Find the structure to fuel revenue growth

Winning strategies | How to build your business development team

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To contact Bill Scheessele, e-mail bill.scheessele@mbdi.com.

Whether a company's structure is organized
around sectors, business units, divisions or groups,
most government contractors find that the independent
federation model is an effective structure for
business development ? to a point.

A business unit is usually
built with strong
divisional leadership.
This model allows for
recruitment of employees,
resources and continued
work on contracts,
while facilitating
some degree of organic
growth.

But at some point, organic growth will
begin to stagnate as add-on work, new contracts
and new opportunities slow down or
dry up. The only perceived avenue to ensure
substantive growth is to make an acquisition
or partner with another organization to
bolster the numbers.

What has developed is an independent
federation, an autonomous business
unit. This type of silo is usually personality-
and program-driven, combining
strong leadership with the
incentive to drive short-term numbers.
On the surface, things look fine.

What is harder to recognize and what
eventually grows to be a significant
challenge is the evolution of multiple independent
federations competing for business
and internal resources. From a management
standpoint, it is nearly impossible to lead
and coordinate a strategic and cohesive
business development effort under these
conditions.

There are several signs that the end is
near for the effectiveness of this structure:
    1. You uncover the existence of disparate
    processes for capturing business. When
    opportunities appear, you have difficulty
    coordinating any capture process that
    involves more than one sector or business
    unit.

    2. You find that your independent federations
    tend to hoard resources. Separate
    business development teams report
    directly to the head of one business unit
    and focus their efforts only on that business
    unit.

    3. An individual representing the services
    of one division is seldom able to understand
    and use the capabilities of another
    division.

    4. Systems and processes built internally
    around an independent federation unit
    result in a disproportionate number of
    capture management, business development
    and project management processes.
    This proliferation of processes eventually
    affects revenue.

    5. It's more difficult to take the lead on
    prime contracts, control partnering with
    other organizations or position the company
    as either a prime or a sub.
    Independent business units compete
    internally and externally.

    6. There is a lack of shared business intelligence.
    Information gleaned about opportunities
    and people stays embedded in
    individual business units. There is no
    central repository of critical business
    development information or intelligence
    data. There is little willingness to share.

In the end, with the independent federation
structure, strategic growth becomes a
significant challenge. A common remedy is
to consider an acquisition. But the alternative
approach is to build a business development
mind-set or process and discipline
that will allow organic growth across business
units.

This can be accomplished by establishing
a corporate strategic business unit
charged with growing a strategic pipeline,
thus positioning the organization as a
leader in the industry with the appropriate
services, client base and business development
capability.

If things are going reasonably well, your
numbers are good, and you're aware of your
opportunities and challenges, then, in the
vernacular, "don't fix
what ain't broke."

However, if revenue
growth is slowing or
stagnant and, as a consequence,
you've considered
making changes,
we will share some key
considerations in our next column to facilitate
the transition from an independent federation
business development model to a
strategic-growth business development
model.

Bill Scheessele (bill.scheessele@mbdi.com) is
chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, an
international business development professional
services firm.

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