• Cass Polzin

Global Partnerships & Alliances as a Team of One

Updated: Jun 15

This article is part of our Uncovering the Partnerships Career Path spotlight series. Each week, a different professional joins us to share their take on the partnerships career path, responsibilities at each stage, best practices for advancing professionally, and more. Learn more in the intro article.


Mike Vaccaro recently joined tray.io as the VP of Global Partnerships & Alliances but has been in partnerships for years. Today, Mike joins us to dig deeper into his career journey, lessons learned along the way, and advice for others trying to succeed in partnerships.


Thanks to Allbound for sponsoring this quarter’s spotlight series!

Allbound

Allbound is a SaaS Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform that gives its customers visibility into predictable channel revenue, indirect and direct pipeline, and insight into partner engagement and adoption. With Allbound, you have the ability to monitor, understand, and track partner behavior so you can measure, iterate, and improve.


Mike’s Path to Partnerships

Like another team-of-one VP we spoke to, Mike Vaccaro was an entrepreneur before landing in partnerships. “I started my own digital agency back in 2001. The dot com bubble burst and I lost my job because the agency I worked for literally went out of business. I was an account manager handling client relationships and lots of customers were left hanging. I had the opportunity with a few other colleagues to start a new agency called PurMedia. We picked up accounts instantly — I remember we had our first check come in before we had a bank account. It was a true start-up. We worked out of people's homes and built a great business. I was young and didn't have a family. Other than paying rent, I didn't have responsibilities, so I worked 24 hours a day.”


This was an incredible opportunity early in his career, that’s paid off in dividends since then. “I feel like I skipped a few grades in my career because of owning an agency at a young age. It was like getting my master’s degree and then some. From 23-26, I ran my own agency and I learned so much. I was then able to jump a bunch of steps into other jobs. By the time I was 29, I was GM of a huge agency in LA and running the whole operation.”


“After that, I was fortunate to work for large holding companies like IPG and WPP. I worked for a variety of agencies in those organizations and got more into executive management. I was managing offices, teams, and always responsible for driving revenue and customer success within the agency. In my role at Mirum, I was responsible for all net new business and partnerships. I was on the partner side to build relationships with software companies to get new business. I did that with Adobe, Sitecore, Marketo, and Tealium, and many others. That's what got me diving deeper into the partner space.”


It was after his time as the CRO of Mirum that Mike moved to a role in partnerships at Tealium, a customer data platform, where he spent four years building global partnerships. “When the opportunity came up with Tealium to run that partner team, I really jumped at the chance. My philosophy was to approach it relationship first. How can we build a solid business relationship where we’re both successful? That was my strategy out of the gate for how I wanted to build the team — always relationships first.”


Building a Partner Program at Tray

Mike was the first partnerships hire at tray.io which means he’s responsible for building out the partner program. “In any role, I feel like you get into it and you’re immediately focused on getting revenue and helping the business. When I joined Tealium, there already was a partner team. It was about taking it to the next level — I had to think about how to scale. With tray.io, they were very responsible and patient to find the right leader before they started the partnerships program and team. There hasn't been a partnerships team before this. They knew it was a critical component for the business and wanted to have the right team in place. I’m taking the rest of the quarter to build out the strategy for the partner program so we have a proper foundation in place.”


Responsibilities as a Solo Team

As a team of one, Mike handles anything and everything related to partnerships. “Alliances, partnerships, business development — all of that is my world. I have been tasked with building out the program and the strategy. Out of that, I will hire a team. I'm perfectly fine being a team of one for now. It doesn't make sense to hire a bunch of people before we have the strategy — I've always been a strategy-first person from my consulting and agency roots.”


In his role today, Mike’s first focus is developing and deploying a partner strategy. Beyond that, there are a handful of success metrics he’s working toward. “At the end of the day, the end result of a partnerships team is to help drive revenue in two ways. First by driving net new pipeline and bringing net new opportunities to the table via partners. Second, by influencing — I'm a big believer in influence. The goal is to build a big ecosystem of partners I can rely on and trust to ask for advice, recommendations, and more. I want to ensure we have an ecosystem to support the sales organization.”


Partnerships at tray.io won’t just be about net-new revenue generation. “Retention is a big part of this too. You need to figure out how to leverage partners to help with retention and expansion. Service partners are in a fantastic position to support the strategy and ongoing run-state of our platform for customers and we want to leverage them as much as possible. Unique for tray.io is that our partners can also be our customers. Since tray.io can support any SaaS company, you can be both. One thing I’m working through is how I build a network of partners that want to work with us and also want to be customers.”


“Looking at the tech alliances, I'm a big believer in 1+1=3. If I can combine Tray + Hubspot, or Stripe, or Adobe, or whoever it might be, how do we get those technologies working together to have a better outcome to help our customers? Can we provide further value by stacking individual partners to build a bundle?”


Advice for Others & Next Steps

On his advice for others, Mike shared he has a lot of sayings. “One of the biggest ones I've used lately is ‘You have to take care of yourself because no one else will take care of you better than you can.’ I've always been a big cheerleader for colleagues to make sure they're in the right position and happy. If you're not happy, what's the point? Take control of the situation and do something about it. There's no reason to sit in a role if you don't like it. Everyone in our world is really employable. The opportunities are pretty bright. My advice is for people to always make sure to take care of themselves. Be selfish in a positive way.”


Continuing with his sayings, “‘Make sure you work for someone you respect.’ Leadership is so important to me. I'm really proud of what I've been able to do. I love to lead and manage teams. I subscribe to servant leadership — I’m going to move things out of the way for you. I've always told my team members that if they're going to leave, that's fine. But they have to be going to an amazing opportunity. If you have the chance to move, make sure it's an amazing next step — don't just settle.”


Mike has had a lot of incredible career experiences in leadership positions already. As for his future, “Honestly, I would love to be the CEO of a company in the future. I don't know when that is, but that would be the ultimate goal.”


Reach Your Career Goals

Whether you’re working toward implementing your first partner program, scaling a program, or developing an effective strategy, learn from other professionals in the industry who have been there. Explore insights industry professionals have collected during their partnerships experience.