Sohail Khan has creatively used joint ventures to start and grow various businesses generating millions of dollars in sales and profits. In this interview he reveals how you can apply the same strategies to your business to skyrocket your success.
- To find out more about Sohail: Milliondollarpartnering.com
- To learn how to broker joint ventures: Brokeringbootcamp.com
- Sohail’s book: Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures: Million Dollar Partnering Strategies for Growing ANY Business in ANY Economy
- Or just Google “Sohail Khan JV”
Transcription of: How to Joint Venture
Today’s guest, he’s an international bestselling author, a massively successful entrepreneur, having built and sold numerous multi-million-dollar businesses, and around the industry, he’s known as an expert in how to joint venture.
He’s the founder of the Joint Venture Group. He’s had over 50 years of sales and business experience.
Before we dive into how to joint venture, I’d like to welcome Sohail Khan to the show.
Hi, Derek. Thank you for having me.
Absolutely. Thanks so much for being here. Now, before we get started on how to joint venture, can you just take a minute and expand on my introduction? More specifically, just give us an idea of your journey.
We were talking just briefly before we got started recording, and I mean, you live in 3 different countries. You’ve started and sold numerous businesses. Give us your story. How did you get started? How did you get to be this how to joint venture expert?
God, where do I start? Originally, I trained as an accountant, and it was something I did … Obviously, it was a family cultural thing. Everyone in my family wanted me to become a doctor, an attorney, an accountant, an astronaut, so I wanted to become an accountant.
But spending my time working at a top accounting firm, I realized that I was more of an entrepreneur rather than someone who’d be working for somebody else, and I really enjoy helping other people, especially when it came to things like IT and computers, so I left that job and I did a master’s in international business with IT.
Back then, ’96, ’97, it was the infancy of the internet, right? It was like nobody knew what this internet thing was, and I wrote thesis called “The Impact of the Internet on the Manufacturing Industry” because a lot of people were saying, “Oh, what is this new thing called the ‘internet?’ How is it going to impact the manufacturing industry?” I wrote this thesis, and then my professor posted it online.
Now, if you were around like we were back in the days of the internet, you know that there was no such things as internet search engines.
We had things like bulletin boards, so my professor posted it onto a bulletin board, and I started getting contacted by a lot of venture capital firms, dot-com companies, corporate companies asking me the question, “Sohail, what is this thing called the ‘internet?’ We’ve read your thesis. We’d like you to come and talk to us about how the internet, we can use it in our business.”
Straight out from that, I was consulting with some very, very big companies, venture capital firms. Actually, one of my first clients was a company called “QVC,” qvc.com. Before they set up the website, I was doing some consulting with them.
This was back in ’97, ’98, and Google was launched in 1998, so that was the infancy of the internet. I spent a lot of time as an internet marketing consultant back in those days working with some of these big companies.
As you know, back then, during the dot-com bubble, the dot-com boom, a lot of companies were spending money on marketing, so I was this young internet marketing consultant working with some big companies who were spending between $20,000 or $40,000 per marketing contract that we have with them, and it was a great time for us until 2000.
In the year 2000, we had the dot-com bubble burst. A lot of our clients closed their doors. A lot of them went out of business, and ourselves, we were caught in a bit of a situation because not only did we have the dot-com bubble burst, we lost a lot of our clients.
We also had Y2K then as well, and a lot of consultants like ourselves, computer consultants, were blamed for Y2K, so we had an issue. We lost a lot of business. Our consultancy, we couldn’t get any more clients because back then, the Y2K, we were blamed for that also.
Early 2000, what we did was we developed this website, and it was a website that we used to go and showcase to our clients, and all it was was computer training manuals, PDF manuals on a website connected to a shopping cart, and people would come into the website, and buy a PDF manual, and download it.
We were getting orders every day, so that site was ticking away, doing about $5,000 a month like clockwork. When we lost all our consulting clients, we decided to diversify, which is something that every business looks at in certain situations.
In early 2000, we decided to focus on this small little website we had, which was selling computer training manuals online as PDF manuals, which people would go online. They would find us on Google.
When Google was first launched, it was very easy to get ranked on number one because there weren’t many companies on Google, so people would find us on Google.
They would go to our website, and they would download these PDF manuals like clockwork, so it was really very much an early automated internet business that we had, and we decided early 2000 to focus on this business and grow it.
I think the thing that really started for me, especially when it came to how to joint venture, was I came across a book by actually one of my mentors now, a guy called “Jay Abraham,” and the book was “Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got.”
In the book, Jay spoke about how you could literally get other people to market and promote your products and services literally for free for no initial cost upfront and obviously, give them a commission if they made any sales. Figuring out how to joint venture became a priority.
But initially, upfront, if you didn’t have a budget in place or you were in a catch-22 where you couldn’t spend money to make money, you could figure out how to joint venture as a marketing avenue to get other companies to promote for you.
This is what really started it for me, and this is what really excited me, and I decided figure out how to joint venture, so what I did was … and like we are now, people complain about the economy, “Oh, no one is spending any money or it’s a downward trend econom.,”
But that’s sometimes the best opportunity for you to really make money because there’s more opportunities and people will work with you and collaborate with you.
My crack at learning how to joint venture in early 2000 was I approached an IT recruitment agency, one of the biggest in Europe. All I did was send them a proposition. I said, “If I could create an additional revenue, profit stream for you without increasing your overhead, would you be interested?”
Now, obviously, they emailed me back and said, “Yes, we would,” so I went go and have a meeting with them.
My proposition was, “Okay. Here’s our website. This is a product that we’re selling. It’s doing very well. Here’s the testimonials. These are the people buying the product. This is our conversion rates, and all they were were computer training manuals that people would download from the website.”
We spoke to this company. I said, “Look, how many people do you have in your databases?” “We have 150,000 IT professionals.” I said, “Look, right now, that’s your only revenue stream, right? Right now, because of Y2K and the way the economy is, nobody is employing consultants because there’s no jobs.”
I said, “If that’s your only revenue stream, I could create an additional revenue stream for you. All you have to do is basically endorse our computer training manuals to your list of IT professionals, and for everyone that they purchase, we’ll give you a commission.”
Now, the great thing is they asked me the question, “Okay. In your email, you said that you could create an additional revenue stream for us, but we wouldn’t have to increase our overheads, which means we wouldn’t have to pay for it.”
I said, “It’s simple. What do you currently do right now?” They said, “Well, every fortnight we send a newsletter to our whole list promoting all the jobs we have.”
I said, “Well, there’s not many jobs out there right now, so if you put a banner in your newsletter promoting our computer training manuals, for everyone that you sell or every person that purchases, we’ll give you a percentage giveback.” This is a great first step in learning how to joint venture.
Now, we had an affiliate program. We set up an online affiliate program, and we would just put the link in the banner. The banner would go out, and then we could provide them with weekly or monthly report and say, “Look, this is what we’ve got. This is the conversion. These are the people who have clicked on the link to purchase. These are the sales and your commission.”
Now, the interesting thing was, Derek, is that this was the first foray into how to joint venture that I have really ever got involved in, and it was phenomenal. Our small little website that we had selling computer training manuals online, I think in our first year, we did close to $70,000 to $90,000 in our first year.
But with this joint venture with this company, in our second year, our turnover went up from $90,000 to just shy of about $350,000, so that was the power of learning how to joint venture, and that’s what really got me hooked.
That’s fantastic. Now, let’s start diving into how to joint ventures, and I just want to start at the beginning, right?
I’ve got a lot of people that are newer to being entrepreneurs and business owners, and a lot of times, you say, “How to joint venture,” and they think, “Ah, that sounds like something for bigger businesses. It’s not for small businesses.”
Let’s start by answering the question, how do you define a joint venture, and how do you figure out how to joint venture to grow businesses?
Okay, so it’s very true. Whichever sort of different circles we tend to move in, and we mention the name “joint ventures” or the term “how to joint venture,” it always has a different meaning.
If you’re working in the IM space, for example, Internet Marketing, when you mention learning how to joint venture, people automatically think, “Okay. We basically promote to each other’s list. That’s what a joint venture is.” If you’re working on more … what I tend to do, a lot of … called “book consulting” nowadays.
A joint venture is really … They see a strategic line, 2 different companies forming 1 company to do a joint venture, so it’s such a different perspective on different levels of business
Simply put … When I talk about this subject on stage or whether I’m talking to clients about how to joint venture, a joint venture is really just a partnership between 2 or more entities or businesses who are looking to reach the same audience base or share complementary resources.
I’ll give you a classic example of how to joint venture.
Let’s say you have a luxury bathroom tile manufacturer and a luxury bathroom suite manufacturer. Now, these are the only sort of products that they produce, and the great thing is they share the same customers, so they have complementary resources that they can use to promote each other.
The issue is most of the time, these 2 companies see each other as competitors, but that’s where it takes a third person to come to the equation, someone like myself who’s a JV broker, a joint venture consultant to put these companies together and decide how to joint venture to make sure that both sides do produce.
And that joint venture does monetize itself, and we obviously pick up a commission. In layman’s terms, that’s the basis of how a joint venture partnership works.
Okay. I like the way you put that especially because obviously, I have a bigger following in the IM space, in the internet marketing space.
You’re right that when you say, “How to joint venture,” people are like, “Okay. I’ll mail for you, you mail for me,” and it’s typically of some kind of affiliate relationship.
But it goes so much deeper than that. When you look outside the internet marketing world, and you’ve done it, so many creative ways to figure out how to joint venture to build mutually beneficial relationships to grow companies.
Now, a question that I get a lot from small businesses and entrepreneurs, people getting started is, “I want to know how to joint venture with Company X, but they’re way bigger than me. Why would they want to do business with me? How do I get their attention?” What’s your advice on how to joint venture in this situation?
Okay. That’s an easy question to answer because that is something that I always advise smaller companies wanting to learn how to joint venture to try because right now, again, in this economy we are in and the way the business climate is, a lot of the bigger companies are always looking for opportunities.
They don’t pass on opportunities as much as they used to, so any small business should not be afraid to approach a larger company if you have a great product, if you have a great customer following, you have a raving fan base, you have great testimonials.
If your product is great and you believe in your product, and if it is a proven and tested product, there’s no reason why you can’t approach any big company with a proposal, so don’t be afraid to do that because bigger companies are like smaller companies. They’re always on the lookout to grow their own businesses also, so I’d definitely give that advice out when talking about how to joint venture.
Absolutely. Now, when I was looking through some of your different talking points on how to joint venture some of the stuff that you teach, there’s one thing that stood out to me
You talk about how anyone can create money without even having a product list or traffic, and I saw that. I thought, “Well, that sounds pretty sexy.” Can you elaborate on that?
I’ll give you a classic example of how to joint venture, something that we had a discussion just before the interview.
A few years ago, I was married, and I said to my wife, “Let’s take a year out.” It’s basically our honeymoon period. “I will stop work, and let’s go travel the world.” We ended up in Thailand first. We lived there for 6 months, and my wife didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, so I said, “Okay. Let’s move to Dubai.”
Now, Dubai is a place in the Middle East where I’ve done lots of business and I’ve done lots of work in the past. When I moved to Dubai, I got very bored, and the old entrepreneurial brain started turning and working on how to joint venture over there.
Yeah. It started turning, and I thought, “You know what? I’d love to set up a business in Dubai,” but I have no product. I have no list. I have no knowledge of how business works in the Middle East. I have no contacts. Nothing.
What I ended up doing was creating and setting up a publishing company on the back of other people’s infrastructure resources.
Now, in Dubai, you need things like licenses for business. What we managed to do was we managed to basically really piggyback and set up strategic partnership and joint ventures with conferencing and event organizing companies who in turn provided us with advertisers for our magazine, which is a digital magazine for the training market in the Middle East.
Before we even published the magazine, we were up. We were making 5 figures on advertising, and then when we eventually launched the magazine, we basically got joint venture partners to write all the content, so we did nothing in essence.
We used everyone else’s resources and infrastructure to create this new business, which did 6 figures, and we recently sold that business. It’s phenomenal what you can do anywhere in the world. It’s a great example of how to joint venture.
There’s an old joke because I remember, and I forgot the guy’s name, but he always used to say in the internet marketing space, “Drop me anywhere in the world with a laptop, and I can make money.”
Okay. Walk me through this, what this looks like because … so you have an idea, you approach this publishing company. You don’t even have a magazine yet, and you’re selling advertising.
What did that first … Who did you talk to? What did that … How did you pitch that? You don’t even have a magazine.
Okay. I’ll tell you what we did step by step. I’ll tell you exactly.
We sold the business now, so it doesn’t really matter. I, first of all, went online. I went in LinkedIn groups. I had training groups in the Middle East, and I sent out a questionnaire, surveymonkey.com. I did a survey of what they wanted, what they were looking for, where there was a gap in the market.
It turns out there was a gap in the market. There was no official training magazine in the Middle East. Okay? Which was shocking. I thought, “Wow, training and consultancy are two of the biggest licenses that people buy in the Middle East, but there was no one serving that market.”
We did a survey, and then we also asked the people, “Would you like a free copy of the magazine once it’s launched?” Bang, we had our list. Okay. We had our mailing list already of a couple of hundred people.
So even before we launched the magazine, we started approaching strategic partners, conference organizers, and event organizers, and said, “Look. We’d like to …” and this is really cool, Derek, because in the Middle East, especially in Dubai, all the events are lavish.
You go to an event, and they put on a big spread. You get lunch. You get dinner. You get treated like a VIP, and we said we would write exclusively for them in our magazine even before the magazine was created.
Now, we had these endorsements from these big conferences and these big event organizers before the magazine was launched. Then, we said to them that, “Hey, if you let us … if you endorse us to your list, there’s businesses on there that I’d love to advertise in the magazine also,” so bang, we got access to that also.
Everything was created via using other people’s resources, and that’s how the magazine was launched.
That’s fantastic. That’s unreal. Okay. Now, there’s one other area I wanted to dive into here, because I was looking at some of your talking points, some of the stuff you’re teaching about how to joint venture.
You’re talking about a million-pound joint venture deal that acquired 4,000,000 customers in just 30 days, and you spent $500.
What the hell did you do?
Yeah. That’s basically my signature talk when I talk at events around the world about how to joint venture. I’ll take you back to before how that actually … how that came to being.
With this, when I was talking about the first joint venture I did for a little computer company, now, I ended up building that business to 8 figures. We eventually became a corporate training company. In 2006 I sold a majority stake to a big $150 million IT group, and it was part cash, part equity, and I became a board member of 150 million IT group. I became a multimillionaire in 2006.
2008, that company that I sold the majority of my business to went bust, okay, during recession. Yeah, we lost everything. Because I signed a guarantee with the bank also, the debt that that company, the true parent company had fell on me also, so I was literally wiped out overnight.
I sold literally, all my assets, negotiated with the bank not to become bankrupt. That was in 2008, so I was broke, penniless, literally homeless. I moved back home to my mother’s house, and I went through a state of depression because when you’re used to living a certain lifestyle, and then you don’t have the income, all the cash flow, but you still got bills to pay, it’s horrendous.
I feel for people who go through that, having gone through it myself. Then in 2009, I said to myself, “You know what? I’ve got to pull myself out of this. I’ve got to do something,” so I decided, basically, as you do, set myself a challenge to make a million dollars in 12 months.
I said, “You know what? I can do it because I know how to joint venture and I’ve done joint ventures before. If I do like 4 or 5 joint ventures, I could definitely pull myself out of this.”
I was very, very fortunate enough that in 2009, instead of doing several joint ventures, I ended up just doing 1 joint venture with a direct mail company that made just over $1.5 million in 30 days. I’ll tell you exactly what happened, and I’ll take you through step by step how I did that.
I was reading a paper London. It’s a Sunday publication, and I came across an ad, a 1-page ad, a direct mail ad, and it was for a book called “How to Use Your PC in 2 Hours.” The book was aimed at the baby boomer market. Underneath the book, there was a box saying, “Over 400,000 copies sold.” I thought to myself, I know how to joint venture with something like this.
Now, remember, my background, my previous company was corporate training, corporate video training company, so we used to produce video training courses for corporate companies, and I had an idea, and I thought, “They’ve got 400,000 paying customers, right?”
I gave them a call and said, “Look, I’ve got the book that I’ve purchased, but do you have a video version of the book?” They said, “No.” I said, “Look, I’ve got a video version of this book. Would you be interested in upselling that to the existing customers who bought the book?” This is the first step in how to joint venture.
The company said, “Yes,” so I got a meeting with the company, and bear in mind, Derek, that I never had the product. I just pitched on the phone. When I went to go to have the initial meeting with the company, the director asked me, “Okay. Sohail, do you have this, the DVD course that we can see?” I said, “No.” I had to make an excuse and say, “I left my office very quickly, and I left the DVD at home.”
The company said to me, “Okay. Look, here’s the thing. We’re really interested in this product that you have, and if you can get it to us within the next 5 to 7 days, we will have a look at it, and if it fits what it is, then yes, we’d be interested doing a JV with you by promoting it to our existing customers as an upsell to the book.”
I left the meeting thinking, “Oh, crap. They really want to do a deal, but I don’t have a product.” This is the number one thing when learning how to joint venture. If you really want to do well in joint ventures, it’s not always about the product. It’s about the distribution channel. If you can find someone with a list or a distribution channel, finding a product is easy. Okay?
If someone agrees to you to say, “Okay. Look, you can use our list of whatever, or you can use our distribution channel,” then you can introduce as many products as you want, but this is why I say to people that the real secret behind how to joint venture successfully is not always a product. It’s locking down the distribution because that’s where the real money is
I had this deal on the table, and now, I had to go and find a product, so I went to Kinko’s, to Office Max to trying to find this DVD video of how to use your PC, so I a couple of them in these places, and I contacted the company.
I said, “Look, I’ve got a client. I reckon we can ship a couple of thousand units of this product, but what I need are 2 things. One is I need it white labeled, which is private label rights, and number two, I need a good commission of it,” because there were giving me 25%, 30% off retail, and I said, “No, we need more of that because we have to share that between myself, and you, and the JV partner.”
I gave up on that, and I went online, and I went to a website. I forgot the website. It’s where you put projects on, and people bid on those projects.
Like Elance or Upwork? Yeah.
That’s it, so elance.com. I put a project. I said, “Look, I’ve got this book. It has the contents. Could someone create a video version of this book?” People bid on the project, and I ended up spending $500, paying $500 for a Camtasia course based on the book, which obviously I owned the rights to.
I’ve got this DVD, went to the direct mail company. They loved it. They loved … They really loved it, and they said to me, “This is exactly like the book.” I said, “Well, my team has been up and running, and they’ve been doing all the work.” Obviously, I outsourced it really.
Yeah, so they loved it, and then they said, “Look, we would love to promote this to our existing customers.” Then, they had to start talking about commissions, and I said, “Okay. Look, first of all, you were a direct mail, so you know your numbers. Out of the 400,000 customers, how many of them do you think will actually … will buy the upsell?”
They said, “Well, we’d reckon about between 50% and 60% will actually buy the upsell.” I said, “It’s great, 200,000 people. Good.” Then, I said to them, “So commission-wise, what are we looking at?” They gave me a percentage. They said, “We’ll give you this percent.”
I said, “Look, let’s make this easy. What do you want to sell the DVD at?” They said, “Well, we’ll probably want to sell it at $24.95.” I said, “Okay, $24.95. Okay.” I said, “Give me $7.50 for each one that you sell. I will give you the DVD and a license for you to duplicate the DVD. You do all the promotion, you do all the packaging, the distribution, and I’ll just give you the DVD, but just give $7.50 for each one you sell.”
We ended up signing the agreement, and remember, 400,000 is what I put on my joint venture agreement.
The director said, “If this does really well, I’d like to promote this to my whole database.” I said to him, “How big is your database?” He goes, “We have 4.2 million customers.” Yeah. I said, “Okay, interesting.”
I scribbled, and I changed the agreement, and I said, “Look. Okay. If that’s in the agreement, then that’s great.” We did the campaign with this company.
The campaign took us between about 12 to 18 months, and from that period, we sold just over 200 and … I think it was 2,000, so my cut on that was $7.50, and I collected just over $1.5 million commission on that.
Wow, that’s a fantastic story.
Yeah, pretty cool.
I love the ingenuity there. You walk out of the deal. You don’t have a product. Five hundred dollars to get it created on Elance.
Did you ever do another version of it, or was that original Elance …?
You know what happened? The problem with working with companies like that, direct mail, they are campaign-specific, so I was appointed to work with a marketing manager who didn’t understand anything about how joint ventures work.
So it really ended up being a one-shot deal with the company, even though they asked me to go and find them more products for their 4.2 million customer database, but there’s so much scrutiny involved in what they will and won’t promote to their list.
And then it’s a time frame as in, “We can start you in 6 months down the line or 8 months down the line,” so a very, very hard company to work with, but the initial project that we did was very successful.
That’s incredible. That’s incredible. All right. Now, before we wrap up how to joint venture, let’s bring it back to the audience.
So the question I would pose to you is this. If we have some listeners and they’re listening to this going, “Holy cow, I never thought of joint ventures as such a way to accelerate my growth,” if they want to figure out how to joint venture successfully in, let’s say, the next 60 days, what steps do they need to take? What advice do you have for them in how to joint venture?
The first step in how to joint venture, I would just figure out what your target market is first. An easy way to do that is … I can put it really plain and simple.
Whatever product you’re selling right now, find out from your customers what product they bought before they bought your product and what product are they going to buy after they buy your product, and these 2 products are your joint venture target market, and they are the target for joint venture partnerships.
So that is really as simple as I can put it, and then go out and find those JV partners that you want to work with who have access to those products in that target market.
Just to elaborate on how to joint venture in this way, so if we’re looking for the product that they buy before they buy ours, we’re approaching those guys for distribution effectively?
Then, for the people that … for the product they buy after, we’re looking at effectively becoming their distribution?
Got you. Right, so you’re just figuring out where you are in the chain? That’s fantastic. Now, last question for you on how to joint venture.
Before we wrap this up, if our listeners want to learn more from you, I know you’ve written books on how to joint venture with Jay Conrad Levinson, stuff like that, where can they find out more?
Okay. If you want to find out more about what I do and how to joint venture, and get in contact with me, it’s www.milliondollarpartnering.com.
If you want to find out more about the how to joint venture programs that I do, every quarter, I do a program to train joint venture brokers and joint venture consultants, that’s www.brokeringbootcamp.com, and you can also find me on LinkedIn.
To be honest with you, if you just type in “Sohail Khan JV” into Google, there’s hundreds of videos on how to joint venture you can see. There’s even how to joint venture stuff that I give away for free that people have used to make money doing joint ventures.
Okay. You just said something there, and I just want to jump into that real quick. You said, “Joint venture brokering,” or, “Joint venture consultants.” Now, that sounds different than learning how to joint venture for your business. Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit?
Yes. If you want to take things to the next level and learn how to joint venture or joint venture brokering consulting for other companies, or if you want to create your own business doing joint ventures, then that’s www.brokeringbootcamp.com.
If you want to learn how to joint venture for yourself, definitely just … The easiest and the most lowest cost-effective way is if you go to amazon.com, pick up a copy of my book, “Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures.”
It was actually the last book that Jay collaborated on, Jay Conrad Levinson, before he passed away, so it’s a great book, and it will give you everything you need to get you started learning how to joint venture and even brokering to be honest with you in your own right.
Awesome. Fantastic. Sohail, thanks so much for sharing with us today and giving us so many valuable tips and strategies on how to joint venture.
Thanks, Derek. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. All right, everybody. That was Sohail Khan, a joint venture guru who’s got some incredible stories.
Guys, you heard firsthand the power of getting out there and thinking creatively, leveraging other businesses to grow your business.
As always, any link mentioned in this interview, the links that Sohail just mentioned, will be included in the show notes along with the entire transcript of this episode, and you can find them as always at entrepreneurignited.com/podcast.
If you like what you heard today, please leave us a rating and a review on iTunes or SoundCloud. Your feedback and reviews are … It’s the feel guys that gives me that momentum, that motivation to continue making this podcast, the best info podcast for digital entrepreneurs.
Now, it’s time to take all the tips and how to joint venture strategies you’ve learned here today, and apply that final ingredient that will actually make them work, and that ingredient is action, so go forth, take action, apply what you’ve learned, and stay tuned for more info-packed episodes of the Entrepreneur Ignited podcast.
This is your host, Derek Gehl, signing off.