Build strong business development culture

Winning strategies | How to build your business development team

For more business development resources, click here.

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

An organization's culture is the aggregate of each individual's
thinking. It includes individual attitudes, beliefs,
values and feelings. Cultural components can be positive
or negative. For example, many organizations
don't really understand and value business development and, as
such, they've taken it for granted.

It's assumed that
because products, services
and markets are
available, business exists
and revenue will be generated.
Little thought is
given to the business
development process and
what's required to ensure that it does happen
on a consistent basis. As long as revenue is
flowing and projects are abundant, no one
looks below the surface. But when revenue
falls, the spotlight is immediately fixed on
business development.

Fostering a business-thinking, intrapreneurial
culture within a firm is critical to
successful business development and must
be embraced and modeled in the leadership.
A business development culture is not a
stand-alone entity. It is reflected in the principles,
values and ethics of corporate leaders
and the business development leadership
and staff members.

A principle-driven business development
culture is focused on helping prospective
clients understand their challenges and find
solutions to those challenges, whether or not
the solutions are purchased from your
organization. This cultivates an ethical
approach to business development and promotes
a culture that is a balance between the
purpose of the business and the goals of the
business, a critical component to long-term
sustainability.

People don't relinquish their beliefs, attitudes
or perceptions of reality easily.
Consequently, a culture that doesn't foster an
understanding or appreciation of business
development is a culture that is particularly
difficult to change. This is a common scenario
in organizations in which the executive
leadership does not understand, appreciate
or value the business development function.
If business development is acknowledged and
rewarded for the resulting revenue growth in
an organization, it sends a message that this
behavior and thinking are valued.

The business development process that is
used in an organization is a direct reflection
of the culture within that organization. A
process that is structured, disciplined,
focused, accountable and documented communicates
to staff members that the business
development culture is important and valued.

In a business development culture, there
are two subcultures that are distinctly different
and mutually exclusive. The strategic
hunter culture proactively seeks and develops
new opportunities. The organic farming
culture is more passive or reactive, responding
to opportunities that already exist or
appear in the market.

A major challenge results when an organization
with a tradition of farming attempts
to add a hunting culture to the mix.

Although both subcultures can coexist and
will produce revenue growth, they each
require different thinking, behaviors,
processes and employees.

Attempting to develop and merge a hunting
culture with an existing farming culture
results in a confusing combination. It's better
to start from the bottom up by building a
hunting team with its own culture.

Corporate culture affects a company's
behavior and success. A strong culture typically
signifies a cohesive team with motivation
to pursue a collective set of accomplishments,
while weaker cultures
often splinter into
smaller factions pursuing
their own agendas.

A healthy business development
culture is the
responsibility of the entire
organization, because every
employee who might come
into contact with clients
functions in a business
development role, whether
or not they recognize it.

A robust, shared culture is the common
blood that courses throughout an organization.
A diluted culture results in a fragile,
dysfunctional and weaker company.

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

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