This is my second blog about the practice of business development. The subject of the first blog (read here) was that business development aims at adding human and economic value to organizations. In this second blog I explain what lies at the heart of the business development process and its activities: interaction.
Working for 3 years now in southern Africa explicitly under the label of ‘business developer’ I oversee that this is my oldest and continuous professional activity. I was used to promote myself with the label of my second academic (MSc) education ‘organizational psychologist’. That expertise came after a bachelor’s in social work, but I never used the professional title of ‘social or community worker’. I explain in this blog what this current title ‘business developer’ stands for and what to expect from me in that professional role.
In my career I filled in roles as business consultant, coach, trainer, CEO, business manager, educator, recruiter, board member, managing director, program leader, interim director, and business maker. The red thread through most of these positions is the activity that I now use as my main label: business development. If you look more closely on all roles that I ‘played’ and which represent a rich professional career, then you might notice that there is a second red thread: in all these roles it was ‘interaction’ at the core of my doings with other people. Reflecting on that subject, I must conclude that interaction is also the core of my vision and approach of business development.
Clients who need the support of a business developer for e.g. (a) making more profitable turnover, (b) revising the business, (c) reorganising their company, (d) changing the business model, (e) expanding or reducing/changing the portfolio, (f) raising the professional competences as a leader, (g) rebranding, (h) replacement, (i) training and coaching of the management,(j) merging or sale, etc. This listing shows already that business-development-interaction is much more than just drafting a hard-core new business plan with a dominance on marketing and financial aspects.
Interaction in the way I practise business development is being/acting in an intense professional relationship with clients and their company/organization, and exchange ideas, propositions, drafts on abstract and operational levels, and so on. The term ‘interaction’ covers in my role as business developer several activities. During a traject with a client and client’s company/organisation, my interaction activities are inevitably:
- Exploration: what is the situation at hand and what layers does the presented problem has?
- Encounters: meeting other people in their habitat leads to exploration of that context.
- Exchange: ‘story-telling’ and the clarification of the told, and – even more important – the untold.
- Confrontation: nothing can be taken ‘for granted’, a dialectic opposition reveals the hot issues.
- Inspiration: acquiring ideas ‘how things can be done different’ to reach for effective solutions.
- Identification: partly becoming ‘partner in crime’, e.g., adapting a dress code, talking as ‘we’
- Inclusion: no one who is involved can be excluded from meeting, exploration, and confrontation.
- Concluding: making an end to discussions and together drafting clear lines to the future.
In all these interactions are continuously interhuman, individual and organisational/team dynamics going on. All who are involved are always moving and interacting, and even during a status quo the thinking rushes forward and influences each mindset for the coming interactions. At the base of these dynamics, – which are in a continuous alteration of destructiveness or constructiveness – lies a pattern of dependency and interdependency between the actors in the organisation. And inevitably there will be a transference of these dynamics and of the (inter)dependencies to the acting business developer. The ending is a countertransference, back from the business developer to the ‘system’, the changing organisation. That dynamic process of transference and countertransference needs a close exploration and sharing of reflections: what is countered covers the true nature of what the ‘problem’ of the company is, and from that exploration and exchange a direction for the solution and of its ingredients can be found at the dawn.
Interactions in a business development traject are not only from a physical nature by two or more people meeting in a life setting or online. In the interactions we engage consciously and unconsciously in different, and each other influencing (and mutual judging) ways: physically, mentally and intellectually, chemically and emotionally, and for sure also spiritually. A short clarification:
- Physically meeting reveals the bodily shape, but also gestures, facial expressions, and body language.
- Mentally & intellectually by exchanging rational information and stuff to think about.
- Chemically & emotionally by developing to a certain rate a sense of attractivity for the other person, in what also gender will be influential.
- Spiritually by reading/interpreting each other’s behaviour and appearance a code of mutual understanding arises in each’s mind, resulting in a personal – positively or negatively coloured – connection that unconsciously influences all things that are made explicit.
This latter, the ‘spiritual connection’, is very interesting and must be carefully fostered: this form of interconnectivity is already present in the company between people who work intensively together for a longer time. The business developer has the professional ability to detect it, to analyse it and becomes inevitably also part of it, but he has been trained to reflect on it and to recognize how it influences his relation and interaction with the client’s system. Some of this he will give back to the client on a moment and a way that it helps to shine more light on the actual problems of the organisation.
So, the spiritual connectivity is also feeding the professional intuition and mindset of the business developer about the company and its people. During the process of interactional activities from exploration to concluding, the business developer constructs a ‘body of knowledge’ about the issues at hand and the nature of the dynamics in the organisation. This results in the inner boardroom of the business developer in a ‘mental program’ concerning the needed interventions and actions to reach for the goal of the business development project.
This ‘mental program’ must continuously be tested and reviewed by the business developer by self reflection and in discussions with the team of executives of the company. When the business developer starts to make this mental program explicit to the executives, only then the business development becomes fully manifest: the proposed set of solutions and how to realize them.
During all passed interactions a lot of that solution stuff was already made explicitly and put on the table and discussed. But by opening in the disclosure stage and giving full insight in the mental program, the business developer shows him/herself as ‘the expert with the company cap on’. To clarify this expression: I willingly use the term ‘expert’ and not the confusing term ‘prophet’. The latter is not inspired by followers but by some external power.
This inspiration from intern is just what we professionally want to happen in the interactions between the organization people and the business developer, because from that he as the ‘expert’ derives and keeps his ‘power’/influence and will be most effectively in helping to realise the goals of the project by the people of the organisation. But know that what the external expert discloses is the outcome of the confrontation and testing with opinions and visions in the external environment of all internal ideas, opinions and visions for the final mental program. It is the competence of the business developer engaging the organization in these exchanges with the environment.
The business developer develops as a temporarily participating expert his position in relation to the company and its leadership and management. This expert works for a certain period intensively with – and often also in – the organisation and develops a set of solutions via all consultations and discussions, plus some probing advises. The business developer, empty on content at the beginning, must after being fed by the people of the organisation, reveal, present and promote the set of solutions (the mental program that she/he developed over time) in the prefinal stage of the project. A project and an outcome that is transferred to and owned by the company/organisation.
If all goes well and the set of solutions is – more or less modified/adjusted – accepted, the business developer may translate all the solution stuff into a new business plan. Thereafter the business developer can be contracted for helping to implement that set of solutions and realising the business plan as ‘the proof is in eating the pudding together’. Underway there will be reviews for the best outcome.
That implementing and adjusting is the stage in what a full new set of interactions, dynamics, and patterns will emerge. How they develop and manifest is depending on and influenced by the ‘ownership’ that the company feels for the presented solutions and if and how the solutions are implemented. That is the subject for my next, third blog about developing a business plan and implementing it.