Why Deals Die

Marriage is hard. Half of marriages end in divorce, so say the oft-quoted statistics, and keeping committed to a relationship over a lifetime of bumps in the road is no simple task.
Just like a marriage, the road to a successful partnership is a long, hard, and winding one that requires attention, energy, and effort to maintain. The voyage can be treacherous, so avoiding the potholes in the partnership road requires a good map, a keen awareness of the obstacles on the path, and a steadfast focus on reaching your destination.

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Choose Your Own Biz Dev Adventure

When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. Do you hike up the mountain or take the shortcut through the cave? Every page had a decision to make, and every decision had a consequence that impacted how the story played out.
In Business Development as with those books, every decision you make about how to pursue an opportunity to create long-term value will determine the fate of your journey. Do you train your sales force to sell a new product, or do you find a distribution partner to take it to market? Every decision has a consequence.

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The Value Hypothesis

Every time you propose a partnership with another company, you are making a guess as to why they’d want to work with you. According to the Grand Unified Theory of Business Development, business development is fundamentally focused on creating long term value. But whose value are you taking into consideration?
When two companies are evaluating an opportunity to work together, each is weighing the relative value of the same deal from their own unique perspective. While you approach a company with an understanding of the value that they can bring to you and your organization, they are making the same judgement what  you  can bring to  them  – and will decide accordingly on how to proceed.

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What, Exactly, Is Business Development?

“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:

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Forbes Acquires The Start of the Deal*

*Well, that’s not exactly true. But I am working on writing sensationalist attention-grabbing headlines as I have been selected by Forbes.com to be a Contributing Writer on the subject of business development!
I’ll be writing a weekly blog for Forbes, which will also be entitled The Start of the Deal. Not coincidentally, that is also the headline for my first post.

I plan to write for both Forbes and this site, so stay tuned to both as I pump out new thoughts to continue the conversation that can move business development forward, and change the way companies large and small create value that persists for the long-term.

Why Should They Care?

I met for coffee with someone recently to sound board some of their business development ideas.
“I have a great idea for a partnership with Dr. Pepper,” he said.

Having seen Dr. Pepper’s uncanny ability to combine 23 delightful flavors into a satisfying diet drink that tastes just like the original, I could certainly understand the desire to collaborate with the company.

“Great, what’s in it for them?” I responded.

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Why I’m No “Hustler”

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.

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What Does a Biz Dev Person Actually Do?

According to the Grand Unified Theory of Business Development, Biz Dev is simply about pursuing opportunities for long-term growth. Sounds simple enough, but what, exactly, does a “Biz Dev Person” do? Too often, Business Development has been considered the “junk drawer” of the business world – an ambiguous, unstructured job title for people who do a little bit of everything.
But at it’s core, I believe a Biz Dev job is focused on 3 activities:
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