Not every partnerships professional enters the field with a splash, but that was definitely the case for Andrés Zablah. In his first industry role, he created a partnerships program for Hey Banco—a digital banking platform offered by Mexican regional banking leader BanRegio. After spending a few years there honing his skills, he converted his expertise into an exciting partnerships role with a hot new startup looking to take the music and entertainment world by storm. 

It’s a great success story, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy journey along the way. Andrés faced significant challenges over the years, ranging from trouble getting buy-in from other departments to difficulties understanding the role of timing in partnerships. Above all else, like so many people who find themselves in partnerships roles, he was never given the playbook he needed to navigate the duties and opportunities that come with the territory.

The choice was simple: either figure it out, or go down in flames along the way. 

Fortunately, Andrés isn’t the type who's satisfied with life on the sidelines. He took matters into his own hands and enrolled in Firneo’s Certified Partner Professional program, where he filled in the gaps and picked up the skills he needed to throw his career into overdrive. 

How Andrés Got Started In Partnerships

As so often happens in the industry, Andrés did not intend to go into partnerships as a career. In fact, he started out as an entrepreneur, and after closing a product deal with BanRegio, they approached him about potentially joining the growth team for Hey Banco.

“When I started,” he recalled, “there were six people working on digital banking and we had about 3,000 accounts. In two and a half years, we reached more than a million accounts.” 

In his first role at the bank, Andrés was tasked with bringing Hey Banco into the physical world—a project which the COVID-19 pandemic halted, resulting in the dissolution of Andrés’ team. While he considered leaving, he was intrigued by a unique business development role: identifying and leveraging bespoke selling propositions for the bank’s product offerings.

“I said, ‘what if we offered perks after people sign up for an account? We could connect our lawyers and clients to offer quick access in case they need them, and so on with marketers and other professionals that could be of use to businesspeople.”

And a partnerships professional was born.

Over the next two and a half years, Andrés focused on developing the bank’s relationships with its key partners. One of his most important tasks was mapping and templatizing the processes for organizing and managing the ecosystem, including areas like partnerships and product, partnerships and customer success, partnerships and marketing, and partnerships and legal. 

These were critical processes to streamline, particularly for larger players like Amazon Music, Aliexpress, Enviaflores, Farmacias del Ahorro, Vivaaerobus, Gaia, Tim Hortons, Shopee, Shein, Liverpool, and Innovasport. Each deal was made directly with the individual brands, and exclusive for their clients. From these deals, BanRegio generated over 3.8 million pesos in sales in the course of 5.5 months 

Then, out of the blue, he got a call from a friend who had established a social media start-up called Enumma and was looking to hire someone who fit his profile. At that point, Andrés realized the truth that would change his career: he was destined for partnerships and it was time to take his game to the next level. 

The Challenges

While Andrés was successful in handling partnerships for Hey Banco, he still knew there was room for improvement. Some of the biggest obstacles he dealt with in his first partnerships role included:

A Lack of Direction

Since he created his former employer’s partnerships program from scratch, he knew how partnerships principles could be applied in that particular instance, but he didn’t understand them in general terms he could deploy anywhere—a situation that is all too familiar for countless partnerships pros.

Communication Problems

According to Andrés, BanRegio was a fast-paced environment where strategies and priorities were constantly in flux. Because of that, he had trouble starting essential conversations with his coworkers and getting buy-in from other departments.

Timing Issues

Another element of the partnerships field Andrés struggled with was timing. 

“In order for a partnership to work, there needs to be a lot of things happening that align—and that means getting all the gears to turn at the right speed. Something may be necessary or even urgent for you, but your partner may feel totally different at the moment. If your values aren’t relevant to them when you need them to be, you have to find a way to bridge that gap.”

Hiring a New Team

When he was nearing the end of his tenure with BanRegio, Andrés was faced with the problem of hiring an entirely new partnerships team. During COVID, his original team had been eliminated, and he had never had to assemble and organize new roles and responsibilities from scratch. The learning curve would be steep. 

What Andrés Learned From Firneo

Andrés first heard of Firneo while listening to The Partnered Podcast, hosted by Adam Michalski.

“I was looking to deepen my partnerships understanding, and I serendipitously stumbled across  [Firneo CEO] Scott Pollack’s episode. The second it was over I ran home, got online, and looked up Firneo’s website.”

After completing Firneo’s Certified Partnerships Professional program, Andrés finally felt like he had a solid handle on the industry he had worked in for the past several years.

“If I were at BanRegio right now, I would be killing it. There are a lot of things that I would be able to do faster than before, and I’d have an easier time getting people to understand how growth within a partnership mindset can make a huge difference for businesses over the long term,” he said.

Finally, Firneo gave Andrés a solid foundation for setting up the new partnerships team at BanRegio. Their expertise delivered the knowledge about critical roles and team management dynamics he needed to get the department up and running quickly and efficiently. 

The Results

Today, Enumma is building towards their product launch, and Andrés is already cultivating the partnerships ecosystem they’re going to need when they’re ready to go live. The lessons he has learned from Firneo and the community it’s put him in touch with are already helping him excel in this role, and given him key insights into the role timing plays in building successful partnerships.

“I was starting to build a really interesting relationship with a major company that’s going to be vital to Enumma, but I realized something I wouldn’t have a few years back: our values aligned, but the timing wasn’t quite right. I was able to pull back the right way and slow the burning fuse to make sure we were all ready when it was time for the fireworks.”

Getting buy-in was another issue Andrés faced in his first partnerships role, and he has a much more confident grip on this foundational layer of the profession.  

Get the World’s Best Partnerships Playbook

According to Andrés, Firneo stands out from other partnerships courses for one crucial reason: it delivers everything an up-and-coming partnerships professional could want in a single package. This program excels in terms of its:

  • Content. Firneo’s courses aren’t just packed with information—they give participants a chance to go back and review recordings of their sessions.
  • Guest speakers. During Firneo’s classes, partnerships professionals discuss their real-life struggles and give students the tools they need to overcome similar challenges.
  • Tried-and-true expertise. Scott Pollack leads each Firneo cohort, drawing on two decades of partnerships experience on the biggest stages with the biggest players.
  • Community. Andrés noted that he still catches up with half a dozen of his fellow program participants two or three times each week.
  • Value. While Firneo offers the most thorough training program in the partnerships industry, that level of quality doesn’t come at an equally high cost.
  • Speed. You’ll use the knowledge you gain from Firneo for the rest of your career, but the program itself takes just eight weeks to complete.

Would you like to enjoy all these benefits and more as you take your first steps into the partnerships world? If so, sign up for our Certified Partnerships Professional program today!

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