Bill Scheessele


What Daniel Boone can teach your organization

Early American pioneers quickly realized that if they didn’t learn to hunt and fish, they wouldn’t eat. Whether you were a pilgrim in Massachusetts or a Daniel Boone type blazing a trail through Tennessee and Kentucky, your existence depended upon these basic but necessary survival skills.

The same is true for business development professionals. Some individuals may see themselves as pioneers in their organizations, exploring new markets or searching for new opportunities. However, there are many individuals in BD roles who never learned to be self-sufficient. They didn’t have to … not until now.

Working in an industry segment where strong demand existed, they were considered fortunate to own a market position so dominant that order-taking was the rule of the day. All it took to bag business was responding to a request for proposals.

Unfortunately this good fortune rarely lasts. Like it or not, industry conditions change, the economy tanks, markets mature, competition appears, program funding evaporates, and change happens.


For more on this topic, download the article, the Day the Job Fairy Died.

Frequently, this entitlement mindset or culture remains entrenched in an organization. Business development personnel believe that a job fairy makes visits on a regular basis. They wait in eager anticipation for the next great opportunity to pop up on FedBizOpps, or for a new possibility to partner with a prime to appear. Many organizations and BD individuals have recently found themselves in serious financial straits relying upon business that they didn’t generate, suddenly drying up. Being reactive and dependent is not a sustainable business strategy.

The hunter/fisher mentality is a learned mindset of professional business development. Pioneer professionals acquired the thinking, discipline, process and skills of proactively producing business. They understand that to survive they must know how to hunt and fish, regardless of industry or economic conditions.

But, if you take on the BD pioneer role, don’t be too blindly optimistic about your hunting/fishing opportunities. Instead, be realistic about your prospects and learn to ask fact-finding questions. Not every day in the field or on the water will bring success. The same is true in business development. Not every call will produce a qualified prospect. The outcome may not be a validated opportunity worthy of pipeline pursuit and investment of bid and proposal funds. If every call produced results, we’d call it catching and bagging … not hunting and fishing.

Expertly executed, a client engagement process makes all the difference in whether or not you snag the contract, win business and produce revenue. Your ability to engage customers in frequent and meaningful dialog also figures significantly in your re-compete efforts. In this industry environment, with fewer lucrative contracting opportunities, your current customers are your competitors’ coveted prospects.

Last but not least, your sought-after position on a government task order contract only wins your firm a hunting license. Winning a place on the list doesn’t guarantee you’ll bag the significant amount of revenue you require. To ensure the revenue growth you are banking on winning, you’ll need to continually engage your client, maintain the dialog and build upon your trusted, problem solving relationship.

Working hard and smart every day to proactively engage customers, identify and qualify opportunities and generate business on your own makes you a better revenue producer. The lessons learned, relationships developed and problems solved make every day well spent and will serve your career in business development well.

Like Daniel Boone, be proactive and self-sufficient. Learn to hunt for opportunities and fish for business on your own. If you do, you’ll never go hungry.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at or 704.553.0000.

Reader Comments

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 Darryl Ferber

The real Boone lesson is: Be sure you are right, then go ahead. Too many small and midsize business execs do not rigorously analyze the merits of prospective new business. Further they remove the fetters of good ethics in positioning, teaming, and proposing. Thus, they are seeking to add good biz tho they have lousy ethics. Little concern in this source about ethics, or so I have come to conclude based on reading the content.

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