It’s a well-known fact that the startup community (of which I’m a card-carrying member) loves it’s buzzwords and catch phrases. When I was getting my start as a Java developer back at my first Web 1.0 startup in 1999, everyone (including us) was building a “portal.” Then out of the shadows came the “ninjas,” assassinating your customer service problems and slinking back into the night. Of course, the talent market has been flooded with companies seeking “Rockstar” developers, Python “wizards” or “gamification” “gurus.”
When it comes to business development, people want a “Hustler.” But to me, the term does a disservice to the role of Biz Dev.
Google tells me that a hustler is “An aggressively enterprising person; a go-getter.” Well sure, that makes sense. Anyone in business development, whether at a startup or a Fortune 500 company, needs to be a do-er who gets things done in order to succeed.
But the second definition of “hustler” is what comes to mind when I hear the term, and what causes me to squirm: “an enterprising and often dishonest person, esp. one trying to sell something.”
A person in Biz Dev (I like to call us, simply, “Biz Devs”) doesn’t just push product. They create long-term value. They don’t scam someone into a deal – they ensure that the value on both sides of the table is so recognizable and clear that everyone’s motivated to close.
To me, the term “hustler” belies the strategic role of business development. Sure, it takes grit and work and get-it-done’ness to move a deal from idea to execution. But knowing which deals to strike and why is a critical component of success for any opportunity.
When I was 5, my Pee-Wee soccer coach told us to “hustle” to the ball. He wanted us to work hard, to run fast, and score goals (I’d like to believe he also had an interest in us having fun, since, you know, we were 5, but I’m pretty sure my Pee-Wee soccer coach was the reason I didn’t stick with the game for long). Having “hustle” is a great and important thing: it’s a drive to make things happen. But hustle for hustle’s sake isn’t enough. You need to grasp the fundamental skills of the sport. You need to know how to dribble, pass, and kick – and which direction to run in order to score that goal.
The role of business development is varied and complex, so the desire to codify the language and concisely describe the nature of the role is understandable. But please, don’t call me a Hustler. Call me a Biz Dev.