The Art and Science of Profitable Joint Ventures Interview with JVology Founder, Jay Fiset

Jay Fiset is a best selling author, student of human nature, avid outdoorsman at 5-star hotels, speaks fluent smart ass, can see and reflect your life mission in 5 minutes flat, loves having 2 sons so he can play with their toys, still fantasizes about his wife after 25 years, loves ideas, but loves results, even more, can simultaneously laugh and cry for different reasons at the same time, has never been star struck (but did not get a chance to meet Martin Luther King, and there would have been teenage girl screaming if I had). JVology

Jay says, “I am dedicated to instigating a global movement of Conscious Creators and supporting people to organize their life and resources around their passions and gifts.”

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Read the Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where we create synergy with the common vision. Today, creating synergy is really a power play. It’s the way of life. It is the way to promote the organization that you lead. We’re leading a business, and it’s hard because it’s what we call a nonprofit, which isn’t a good word. It’s a business that creates revenue that provides better life for the people whom we serve.

My guest today is the founder of JVology, Jay Fiset, who is in Canada. I am going to throw it to Jay. Jay, tell people who is Jay Fiset, and why do you do what you do?

Jay Fiset: Grand questions. First and foremost, thank you, Hugh, for having me here. I deeply appreciate it. Who is Jay Fiset? We’ll start at the beginning. I’m a Saskatchewan farm kid who was always fascinated by entrepreneurship and relationships. I bought my first bicycle from entrepreneurial ventures, my first car. Did all those things in partnership with my childhood best friend Fritz. He and I are still best friends 54 years later.

But my entrepreneurial ventures took me into the world of personal development and transformation. I’m still there, but in terms of the core business, I spent 27 years there and had 40,000 people come through our doors doing these deep transformational processes. I’m excited we get to talk about beliefs on this show. Not everybody asks that level of question, which is fantastic. We help people align their beliefs to their passion, their vision, and their unique contribution to the world.

Then I got seduced by the idea that I would become a digital marketer, not work quite as hard. I took an adventure to that process, which was an epic leap into failure. There is no way to say it better than that. I spent three years mucking around, spending every red cent I had on planet Earth to figure it out. One thing you should know about me is I am persistent like a bulldog. If I am failing, I have to figure out how to do it. I ended up hitting a home run with a program and a brand called Mastermind to Millions, which is about helping coaches, authors, experts, and entrepreneurs position, launch, and lead their own mastermind groups. People kept asking, “How did you do that?” The answer was always joint ventures, collaborations, win-win strategic partnerships.

“Can you teach me?” That gave birth to the brand of JVology, the perfect mix of people, fun, and profit. That is a play on the word “mixology.” If you get the ingredients just right, it’s quite fantastic. Same is true of joint ventures. If you get the mix exactly right, it’s perfect. The perfect mix of people, fun, and profit.

I am married to my high school sweetheart. We are 35 years in, and I have never been more in love. We’ve never had more fun. I have two boys, one who is 15 and a teenager, and one who is 10 and still mainly cute. I anticipate that will be gone in about three years.

Hugh: That was a lot of good stuff. What’s this thing about cars? You have a passion for cars.

Jay: there is something about me, Hugh, that just loves taking rusty, old pieces of you-know-what and bringing them back to life. I have a 1970 240Z. That was the car that started the Japanese sports car invasion. I’ve had it for 22 years. It’s just finishing its second restoration; I pick it up tomorrow. Tomorrow has been tomorrow for about 12 days. Tomorrow is really tomorrow. Honest to goodness, I am about to take my pillow and sleep beside it to make sure that actually happens. There is some degree of satisfaction in taking care of something that is old, unique, and unusual. For my 50th birthday, I went to Germany and bought my first brand-new Porsche. I wanted something that has a heated seat, that doesn’t squeak and rattle. That is a pretty spectacular car, but it’s not the same as the old stuff.

Hugh: Take advantage of something that’s old and valuable. What was the other piece?

Jay: I was just babbling.

Hugh: That’s probably what my wife says about me. People may be watching this sometime in the future, but we are talking about a year and a month into the famous pandemic in 2021. Some people have decided not to participate in the downsizing of business and the feeling sorry for themselves and decided to move forward. Some people have really expanded their influence. We are in this little box called Zoom a lot. The difference that people make in this box. At SynerVision, what we do is help people take their boards and teams from looking like this to this. It was a horse stall looking at the wrong end to an orchestra. It’s not a blue sky either; it’s substantive, coming together of values and principles and outcomes. I’ve heard you speak a number of times now. I just heard about you in the last year or so from Kathleen Panning, who has been on the show, and David Gruder, who has also been on the show before.

Jay: Both amazing people.

Hugh: They are alliance partners, and we do stuff together. They really said lots of very valuable things about you and your programs. I have experienced some of your trainings. What’s obvious to me is you care about the individual, the success of the individual. You offer multiple opportunities for people to be able to grasp concepts and find a support system, which you teach. Where do you start? I want to point out here that we teach the “nonprofit,” a tax-exempt organization we call a nonprofit, a non-governmental organization, for-purpose business. We must generate revenue. We don’t put it in the pockets of stockholders. We turn it into value for humankind. We embrace all these business principles that you’re talking about. There is a lot of commonness, one of which we provide value for people which creates revenue, the essential principle. Thinking about working together and looking for joint ventures, why don’t you start by talking about what a joint venture is? Why is it important for nonprofit leaders and maybe even clergy?

Jay: I think it’s important for everyone. This may sound a little bit silly, but if you have a heart, a pulse, and a desire to contribute, then a joint venture is something that should be considered, learned more about. Most of us have been doing joint ventures in some way, shape, or form since the beginning of time. We just want to articulate it and bring it to more conscious design and delivery.

There’s a FedEx man at the door, my dog going crazy.

Hugh: Just to prove that it’s all live.

Jay: Hurricane Lou, a Hungarian Vizsla who is mainly adorable and sometimes crazy, just like the rest of the family.

Back to this idea of joint ventures. Whenever two people or organizations come together to share their network, wisdom, experiences, resources in a manner that is designed and intended to create synergy, this is your 1+1 could be 11, for the value and benefit of our clients or parishioners or members or clients in terms of an NGO. That’s really the core of it. I like to think of joint ventures as this incredibly broad umbrella that includes things like strategic partnerships. In the business world, that would be where I have a ton of my content embedded in other people’s programs.

For example, let’s use Thinkific. Thinkific is a digital platform that hosts courses, intellectual property, all those sorts of things. They help people get their course up and running. As soon as someone publishes their course, they have a whole different problem. Who is going to buy it? How are people going to find out about it? How do we get eyeballs to see it? How do we incent people to want it or consider wanting it? For that process, they come to us. JVology helps drive traffic, helps drive eyeballs, puts people in front of the right message at the right time for the right reason. They say, “Could we have some of your content that we embed for our premium clients so that they understand right out of the gate that if they were to utilize this process, they could actually end up with more clients, more viewers, more contribution of value right out of the gate?” Embedded content would be one example.

Other strategic partnerships are as simple as this. I know I have people on my list who are interested in nonprofits, NGOs, purpose-driven businesses. It would be easy for me to share SynerVision with them because I know it’s interesting to them. “Hey, my friend Hugh does this work. It’s not exactly my wheelhouse. I’m familiar with it. I know how to talk about it. I participate in some degree. But he is the expert, not me. If you’re looking for that, you should talk to him.” That is a simple joint venture. We may or may not have a financial arrangement around that. It could be something we do as mutual support. I could get paid if you convert someone into a client. I could do it simply as a desire to support an organization or to build what we’ll call sometimes relationship equity or reciprocity. That was a lot of words.

But in short, coming together to share resources and come up with something that will serve and support our clients and community better. We get to put our hands on and come together as smart, contributing, caring people to figure out what the best route is.

Hugh: We have never had anyone talk about this topic in seven and a half years, so it’s quite fascinating. You talked about in the same space as Covey. The definition of synergy is the total is greater than the sum of the parts. You can take 1 and 1 and make 11 or whatever multiplication is that dynamic. Collaboration, consultation, cooperation. Berny Dohrmann used to talk about cooperative capitalism, how we can do more together. We live for that at SynerVision. We live for how can we create a better world working together? It’s really the space of philanthropy. It’s the love of humankind. What do we do for people? You spoke of your bride of 35 years. You didn’t say, “Hey, let’s get married” the first time you saw her. You may have thought that.

Jay: I have to tell you this for the context of the story. We have been together for 35 years. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I always tease people that we rushed the altar after a decade. We were in a hurry.

Hugh: That’s your due diligence. You knew each other. You were absolutely sure. I do see people get into relationships without having this relationship-building time. It really doesn’t work out. Underneath this project we’re doing of joint ventures, collaborative work, there is a relationship building, a trust that comes from that. Talk about due diligence. In that process, how do we define expectations along with that?

Jay: Wow, that is a big conversation. I am going to frame something because you were talking about Berny, and I have been on Berny’s stages, and Berny’s been on our stages. Terrible that we lost him this year. Smart man.

The core thing for us is there is a core belief that says we are better together. One of the things we continue to do is do our very best—There is no nice way of saying this—to put to death this old idea of self-made man, lone cowboy entrepreneur, lone wolf, I’ll do it on my own. As much as that profile is celebrated, and I think it’s a little bit different in your world in terms of the NGOs, there is less of, “I am going to reinvent the world on my own,” and there is more, “How do we come together and do this?”

Hugh: Don’t count on it.

Jay: Okay. I am going to leave that alone. I did have a smart aleck comment about how I thought the savior was already here, and I thought we were supposed to do something else. But I’ll just leave that be. I can’t stop myself. If something is funny to me, even if it’s not funny to anyone else, I can’t not say it.

Going back to this. We are doing our best to in everything we do challenge that idea. Look, we are not designed to be islands. We can’t deliver all of what our clients, tribes, communities need on our own. We use the example of relationships. My dear wife and I, we can’t provide everything that the other person needs in their life and world physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We require community. We require friends. We require family. We require children. We require hobbies.

Everything we do flies in the face of “I can do it on my own” and tries to get people to say, “If we are better together, how? What are my unique gifts and abilities that you may not have? What are your unique gifts and abilities that I certainly don’t have?” The truth of the matter is most of us as people, there is a lot of talk of trying to be well-rounded. If you could just be well-rounded and balanced, then everything is going to be okay. Honestly, I believe that that is the biggest crock of BS on planet Earth. It’s not true. Most of us are really pointy. We’re not well-rounded. We’re good, maybe great at one or two things. The rest, meh. This myth of well-rounded gets in our way. What if we just embraced our pointyness? I’m good at one or two things. That’s it. The rest of it, I need help for. I need a team. I need community. I need support. I need other people’s wisdom.

Let me go back to my point. If we’re better together, how? Our community spends a lot of time trying to figure out how. What’s your unique, pointy gift? Is that something that I could support? Is that something I need? Is that something I know somebody else needs? How do we get those pieces working together? That becomes trial and error. We call it joint venture dating. It’s not so different than dating dating. Let’s do a project and see if at the end of it we would like to do another one, which isn’t any different than going to dinner and saying, “I can’t wait for the next one” or “Let me out of here as fast as I can.”

That was a lot of words, but the belief, then the how, then the experimenting and dating process to see how it’s going to work. It doesn’t always work. I tease people, “Be prepared to kiss some frogs.” It’s going to occur. We’re trying to figure all these things out. You didn’t get your first dating thing right. You’re not likely to get your first JV thing right either. We will learn from it and evolve and get better.

Hugh: Absolutely. We don’t venture out because sometimes we have this perfection paralysis. We have to start somewhere, but with a reasonable process like you’ve just outlined. I am registered for your upcoming event that you have periodically. I’ve heard all about it, and now I’m going to experience it. I’ve seen the short sessions, but I’m looking forward to learning. I am 75 this year, and I never stop learning new stuff. You never stop until they put you in a box.

Jay: I admire that.

Hugh: Thank you. I studied with the best conductors in the world, most of whom were in their 70s and 80s, and most of whom knew they didn’t know everything and were working really hard. That was an inspiration to me. Bob Proctor, I had to follow him on stage one day when he was 77 a few years ago. He said, “People say, ‘You’re 77. When are you going to slow down?’ ‘I’m 77. I gotta speed up. I have more to learn, more to do.’” I do admire that. There is a lot of wisdom when you’ve made a lot of mistakes and have learned from them.

We have this period of getting acquainted, finding out about each other, understanding values. We also teach guiding principles. How do you apply those values to decision-making? I used to do a lot more than I do now, but I used to do a lot of conflict work with teams. The leader set up a problem by not defining expectations. If we work together, what does it look like? Then you have something to evaluate. Then there is the exit police. If it doesn’t work, fine, we’ll do something different. Talk about if they don’t work out, we make it worse by not getting together and talking about what we expect to happen. What is my role and your role? Do you have any thoughts about that?

Jay: If we just use this phrase “joint ventures,” if we talk about them in the legal or real estate worlds, it’s often starting a new corporation. There is this legal structure, which is one possibility, but it holds a bunch more obligations or requirements, expectations in those circumstances that are well set-out because it’s a legal document that we all sign, so we all know what’s going on. Oftentimes in what I’m going to call a more loosely held or relationship-driven JV, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding, unmet expectations.

I am going to give a simple, silly example. Somebody was working on a summit, where you pull a bunch of people together who talk about a particular piece. Think of it like a university class on speed aggregated together. Everyone promotes this piece. If I had particular wisdom on the topic of joint ventures, and you had particular wisdom on the topic of community-building, we would have a different view, but it would be aligned to the topic. Everyone promotes. My people will be interested in your message. Your people will be interested in my message. It’s going to be a win-win.

But sometimes what happens is people say they will do it, but they won’t promote. They just want to show up and take. “I’ll be there for the spotlight, but the background work, I got a little too busy. I stubbed my toe. Mercury was in Gatorade. Something transpired.” In those circumstances, I often hear, “So-and-so didn’t deliver on what they said they were going to do.” First and foremost, if that transpires, I always believe that the onus of the communication and agreement is on the person who is asking for the communication and agreement. If I did that, and they didn’t follow through, my default position is it’s not them, it was me. How do I clarify my intent? How do I clarify the expectations? How do I make certain that is clear? How do I have a conversation with somebody who didn’t fulfill those obligations if I want to by the way? To me, that just makes good sense to make sure we are clear about why this isn’t going to happen again, how it can be made right if that needs to be made right in some way, shape, or form.

But without a doubt, I think one of the biggest downfalls of JVs is in this friendly win-win place, people aren’t specific enough about, “This is what it takes, and this is what your requirements are. If you don’t do this, you don’t get the spotlight. This is how this works.” It’s a natural part of learning. We want to hope the best about people. Hoping the best about people and not communicating clearly about what their requirements are is a fiasco on wheels. It’s a mess waiting to happen just looking for a location. We do our very best to say, “Lets experiment. Let’s try something that won’t break the bank or bet the farm, and let’s see how this goes.” This is the measure. I don’t expect things to go right. Not in any way.

But what I do deeply expect is when they do go awry, you and I can have a conversation about what happened and how to fix it. Do I need to clean something up? Do you? If I do, I best get busy at it. If you do, you best get busy at it. In that circumstance, I am good all day long. To me, that is just one of those pieces. People declare themselves not when things are going great. People declare themselves when things go sideways. I always look for that process. When things are sideways, who are you being? How are you going to show up? What’s going to transpire here? I manage my expectations. I don’t have huge expectations. I communicate as clearly as I possibly can. If things go awry, who is somebody being in that process? That tells me if I want to play with them again.

Hugh: Absolutely. You triggered a quote by James Allen in his book As a Man Thinketh, “Circumstances don’t make a person.” I’m moving it to neutral. “They reveal things about themselves and others.” We tend to be blind about our own thoughts. We deal with entrepreneurs. People ask me, “Do all of you entrepreneurs suffer from insanity?” I say, “Heck no, we enjoy it.”

Jay: That’s a good answer. I’ve not heard that.

Hugh: There is some built-in liabilities and benefits. We’re brilliant. We have great ideas. But the Ballou 10/90 principle, different than the Pareto principle which is always true, is your gift, your product, your service, your secret power is 10% of your enterprise, no matter for-profit or nonprofit. 90% is all the systems and skills that make it happen. That’s the infrastructure. When I was music director of this 12,000-member church, I had hundreds of people in programs and on TV. 10% of my job as music director was music. 90% was all the infrastructure that allowed that to happen.

As entrepreneurs, we get this magical idea. Nonprofit leaders think, “People are going to give to us because we’re a nonprofit.” Guess what? There are a lot of other worthy causes. We have to have a really clear value proposition for people to understand. In the for-profit world, it’s pretty much the same. We think it’s magic, and we can go fly a plane and forget about the lesson stuff because that’s boring.

Jay: Have you met my boys? They decided I should be an NHL hockey player. What’s the problem? How does this work?

Hugh: I did decide at 18 I would be a conductor and got a church choir job never having been in a choir. But I had studied music for 11 years. I knew how music works. I could play the piano. I had the fundamentals correctly. I started the 40-year career and had to learn on the way. Nobody died. There was a system I fit into which helped me learn. If we’re starting something new, there is some due diligence.

What I’m understanding from the programs in which I’ve been able to participate of yours so far is a lot of things that we can learn in this JV process that would help us build our own capacity for growing our enterprise. There is the magic of connecting with others with a lot of work to make it happen. There is also a self-awareness piece. Talk about the personal awareness piece of being able to pull off some of the stuff that you teach.

Jay: There is an awful lot there to be frank. Another one of our core beliefs is something that we fervently—I guess with this audience I can say it—preach this idea of a joint venture is a game of I’ll go first. To be clear, I borrowed this phrase from Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott, who wrote a book eons ago If Love is a Game, These Are the Rules. What it really boils down to is this: We live in a world and particularly in entrepreneurship with the idea of, “What’s the least amount of inputs I can give to get the greatest amount of outputs?” It’s that whole idea of, “How do we maximize profitability? How do we hack a system?” That least amount in for the most out is a model that I abhor. I believe it’s ungrounded. I think it often comes from a place of scarcity. The other side of scarcity is greed. That doesn’t genuinely work in the long haul in relationships, in business, in the world, in economics, in the environment.

This idea of “A joint venture is a game of I’ll go first” boils down to this idea of I must be willing to give, to become relevant, to move the needle, to do something of significance for you, for your community, for your family so that I can break through the noise of the entertainment that goes on in our world right now. In breaking through that noise, I can actually do something and be someone and create something that you care about, that moves the needle for you, not for me. At this stage of the game, that is not what we’re up to. What moves the needle for you?

We really started doing this in earnest in 2017, so we’re four years in. We’ve found that anyone can do that for a while. But what actually occurs is that if it is this giving with hooks, if it is trying to strategically position for some proposed or hopeful gain in the future, that giving can never be sustained. What I’ve come to believe is that “I’ll go first” is unsustainable when people still are carrying forward a scarcity grounding, meaning there is not enough in the world, I have to fight to get what’s mine, that client is mine, those resources are mine, I have to protect what’s mine, I have to make sure no one else will get it, I have to make sure no one will steal my client. It’s a fear-based scarcity. Giving is unsustainable from that perspective.

We try to serve and support people to begin to align with the truth of there is an abundance of everything: time, love, money, energy, support, connections, spirituality. There is an abundance of everything—please hear this—if our cup is big enough. The truth of the matter is that most of us spend most of our lives running around with a thimble complaining that there isn’t enough water when there is water everywhere. Our thimble is too damn small. We try to shift people to this idea of abundance. Quite literally, when we’re living in the space of a joint venture is a game of I’ll go first, we try to have them shift their beliefs around as they’re giving. You send a message to whatever your beliefs happen to be of “Thank you, I have more than enough.” It also reinforces this idea that if I have it to give, I create it, and I can of course go and create more, and an abundance thereof. That as a grounding point determines how people are in our community.

I’ll be frank with you. If you don’t have an abundance grounding, you won’t stay in our community. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel right. I occasionally get people who say, “That didn’t work for me.” It’s like breathing oxygen. It works for everybody. But it doesn’t work if you have scarcity beliefs and that scarcity grounding in which case, “I wish you the best. Your spot ain’t here.”

Hugh: That’s so true. *Sponsored by Wordsprint* A sponsorship is a type of joint venture.

Jay: Yes, it is.

Hugh: Jay, I have been off script so far throwing you some big questions. You’ve been gracious. Let me take a couple of the pre-written questions. You’ve spoken around this a little bit, but let’s hone in more specifically. What are some of the required benefits you must align your life and business with to succeed at joint ventures? Align your life and business. What a concept.

Jay: I got entertained on the last piece there. Just one more time, the front end of the question. What beliefs have to be aligned for that?

Hugh: Yeah. If it’s going to work, how do you align your beliefs in business and personally?

Jay: I’ll tell you something. This is more of a personal journey. This might be a little bit of a longer answer. I think it’s pertinent here because the personal development company that I ran for many years, I actually went to work for them at the ripe old age of 22 years old. I was the 18th employee of this nonprofit organization called The Personal Best Training Society of Alberta. As I’m sure people here have experienced, given your world, that organization like most others came to that spot where there was the board of directors and the staff, which started butting heads about how things should go and how things should be.

Through a long, weird turn of events which I will not bore you with the details, I end up owning the rights and assets to that organization and took it private. That gave birth to this idea of Personal Best Seminars. What was interesting about taking it private was that I never actually shifted the belief that the organization existed for the good of the clients and the members. I think this is an important distinction. I’d love your opinion on it. This is my process. You might have a different view.

Organizations like churches, NGOs, and others, exist for the benefit of the members, of the community that they serve, of their tribe. That’s why it exists. That’s why people contribute. That’s why people will work for less money than they would get in the private sector. That’s why sometimes people work for free. I did before I took the thing over. There is this idea that it is for them. Now I take that organization public and I never shifted the belief. I just kept working for it and working for them.

An interesting thing happened. I was about two and a half years in. How I bought it was I agreed to pay off a bunch of debt. I paid off the debt. I hired my first few employees. I was driving home one night at 11:30pm with my dear wife who wasn’t my wife yet. I cursed, just to be clear about this. We were driving across this bridge leaving downtown Calgary. I look at Cori and say, “Son of a you know what, those people don’t work for me. I work for them. They all went home at 6. They all have their check coming in the next four days. Here you and I are, yet one more time, going home at 11:30 at night because we had another day’s work to do after our day’s work was done.”

Now I don’t know how many entrepreneurs have figured this line out, but what struck me, and it just niggled at me, there is something fundamentally wrong with how I’m going about this process. Here is what I came to: My business exists first to serve me. And if I can actually design and execute and run that business in the manner that it actually serves me in alignment, and it works physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, then I can extend that so it works for my team and my tribe, then for my community and all of the people who choose to participate and play.

If at its core I have it reversed that it exists for my clients, and I’m the one who has to carry it or be burdened by it or fix it or finance the debt for it, that is an unsustainable and unfulfilling and out of alignment process. For me, I learned the really hard way that the core of that question is that I don’t need the business, the business doesn’t need me. I am going to design a business that is in alignment with my values, my beliefs, my contributions, what I think is my unique pointy gift to the world. It serves me first. If I can’t make that relationship work, none of the rest of it has a snowball’s chance in hell.

Hugh: People that don’t understand that concept would certainly argue with you, “Oh, we’re here to serve others.” It’s like we have flown an airplane far too many times. They tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help somebody else. We in our proprietary strategic planning process start with defining people’s life goals. How will this enterprise serve you? If somebody can misunderstand that to being selfish, we are setting this up to serve ourselves. People do that. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re no damn good as leaders. What you’re talking about is the principle defined by psychiatrist Murray Bowen, MD and his Bowen leadership principles. That is an overfunctioning. We do things that other people could do.

Here is a quick story in my fourth book that came out of the Methodist Publishing House.  I interviewed Cal Turner who became a dear friend. Cal said, “I went to my team at Dollar General.” It’s an American company. He said, “I inherited this job from my father who founded the company. I’m the boss, which is double SOB backwards.” He said this on my show. He said, “I’m the son of the boss. I have a vision, but you have the skills. We’re going to go public. I’m going to get out of your way.” This is an anthology of leadership stories. He enjoyed the interview so much he wrote his own book. What he said to me, “Hugh, leadership is about defining your gaps and finding good people to fill the gaps.” We miss this concept. People say over and over, “I have to be willing to do what I ask other people to do.” The operative word is “willing.” I very much agree with you.

Jay: It took me a long time to learn that distinction by the way.

Hugh: We lead. Other people do. We can do anything because we invented it, so we know how it works. It’s taking us away from the important work of leading and helping others grow their skills. We’re not doing anybody any favors by doing things for them. Like you just described, you probably didn’t have the skills to learn how to delegate like you do now.

I will point out that you’re on this interview today with a whole lot of stuff going on. You’re launching a new event. You have this great gift of when you’re with somebody, it’s like we’re the only person in the world. You have this precious gift of relating to people and elevating people in importance. That in itself is a very unique skill that empowers people to step up. You’ve also outlined an area where we step off the plank of overfunctioning. You probably look back and that situation was probably of your creation. We tend to blame other people.

Jay: We can remove “probably.” There is no probably about that.

Hugh: We fall in this trap often because we feel- I don’t know what we feel. But it’s a basic leadership principle of let’s define a vision, let’s get a group around us, let’s define roles and responsibilities. Let’s define the outcomes of what we want to see happen. That’s a brilliant story. Everybody could learn from that.

I’m going to ask one more question and then see if there are any audience questions if that’s okay with you. How does the key to your success lie with the keen understanding of your clients’ problems, your constituents, members, patrons, whomever you serve? How does that understanding impact your work?

Jay: This is a big question. There is an entire body of work in the weekend you’re going to come play with us, which I’m excited about, at JVology Live. I am going to back up a little bit from it to provide some context because it’s shocking to me how many aren’t as clear as you might think they should be in terms of what is the actual problem they solve. If they are clear on that, they aren’t as aware or clear about their client’s journey about how they came to have that problem.

For context, in the entrepreneurial space, I would wager that this metaphor by the way holds exactly true for the NGOs, for some of the parishes and congregations and leaders of the congregations, but it sounds a little bit like this. In the entrepreneurial world, people wander around with these blinders on [making gestures as if he is wearing horse blinders] who can only look in one direction, which is forward. Most entrepreneurs have the blinders on. Do you have the problem I solve? But you don’t know that you have the problem I solve. Do you have the problem that I solve? It’s this unbelievably narrow view trying to find someone who has the problem I can solve. If I can find them, can I establish a conversation with them? Can I have rapport with them? There are these other pieces.

I submit that that’s a ridiculous and silly way to go about entrepreneurship and building any sort of organization. Whatever it is the problem that I solve, I don’t need to look randomly hoping I’m going to find someone who has that problem. The key is we take two or three monumental steps back and do our very best to take the blinders off. If we can’t take them off, at least widen them to some degree so we can begin to look and understand our ideal client that shows up with the problem that we solve. We know we can deliver this value that will change their lives, alter the trajectory of what’s going on in their lives. We can do that for sure. The truth is our ideal clients often have an unbelievably similar path that creates that problem.

Here’s what we do at JVology in the simplest of forms: We say what every entrepreneur needs is 10 great upstream partners. An upstream partner is a partner that either causes the problem we solve or diagnoses the problem we solve or reveals the problem we solve to their clients who ideally then become ours. I wanted to be very clear about this.

I use the example of Thinkific earlier. Thinkific is a software platform that does a great job of hosting digital content. What happens is Thinkific, when they deliver their solution, which is someone has intellectual property they’d like to format and structure so they can sell it as a course, can do that like nobody’s business. They are really good at it. With every single solution, there is four to seven new problems that occur. When they do this little process of getting their digital course up and running, now they have a monthly payment to make sure that thing gets done. Now they need clients. Thinkific caused a problem, which is I pulled the intellectual property out of you and put this here. Now you need people to know about this. Now people have their stuff out there but don’t necessarily know how to sell it. I solve that problem. That’s what I do. Thinkific sends those folks to me, and I help them sell that content by getting them connected with other great JV partners who have similar upstream and downstream. This idea of problem solution becomes important in serving our clients better and making your organization, be that for-profit or nonprofit, way more effective.

These 10 upstream partners, they cause the problem that we solve, they send those clients to us because they know that they’re serving their clients better when they do so. If those clients pay us money, we send them what’s called a referral fee or affiliate fee or commission. Same thing holds true. Whenever I do our little process for having people be inspired by joint ventures, wait a second. Now I need a database. Now I need a CRM. Now I need a new website. Now I need to figure out how to do affiliate links. Now I’d like to host a summit. Now I want to do this or that. Those become our downstream partners. When we teach them what the possibility is for joint ventures, we cause a whole bunch of problems, which is technology, relationships, support, great partners, which we refer them to our downstream partners for those pieces that we don’t do.

That’s why if we just genuinely get clear on the problem you solve, like at JVology, we solve the problem of either not enough leads or too expensive leads or not qualified leads. We wipe all that away and get entrepreneurs and organizations a steady stream of perfectly qualified leads for free. It’s what every entrepreneur genuinely wants or needs whether they know it or not. A steady stream of perfectly qualified leads for free. It’s a good problem to solve.

Hugh: It is. It sounds like a more efficient use of resources than throwing money at marketing online, which you don’t know if it’s useful or not.

Jay: I could go on a long rant about that. Just to be clear about this, I am a fan of both and, as long as you can follow up that attribution. We are in the middle of testing a brand new campaign with a new piece of software that does perhaps the best attribution of online marketing attribution. Fingers crossed. I’ll tell you what. If everything was wiped out for me tomorrow, everything, I wouldn’t be running to spend money on digital marketing. I would be phoning the people I’ve built relationships with and saying, “Hey, could we do a joint venture?” Whatever disappeared, I would have back in 24 months.

Hugh: Love it. What will people find when they go to

Jay: They will find 150 other brilliant entrepreneurs and community leaders who are looking for upstream partners, downstream partners. They will find an inordinate amount of training on how to structure these deals, how to put the pieces together in a manner that is a win-win for everyone. They’re going to meet and learn how to do a great JV invitation. They will do that JV invitation between 100-150 times in those three days. They will meet a great community and get incredible training.

Here is how I say it. In anything that you’re learning, there’s what to do. You can figure out that in lots of places. There are lots of courses and programs and events where adults tell you what you should do. How do you do it? In those three days we hold your hand and literally show you how to do it. Here is a JV invitation. Someone said yes. This is what you do next. This is how you confirm it. This is how you manage expectations. This is what transpires. We do the what to do. We do the how to do it with you. The most important part, and this is where other places frankly can’t hold a candle to us, is the best part is we give you the who to do it with. Right there they’re ready to do deals and want a partner. You’ll leave with real partners just learning how to do the process.

Hugh: This is an area that nonprofits in America are pretty blind to. I have two people watching here who are certified fundraising executives, both retired. They are both team members for SynerVision. I asked them to comment on how JVs in the sponsorship sense but in other senses, too. Jeffrey, do you have a question or comment for Jay?

Jeffrey Fulgham: Jay, this is great stuff. Translates really well over to the nonprofit sector if people will look at it in the context of what they’re doing. One of the great joint ventures is at the checkout aisle where they ask if you want to support the food bank or the children’s hospital or any other thing. Those things are wildly successful.

Jay: Whomever came up with that was brilliant by the way.

Jeffrey: Tremendously brilliant. A lot of folks do it because it’s $1 or $2 or $5. It’s a way to make a little difference. You don’t even notice it if your grocery bill’s like ours. I didn’t even notice that. It was the cheapest thing I bought that day. I’m also involved as a board chair for a nonprofit in Michigan, which is the largest wildlife conservation organization in the state of Michigan. We partner with the universities, the state, the county, the cities, local Indian tribes. We do a whole bunch of these kinds of joint ventures to get conservation projects done. We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of these projects if we didn’t have these folks coming in either with money or expertise. Sometimes these are multiple organizations involved in a joint venture. It’s the reason we have been able to be successful.

I want to mention one quick thing. I loved what you said because I always tell people this. You don’t know who someone is until something goes wrong. That is when you find out the true character of someone. Tom Peters is famous for that quote, “The problem is never the problem. The response to the problem invariably ends up being the real problem.” Someone goes off the rails and ends up not doing what was supposed to happen. I thought that was great you brought that up. It’s a good point people need to pay attention to.

Jay: Hugh and I were teasing earlier about the 10-year run to the altar. Sometimes I’m asked to marry people. I actually won’t say yes to marrying somebody if they haven’t been together for five years. In five years, an entire cycle of life happens. The good, the bad, the ugly, the death, the passing, the failure, the win. You will know who somebody is in five years whether you want to or not.

Hugh: Absolutely. Thank you, Jeffrey. Bob Hopkins is on the line. Bob, do you have a question or comment?

Bob Hopkins: Thank you very much. I’m so glad to have tuned in today because you saved me $350 in psychiatric fees. You solved a major problem that I have had for the last 15-20 years. I had a nonprofit and a for-profit working together. I had to give up the for-profit entity, which broke my heart and my head. I had blamed myself over and over again. However, had I not done that, I would have not written this book. Then I would not have met Hugh Ballou. Things happen for a reason obviously. This thing I’ve been calling a failure certainly was not. It was a success all the way around. I just had to give up something I had dreamed about for a long time. What I gave up was the $5 million I was going to sell it for and didn’t get to do that because it happened in the 2008 time frame.

I’ve enjoyed listening to you. Another thing you said that I loved was that you can’t be a jack of all trades. You have to focus on one or two things and then surround yourself with the people who can do the rest. I appreciated that a lot.

Hugh: Thank you. Jay, if people go to, is there still time to get into the event?

Jay: The next event is April 20. There is time to get in there. We would love to have ya. There is a great video that describes what transpires. There are tons of testimonials if you’re wondering if this will work for you. That is the biggest question we get: Will this work for me? My response to that is: Do people either buy your product or contribute to your community? Yes? So this is an environment where relationships will help make that happen. It applies everywhere. Sometimes we have to think more about what the structure is, but I have yet to come up with a spot where it doesn’t work. There is lots of resources there. There is lots of examples of how people have used it.

Our view about this is just come check it out. You will know instantly if this is a fit for you or not. In those three days, you’ll leave with partners, deals, and results, or you will leave going, “This is not for me,” which virtually never happens. Come find out.

Hugh: It requires an open mind. The prerequisite is we are running a business that is tax-exempt and has a lot of rules. The topic we’re talking about today is a hidden topic for many nonprofit leaders. We don’t know how to put together this kind of collaboration. In the grand sense, it is a collaboration of time, talent, and everything else we have in resources. Jay, what thought or challenge do you want to leave people with today?

Jay: it is pretty simple for me. No matter where you are at in your life right this second, there are one, three, five key relationships that have been there, that have done that, that have access to the exact human beings and the communities that you need. It isn’t about working harder. It isn’t about working smarter. The pathway to joy, the perfect mix of people, fun, and profit, that pathway is through meaningful relationships that matter. I know I heard this when I was busy working hard. Yeah, I’ll get to that. I promise I will, but I have 72 hours of work to do today first.

My invitation to you is this: Ask yourself the question of, “Why am I making it harder than it actually needs to be? Why am I saying no to the support that exists right here right now? What is it inside of me that wants to still struggle and fight?” If you’re ready for ease, if you’re ready for joy, if you’re ready for leveraging your contribution instead of continuing to make things harder and struggle, come play with us. I genuinely believe that life was not meant or intended to be a struggle. That is a misunderstanding. It is a miscomprehension. It is a lack of consciousness that causes that. What I stand for is we can do all of this and a whole lot more if we could just align those two ideas.

Hugh: Jay Fiset, JVology. Thank you for your inspiration and wisdom today. I’m excited.

Jay: Thank you, Hugh. I appreciate you having me.

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