Influencer Nadia Bartel just found out the hard way that when partnerships go south, they go south fast. Until a video of her snorting white powder at an illegal gathering went public, Bartel—a former media sales executive who used her WAG influencer status to start spray tan and clothing businesses—attracted high-vibration brand partnerships.

She collaborated with luxe beauty brand Mecca, and the VRC as 2020 Melbourne Cup Carnival ambassador. But in the wake of the snorting scandal, Bartel has reportedly been ditched by a slew of sponsors including JSHealth Vitamins and Hairhouse Australia.

Bartel is hardly the first public figure whose brand partnerships have soured. This year’s big story is US basketball star Kyrie Irving, who in July labelled his own Nike signature shoes as “trash”—maybe a good thing 2021 is the last year in his current $11 million a year partnership with the global behemoth.

So, the point is that even in partnerships which start out with the best of intentions and the most rigorous of agreements, things don’t always go to plan. I found that out the hard way nine years ago. I collaborated with another business owner who had the same audience as me and wasn’t in direct competition (tick.) We ran a joint competition where each entrant signed up to our newsletters (win, win—another tick). But at the end of the collaboration she started sending out constant newsletters, sometimes twice a day, to her new sign ups—my customers—and they hated it.

It damaged my brand because I associated with a business which communicated in a way my customers weren’t aligned with. It was a huge wake up call to do more background checks and research on a business before I ever enter into an ongoing partnership or short-term collaboration. 

I learned the hard way what to do when partnerships go wrong. Here’s the four steps to take if you need to change or end your own:

  1. Pre-empt any issues. Assume from the start things could go wrong. Research carefully and diligently. Have a partner vetting process in place before you ever approach a prospective collaborator (I teach my blueprint to all my Partnership Mastery students.) Have a clause within your agreement to get out if things aren’t working out.
  2. Find out where you stand legally. You need to know your legal limitations before you begin to plan your next step.
  3. Document what you’re trying to achieve for your business and yourself. Investigate different scenarios and their possible and probable outcomes, and create a plan to achieve what may be new goals without your partner.
  4. Be willing to walk away. If it’s impossible to agree on or come to terms, or if your partner isn’t keeping up their side of the deal, commit to a change in business status. In many situations (like Nadia’s) it pays to make a swift exit, issue a public statement and protect your brand and reputation.

While they can derail, partnerships are still the best, cheapest way to rocket your business. I rate them so highly they are my business—I’ve taught the secrets and strategies to successful partnerships to thousands of Partnership Mastery clients.

My advice to Nadia, meanwhile? Either keep your head up and say nothing to anyone, ever. Or find a new partner—a Sunday colour magazine. They get an exclusive, you get a sympathetic hearing. As with many partnerships, a win-win.

To find out more about my six week Partnership Mastery click here.