Business Planning – A Good Business Development Strategy is Crucial for Success

As part of my consulting practice, I read and review business plans written both for venture capitalists and for grant applications. The weakest part of every business plan is always how will the company get from today to “the dream” five years out.

Usually, there is a pretty good description of what will happen in the next six months and a decent description of what will happen in five years, but there is nothing in between.

Technical entrepreneurs have a good handle on what product development they need to do to get the product into a usable form. They understand the costs and the time involved. However, once the product is developed, they seem to be at a loss as to what to do next.

The lack of a business development executive early in the process often leads to the product being developed in a vacuum. There is a bit of a chicken and egg problem here: start-ups don’t feel like they can afford a business development person until they sell product and they can’t figure out how to sell a product without business development.

Also, I’ve noted that a number of engineer or scientist CEOs tend to discount the role of business development, as if the science behind the product is really what sells the product. This is just not true – if it was true, universities would be a lot richer.

A company is a machine, each part is equally as important as every other part. For instance, you may have the hottest, top of the line engine in your car, but without tires, the car isn’t going anywhere. And continuing on with the car analogy, you can purchase cheap, junky tires. If you do, your car won’t perform at its best and will eventually crash and burn.

A good business development executive will plot each step of the way how your product will go from prototype to dollars in the bank account. At the early stages of your company, if you cannot afford to hire a business development exec, look for an adviser who has performed the role for other companies and listen to him or her carefully. Your business development plan should include

  • An Assessment of the Market Opportunities – Who is it who might want to buy your product? What do they have now? What is their purchasing cycle? Who at that company actually makes the purchasing decision?
  • Competitive Analysis – Who is trying to sell into the same space? Why is their product worse? Why is it better? Don’t forget inertia as a competitor. As an example, everyone should have a will, but many people do not because they just don’t get around to it.
  • Lead Generation – Once the market is narrowed down, you need a good strategy for how you are going to find the people who want your product.
  • Follow-up Sales Activity – This is broken into two categories, one pre-sale, one post-sale. You should have a strategy for how to deal with potential clients who have been contacted, but are not interested at this time. You also need a strategy for reconnecting with the customers once the sale is complete. Even if you do not think they will need another product from you, they may be able to give you a referral.
  • Pipeline Development – There should always be another customer in the pipeline. Without a strong pipeline of continuous customers, you will be unable to forecast sales and are likely to get caught short on cashflow.

Don’t neglect the business development strategy when building your business plan. If you are planning for five years out, know what you will be doing over the next six months, year, two years, three years, and so forth.

Facebook Role in Business Development – The New Face of Business Marketing

Business and community since ancient times, have correlated on a common platform, which has given way to collaborations, conglomerates and the corporate. From old-time barter to trade, the link to business was through communities. Tapping the same potential in the internet world are social networking sites such as Facebook.

What is Facebook’s role in business development?

The internet has helped business to assume global dimensions in the initial stages itself. What would have traditionally cost a colossus in terms of over-the-sea advertising, or trans-border marketing has now become much cheaper, with the evolution of the internet technology. It is not only the cost effectiveness but also time-zone-transcendental phenomenon of the “I” power, which helps you remain ‘connected’ always.

Now with such a scenario presented in the internet space, social networking sites such as Facebook helps you connect to serve your business interests. With a user-base of more than 61 million, there is a wider reach to business-profiles, entrepreneurs (budding and established), whom you can reach through the site.

In a way, social networking sites can give a jumpstart to your business if you have the directions and pointers right, and such as the ones like Facebook, can play a strategic role in business development in length, breadth and depth.

The first step is that of creating a profile for your business. Before you go about launching your business profile on Facebook, you need to frame your key marketing strategies, as to what are the objectives you desire to achieve for your business, and the scope of your business performance and your business viability in the online medium of marketing. Once you have these parameters defined, you have the foundation of a business profile, which you can build by employing some of the custom tools in Facebook. Some apps can also be downloaded as according to your business requirement. When you have the framework ready, you need to establish links/contacts for this framework, so that your business community expands or links to other businesses. There are sophisticated features and advanced search criteria in Facebook through which you can search for business contacts or get in touch with hi-profile business people. As the key to expanding your Facebook base it is imperative to create a profile which is attractive, authentic and achieving. As the first impression to a prospective business partner or a customer, your business profile is the first window of opportunity within the community of Facebook users and outside the boundary of the site as well. Your profile can be projected as a business badge in other networking sites, blogs etc.

From being the ‘face’ of your business profile, Facebook role in business development can be substantiated through various apps such as MyBox, Business cards which can be downloaded from the site. Apart from these, features and tools such as creating events, or writing notes or announcements about strategic business developments will help in maximizing your business potential; by being a medium of advertising and a platform for joint-ventures with other business of common interests.

Facebook has features to list out priorities for your business. You could categorize your friends’ list as top friends, blog friends, with socialistic apps, interactive friends graph, and apps for free conference calls. In view of establishing a communication interface and therefrom a platform for interaction, association and partnership, Facebook’s role in business development is significant. Additionally, there are also RSS feeds and email alerts utilities which you can customize for your business purpose.

Business is all about brand building. The techniques and ethics you would employ in real-time scenarios namely credibility, authenticity, commitment, a die-hard passion for growth, ambition is what you would need to project in sites such as Facebook, with the apps and utilities available. You need to translate projections into performance and make trust a very much existent element, in the extensive yet vulnerable web medium.

SBA Proposed Changes to the 8(a) Business Development Program

The Small Business Administration has announced proposals for the improvement of the 8(a) Business Development Program for disadvantaged small businesses. The first comprehensive review of the 8(a) program in several years resulted with the proposed 8 (a) regulation changes that were published in the Federal Register. The public comment period on the proposed changes is open for 60 days.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills said about the proposed changes that they will “strengthen the program and and maximize its benefits for eligible small businesses”. “The 8(a) program has a proven record as an effective program for helping disadvantaged small businesses gain access to training and contracting opportunities to help them grow, create jobs and ultimately succeed in the marketplace once they graduate from the program”, said Mills.

The 8(a) program is designed to help businesses that meet the SBA’s criteria for being socially and economically disadvantaged. In effort to help small businesses grow and motivate people to starting a small business, this program provides them with access to government contracting opportunities, specialized business training and counseling, and help with their small business marketing and high-level executive development. In fiscal 2008, small businesses received over $16 billion in 8(a) contracts.

Some of the proposed changes of the 8(a) program include:

* Economic Disadvantage: Adjustments to how assets, gross income and retirement savings are considered when determining whether the company is economically disadvantaged.
* Ownership and Control Requirements: The proposed changes would provide flexibility in admitting immediate family members of current and former 8(a) participants into the program.
* Joint Ventures: The proposal would require 8(a) firms to perform significant portion of the work on joint ventures, ensuring that they are able to build capacity.
* Business size for Primary Industry: Requiring that the firm stays small for its primary industry while participating in the 8(a) program.

Details of the proposed rule can be viewed in the Federal Register.

Opportunities Are Endless With Business Development Careers

Careers in the business development area require a good sense of business management. It also requires the ability to think outside of the box and create areas of opportunity for the business that you are managing. If you have the drive to make big changes that will result in much higher revenue then this field may be the right one for you.

The business development jobs require someone that can juggle. They need to be able to juggle a large variety of responsibilities and maintain above average results for a long period of time. Business development is just what it sounds, finding ways to advance the company into higher revenue. This can be done but it does take a strong attention to detail.

To advance a company to this level, the Manager will have to make sometimes aggressive moves in order to be successful. They must be able to manage and motivate the staff to get to the necessary levels of quality and output. This may require making drastic policy and procedure changes and getting the changes in place with no negative impact on quality or quantity of output.

Careers in this field require a person that has extremely strong personal skills and business foresight. Dealing with the employees is a primary function in this position. Jobs like this cannot be filled by someone who is not willing to interact and motivate the employees. Growing a company requires a complete by in by the employees as they will be the ones doing the work.

Tracking progress and steps in the wrong direction is another big part of jobs in this field. Because you are implementing new ideas there may be times that the approaches that you take are not successful. You must have the insight and communication levels with the employees so you can shift directions with the plan quickly if things begin to fail.

Careers in business development are only successful if the person in the position can make quick adjustments. Putting experimental changes in place may require that things are altered. You also must understand the field you are in so you can put realistic changes in place. If the change would devastate the results of the company due to market regulations then you should have enough knowledge to know that the change is not feasible.

Sometimes business development managers are hired by a company with the specific purpose of saving a company. The existing company may be reporting losses quarterly and must being to gain a profit or they will find themselves closing their doors and going under. When they hire someone with this goal in mind they will have high expectations for the position.

In order to meet these expectations, the person that they hire must be aggressive. They must be able to look at the financial information for the company or department and decide quickly which areas are not doing well and what changes need to be made. Sometimes restructuring the departments can lead to a gain in profits. Sometimes it takes more than this, like cutting staff and combining responsibilities.

Either way, to be successful in careers like this you must be comfortable with being the bad guy. People at the business that hires you may resent the fact that you are making changes. Change is a very hard thing to deal with for most people. If there are some very opinionated employees you may find that you have a fight on your hands.

Being familiar with fair disciplinary steps and the policies and procedures of the company that you are hired by is crucial. You do not want to break any policies or procedures in your quest to improve the company. You must work within the guidelines set by the company and find ways to manipulate the business into a very successful position.

If you are considering careers and jobs in business development and feel that you can make a difference in the performance of a company then give it a try. It can be a very challenging position to be in but someone with the right personality and drive to succeed can do a great job and be very successful. While this type of work is not for everyone, having the right abilities and qualities can lead to a very satisfying job and maybe even exciting careers. Many people that are employed in this field decide to do this until they hit retirement age. It feels good to look back at the accomplishments and the successes in a business that were driven by you.