 

Especially, when we’re all working in a virtual world right now, everybody’s in two dimensions. That’s my saying, We’re no longer we’re working in a three-dimensional world. We’re working in a two-dimensional world. When you’re not face-to-face and you have somebody who tries to control the conversation or says inappropriate thingsor raises topics such as, “What the heck,” that has a definite impactI’m excited about Arizona coming up. I’m looking forward to that. There’s a small group of us who are going to be meeting up in Arizona and doing some work together.  

I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting pushed. I think I’m going to get pushed out of my comfort zone, so I’m excited about that. I talk a lot when I speak that the hardest part of any negotiation is a negotiation that happens between our earswhat we convince ourselves, what we tell ourselves as possible, and what’s not possible. That drives what we can do and to be successful in doing business the way you’ve been doing it without the safety net of a legalized or a formalized contract 

Contracts can be informal and are still enforceable in a court of law, as an attorney who is reading will go, “Yes, that’s correct.” In order to do that, you have to be able to have that negotiation between your ears, Kevin. You have to be confident in what you’re presenting to the market and what your expectations are. You have to have that clarity around that in order to be able to get that in exchange or return from your counterparts.  

I’ve done my best to focus on people who are giving, generous, leading with a helping hand, people like we’ve been talking about. In all these years, in the training business that we ran, over that thirteen-year period, we did over 500 strategic partnerships. At that time, I did make a couple of errors in judgmentI think I’m like this eternal, optimistic person. I always see the good in other people. Until they show me otherwise, I always see the goodI can think of one project in particular that happened a few years agoas far as financially, it was extremely successful.  

My partner was the one in control of the monies and didn’t abide by our verbal agreement. I didn’t go chasing down any moniesI just reminded him of our agreement. The sad thing about it more than anything was that there’s a guy that I liked. I had been to his home. I had met his wife and children. He had this certain way of doing things that weren’t aligned with me. When it came right down to it, I was wrong. It cost me a pretty good amount financially, but it also cost me a relationship that I was looking forward to doing a lot more things together with. That is what hurt more than anything. 

Even to this day, I have never spoken about who that person was to anybody. Nobody, but he and I know that even took place. I’ve shared the story of the experience, but have never bad-mouthed this person to anybody. I never will because it doesn’t matter. wish him the best. By the same token, would have wasted so much more time and energy and even money if I would have said, I’m going to hire an attorney and I’m going to chase this money down because that’s owed to me.” That was our agreement, and he didn’t abide by that. How much time and energy and money would that have sucked upI was like, “Let’s move on. We’ll learn from this experience. We’ll move on.”  

Of course, all of our attorney friends were like, “See, I told you.” We didn’t have our right agreement. In my mind, even looking back on that, I don’t know that a written agreement would have changed anything either. I’m sure it might have given me some legal leg, but I was like, “For me, just move on. I can count on one handout of all the strategic partnerships I’ve done to do one hand, of times that it was not a valuable experience. I was like, “Those are pretty dang good odds. Even my close friends would say, “Kev, you should get a written agreement.” I was like, “No, I’ll keep doing it the way that I have been because the odds are still in my paper and it‘s been going okay.” 

Informal Contracts: An ongoing dialogue or conversation is not just a business relationship; it’s also a personal relationship.


Was there anything in that relationship that you thought early on that maybe you would have handled it differently earlier in the process before you got to the point where he was not honoring what your verbal agreement was?  

Looking back, I’ve heard from a few other people now that have had similar experiences. In that particular relationship, had I talked with those folks before, I would have got a gauge for that and probably I would have taken the path. Hindsight is always 2020, though. 

When I’m teaching negotiation, one of the things we talk about a lot is preparedness as you’re going into the negotiation. Some of that has to do with being prepared with information about your counterpart. There’s a lot that we can find out about our counterparts, whether it’s what they put on LinkedIn or what they post on Facebook, or what others who are common in our circles know about somebody. I’ve had similar experiences where I was like, “That was interesting. That relationship did not play out the way that I expected to because I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t do my due diligence on that person. Had I done my due diligence, I may have made a different decision.  

I also have not ever gone back and said, I was owed something and I didn’t get it. Therefore, I’m going to take them to court.” It’s always interesting because as a professional negotiator, people have certain assumptions about what I do and what I don’t do, and how I might be in certain situations. I’m very similar to you in a lot of ways. For me, it’s about that relationship aspect. I’ve gotten burned a few times, but the number of times that I’ve not gotten burned is better than the times that I have. I chalk it up toCarmel will do what Carmel is going to do. I’m not going to waste my energy. Somebody said to me and I posted this on Facebook not long ago. I was surprised by some of the reactions I got when I said it in terms of people feeling that it was very negative. The quote was, “The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference. 

A lot of women resonated with it because that’s a way that maybe many women have dealt with divorce or domestic violence. At that moment, then when you’re not worried about what that partner may be doing or has done is a freeing moment to say, I’m not emotionally invested anymore.” For me, like you, I wish them well. I’m not going to speak ill of them, but I’m not occupying my energy with that particular individual and move on. Versus having this wrapping your head around an axle around, I’ve got to sue them. I got to do this.” That’s emotionally draining. It’s such a negative process. For me, I feel like it creates all questions and doubts. I’d rather operate in what I know and what I’m confident in and let that part go by the wayside.  

I’ve had close friends who have been through a big legal battle that lasted a couple of years. In the end, they won that legal battle. In the process, they spent so much money on it. They spent. It took up so much space in their minds and so much of their resources and their time and even their family. It impacted their family. I was like, “If I can avoid that, I would much rather avoid all of that. Let it go. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an expert, but I know that sometimes there’s probably a need for it. My personal take is if I can avoid a legal battle, then by all means I’m going to do that.  

What’s interesting because the United States has the culture because I’ve negotiated all over the world. It’s fascinating to me what contracts look like in the United States versus what they look like in Asia or in Africa or in other parts of the world. We try to contract everything. It’s not an effective way of managing a relationship because if you have all these do’s and don’ts, then your ability to grow as a company or as an individual gets stymied by those do’s and don’ts, by that box that yoforced the relationship into. One of the things I admire about your way of doing business is that it allows for that breathing room. It allows for that flexibility of growth.  

For people to understand, I love contracts. I do enjoy reading them. They are nice time reading for me sometimes because they tell a story. The words in a contract tell a story. What I get frustrated about is that when people enter into agreements, they don’t understand what‘s in the contract or the contract tries to almost, for lack of a better term, legislate behavior in a way that’s inconsistent with how a business operates. People don’t pay attention to that. Things like that where they lose practicality and it’s like, “What does that language even mean? Why is it even there? Why do we even need it? Having no contracts or having informal contracts is an amazing way where it offers you the ultimate flexibility. That’s something that our attorney friends don’t think about because they’re all about risk aversion and not about flexibility. With flexibility, it’s inherently that there’s inherent risk. The less flexibility you have, the less risk you have as well. That juxtaposition is always fascinating for businesses.  

You’ve talked about it a couple of times. You’ve given a couple of examples as you’ve gone through. One, with your first partnership with Joe. Certainly, we had it when we were talking about Tribe For Leaders, is this concept around renegotiation. You’ve seen that play out successfully in your partnerships over time. What are some of the things that our readers can adhere to in their policies and procedures as they build their relationships, whether they’re partnerships or relationships with customers and suppliers around the issue of renegotiating? 

When you go into a relationship with both parties knowing that it’s an ongoing dialogue, conversation, and relationship. You want the doors of communication to be open. They view it differently. It’s not just a business relationship. It’s also a personal relationship. I’m friends with the people that I do business with. I like doing business with them. I enjoy being around them. I go to their home for barbecues. Those are the kind of people I want in my life is with people I enjoy spending time with it. It is not this whole idea of, “It’s just business. I don’t believe that. If I pick up my cell phone and I see somebody calling me that if my heart does“That number.” If I’m getting that, that’s a sign something is wrong. I want to be excited to see whoever is calling me. Whoever has my number, I want to be looking for like, It’s John or it’s Joe.” When Joe Polish calls me, I’m like, “Cool, it’s Joe. I don’t get that feeling of like, Shit, it’s Joe. 

I want the relationships to be that way. I don’t want to sound like I’m a negotiation expert because I’ve never looked at my son. As a matter of fact, when you reached out to me to do this anyway, I was like, “That’s cool. I never looked at it that way, but it’s that I care about people. That’s what it is. I think so much in business is missing that piece of it. That we work with clients that we don’t love, that we don’t care about, that it’s just businessand I’m just doing my jobAccountants are a good example. How many clients do they do business for that it’s just doing the job? I would much rather have my work be an enjoyable experience, would be surrounded by people that I like being aroundthat I look forward to having conversations with. If there’s a way that I can help this person, I am all in. It’s way more rewarding that way. When we are happier, when we get to show up and be us, complete with all of our faults as well with our gifts and our abilities, it’s way more rewarding that way. It’s way more enjoyable. It’s fun and it could be profitable. We can have it all. 

So much of business is missing the care part. Click To Tweet 

I tell people to stop doing business with bullies. I was like, “Walk away because there are plenty of businesses and there are plenty of nice people in the world to do business with. You do not need to do business with a bully.” If somebody is a bully in the negotiation early on, they’re going to be an even bigger bully once they’ve done a deal with you. If that’s how they’re going to behave at the beginning, turn around and walk out that door because no is the best answer and the most profitable answer you’re going to be able to give in that situation.  

In conversations with people who are running large companies, they talk about fiduciary responsibility. In a bigger company, they don’t have the luxury of picking who they do business with because they have this fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. Their shareholders are often a lot more than who they are or people in their close circle. Have you done business very often with larger companies? Do you feel that the same approach applies when you’re a small business trying to do business with a big corporation? Does the approach that you take work more or more easily when you’re working small business to small business?  

I don’t have any experience working with corporations. It’s always been the smaller business. The businesses doing $1 million to $15 million, maybe $20 millionWhat I’ve been told because now I know people who have been in corporate and it’s a whole different ball game, for sure, from what they’ve told. Versus entrepreneurial small businesses are nimbler. They can turn quicker. They can make decisions quicker. That’s been my experience. I’ve heard that working with corporations is a whole different ball game, for sure.  

I have this client that I closed this deal with that small retailer. They’re about one and a couple million in revenue. Let’s call it a couple of million. They have a $12 billion market cap landlord. It’s like trying to get them to do a deal was very challenging because they have no invested interest in a company of my client-sideThe reason why I asked you that question is because I see a lot of small businesses always wanting to play at the mega-corporate. They want that marquee account. They want that vendor that everybody has because it’s the best vendor, the best distributor. Just because it’s the best customer for somebody else or it’s big doesn’t mean it’s the best customer for you, or that it’s the best supplier for you as a small business.  

It strikes me that the way that you do business does lend itself very easily with smaller businesses. When you start going into that corporate world, things do change because they do have a switch where that fiduciary aspect becomes more prevalent than the personal aspect. They’re making decisions on behalf of their shareholders, not necessarily who they like, but making that more of a monetary decision. They can do both. It’s that the fiduciary aspect tends to trump the other part. I also tell people don’t do business with companies that are significantly larger than you. Do business with a company that’s maybe a couple of levels above where you’re at. You’re then more likely to be able to have this relationship that you’re talking about, that the ability where you can grow together where there’s more of a personal investment and you have a personal relationship. You’re building that personal relationship to help each other grow both as individuals, but as well as growing as companies.  

That’s something that I wanted to raise because I thought it was an important topic to bring upI know that there will be certain people who are reading, going, I need that logo on my website.” What you and I are both saying is that it’s not that logo that’s going to build your success. It’s not that logo that’s going to get you where you’re trying to go. It’s those relationships that you’ve negotiated and the word that you have. You’re staying to that word with those relationships. That’s going to get you farther than having a big marquee logo on your website.  

That’s so interesting because we had a conversation with somebody and they were telling us, “I was trying to research you guys and Tribe For LeadersI can hardly find anything out there on you. I even commented to them, I said, That’s intentional because this is something that we mass market. It’s a small community and we’re intentional about who we invite in. We’re not going to build a big marketing funnel, marketing campaign, branding, and all that. I have no intention to do that. I have no desire to do thatYou’ve seen this a lot, especially with people who are getting published. All these publications that you’ll see their website with all that Huffington Post or Forbes or as seen in all these places.  

This person or this company, they’ve been around. They’ve been featured in these places. Maybe that can create a certain feeling. I think giving people an experience, giving your clients an experience, and letting them talk on their own. A lot of companies want to get response and they’ll ask for referrals. They’ll say, “If you refer us, we’ll give you whatever. We’ll give you, financially compensate.” That’s not what motivates people to refer. People refer because of the experience they’re having. Patty referred you because she had such a great experience and she was like, Christine, you’ve got to come to check this out. You got to talk with Kevin and Jules.” 

When people in Tribe for Leaders refer somebody else, it’s because they’re having a great experience. They also know that each time a new right fit member joins the community, the value of being a member exponentially increases for everybody. It’s in the member’s best interest to not only refer but to refer the right people. It’s more of a nomination. It’s what it’s like. It’s not a referral. They’re like telling their friends, “You got to check this out. This is something that you would get value from and you would benefit from. I’d rather focus on creating that experience and getting people talking about me, not having some big logo plastered on my website or wherever.  

Informal Contracts: When we get to just show up and just be us, complete with all of our faults, our gifts, and our abilities, it’s way more rewarding.


How do people find you, Kevin?  

We do have a websiteI’m always hesitant to give it out, but it’s at TribeForLeaders.com. I’ll preface that with who this is for. It’s for established entrepreneurs, either running milliondollar businesses or morewho on the other side of the coin are giving, generous, leading with a helping hand, people of integrity. If you’re about contribution firsthelping firstleading with a helping hand, all of that, then, by all means, go there and check it out. We’re not looking for tons of new members. We’re looking for those few right fit members. Like I said, I’m always hesitant to do some pitch for Tribe For Leaders because I don’t want to get a bunch of people calling and scheduling calls that are like, I want to get.” It’s like, I want to give.” Those are the right people.  

I have not nominated because I like that word a lot. Not very many people because I’m very careful as I look across who’s in the group already, who would be a good fit, all of the things that you just talked about. That’s an amazing thing because all of the members of Tribe For Leaders have that same mentality. We’re negotiating in our own heads who do we think would add the most value and make the group that much more amazing because it’s already phenomenal. I see that happening with all of us as we look to make the group unbelievable. It is an allboatsrises team of people who are invested in each other’s success. It’s an honor to be part of that group.  

Kevin, it has been an absolute honor having you. Like I said when we started, I have admired your non-formalized contract approach to negotiation and the business that you’ve built, and the success that you’ve created for yourself as well as others in your community and your sphere of influence. Your openness to renegotiating and having that as part of your strategy impressed me. I know that a lot of small businesses don’t use formalized contracts as they do reach out to business. Some have done that with varying levels of success. I felt that having your message and the success that you’ve been able to build using that as a strategy is something that a lot of small business owners could benefit from hearing. I appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule to be here. I’m honored to be part of Tribe For Leaders and to be part of a team of people getting to work with you. Thank you very much for having me be part of Tribe For Leaders. Thank you for being a guest on the show.  

It was my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, Christine. I enjoyed it.  

Thank you. Next time, we will see you guys all on the show. We’re excited. We’ve got a lot of more great episodes coming up around the corner. See you guys soon. Cheers.  

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About Kevin Thompson

IVZ 2 Kevin Thompson | Informal ContractsKevin Thompson creates positive change on a global scale by facilitating connections between increasingly influential people. He’s been the trusted connector for high-level entrepreneurs for over a decade and the introductions he’s made have been worth millions.

Because he’s close friends with so many influential entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals, he’s able to cut through all the red tape, eliminate rejection, and guarantee you a red carpet reception for your ideas or proposals.

Whether you’re looking for trusted connections that will allow you to take advantage of your biggest opportunities or solve your biggest business challenges, Kevin’s your “go-to” guy.

When you have a guy like Kevin in your corner, you’re only 1-2 degrees away from anyone you’d possibly want to meet or do business with.

2 Responses

  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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