“I do biz dev.”
Few times in history have more ambiguous words been spoken. Ask ten “VPs of Business Development” or similarly business card-ed folks what is business development, and you’re like to get just as many answers.
“Business development is sales,” some will say, concisely.
“Business development is partnerships,” others will say, vaguely.
“Business development is hustling,” the startup folks will say, evasively.
The assortment of varied and often contradictory responses to the basic question of “what, exactly, is business development” reminds me of the way physicists seek to explain what, exactly, is the universe. With conflicting theories on the nature of black holes and bosons, the ultimate goal for those scientists is a Grand Unified Theory, a single definition that can elegantly explain how the universe itself operates at every level.
Lacking any concise explanation of what business development is all about, I sought to unite the varied forces of business development into one comprehensive framework. And eureka, for I have found it – the Grand Unified Theory of business development:
Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.
There is elegance in simplicity, but perhaps this definition leaves you wanting more. At its heart, business development is all about figuring out how the interactions of those forces combine together to create opportunities for growth. But a theorem requires a proper proof, so let’s break that statement down:
First, what do I mean by “long-term value?” In its simplest form, “value” is cash, money, the lifeblood of any business (but it can also be access, prestige, or anything else a company seeks in order to grow). And there are plenty of ways to make a quick buck for you or your company. But business development is not about get-rich-quick schemes and I-win-you-lose tactics that create value that’s gone tomorrow as easily as it came today. It’s about creating opportunities for that value to persist over the long-term, to keep the floodgates open so that value can flow indefinitely. Thinking about business development as a means to creating long-term value is the only true way to succeed in consistently growing an organization.