LMNOP Second Quarter Event

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Business Development: 
What does that mean, exactly?

Contribution from Mindy Williams-McElearney, Vice President L&K Partners, Inc.

No two words have caused more confusion and debate in the corporate world.  Ask five people to define Business Development (also referred to as BD) and you will get some fairly similar responses.  However, change the question slightly to “what does a Business Developer do?” and this is where things get pretty murky.

Depending on where one is in their professional life as a Business Developer, what type of firm they work for, and quite honestly, who they work for, the definition and expectation of this role can vary wildly. During the LMNOP program on the topic of Business Development, the idea was to discuss the Business Development role, the “who, why and how” of BD, and the measure of success in this capacity. This CEU accredited workshop also included a discussion of the key differences between Business Development, Marketing and Sales.

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Who are the Business Developers?

During the 1-hour session, multiple people discussed their role at various firms, including architectural, engineering and furniture firms. The common thread was that the expectations of the BD role were all different, even if the companies offered the same services (i.e. architectural firms). Some people in the role were expected to be the “face of the firm” at networking events to meet new prospects, set up meetings and source new leads. They were expected to bring a firm partner, principal or senior staff member to the meeting to assist with taking the conversations to the next level.

Others in the group were expected to perform the duties above, as well as assisting in closing the deal.  Orume Hays, Managing Director of Hays CPA commented, “As a CPA with numerous years of management consulting and strategic partnerships in the architectural and engineering industry, I can attest to the importance of networking both within and outside of one’s industry.”   These expectations could include creating a pursuit strategy, assessing the opportunity and identifying the proper internal team members, as well as negotiating contracts and pricing.

The most intriguing part of the conversation happened when the Business Developers in the room were asked if they were also expected to perform duties that would generally fall under the “marketing” role. Many were expected to do both marketing and business development duties. With that, a discussion began examining the differences between Marketing, BD and Sales. This graphic is a simplified visual of how these three things have been differentiated:

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“Why” and “How”

is Business Development a Value Added Skill?

There were also others in the room that were not dedicated to Business Development or Sales duties, but rather were “practitioners” such as architects, designers, project managers. These individuals were also expected by their employers to generate new business opportunities for the firm. We discussed the many reasons why this was a great idea and how these efforts can assist in professional, as well as personal, development. Engaging in BD activities as a practitioner allows you to have more control over the types of clients you want to work with and kinds of projects you want to work on. Most employers see these types of activities as critical to the growth of the company and will often times reward those who bring in new opportunities with bonuses, raises or firm promotions.

Still, one of the biggest challenges in Business Development is measuring success. Business Development is not a “one size fits all” role and each company will have different needs. So it’s of vital importance to clearly define the expectations of the role and the measurements of success. Just as important is the need to track your efforts and accomplishments. This makes annual reviews so much easier when you can clearly articulate and provide clear data pointing to your business development activities and successes.

LMNOP was honored to have Mindy Williams as the presenter for this workshop’s discussion and share her expertise on Business Development. Ms. Williams is well known in the community as a business development leader. Prior to joining L&K Partners as VP Client Services, Mindy worked with Workspaces, IA Interior Architects, TSC Design Associates and Knoll.  She is also a Vice President for IFMA NY chapter and Chair of CoreNet Global NYC chapter since 2006. 

The evening was graciously hosted by LMNOP Platinum Partner WB Wood, located at 225 Park Ave South. LMNOP received numerous requests from attendees and people who missed the evening to repeat this professional development program.  Business development, a career building resource that is beneficial to be integrated into our daily practice, will be added to our rotating list of successful workshops.  The next time LMNOP schedules this workshop topic, new points will be explored that will continue and expand this multi-faceted discussion.

Michelle HillComment