Building a business development culture

As the business world becomes ever more competitive, it has become increasingly important to create a business development culture within firms. To achieve this, the whole firm must shift its focus from a culture of working “in” the business to also taking some time to work “on” the business.

Everyone has a role to play in business development
The responsibility for business development shouldn’t just lie with your sales team or your marketing team. Everyone has a role to play in developing new business for your firm. Every employee has a network of friends and associates. Perhaps some of those friends could become customers of your firm – you just need your employees to ask them for their business.

Provide training and support
Business development skills can be learned and cultivated. With the right training, feedback and support, your people can learn how to go about effective business development. It can be useful to conduct regular meetings with your people in order to brainstorm ideas and reinforce the message that “everyone can help to bring in a new customer or two”.

Remuneration and reward
Ensure that your business has effective measurement, accountability and reward structures in place for business development activity. Perhaps you can offer a percentage commission to anyone who brings in a new customer. In addition, you can create objectives for each team member, which tie in with an annual bonus structure.

Communicate
Ensure that you communicate the firm’s business development goals to all team members across the business. Give recognition to those who have contributed to the firm’s business development efforts and celebrate successes. Internal communication channels can also be useful to ask your team members for ideas in terms of improvements that can be made in order to ensure that everyone is invested in the overall objectives of the firm.

A firm that creates a culture of business development won’t have to rely on a few “rainmakers” to feed the entire business. Instead, everyone can play their part and benefit from creating a client focused firm where everyone can contribute to the success of the business and be rewarded for doing so.

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CREATING A LEARNING CULTURE IN YOUR FIRM

Creating a learning culture in your business involves a lot more than finding the right mix of training courses and seminars.

It’s about creating a mindset among your team. Leading businesses such as Apple, Google, SAP, American Express have embraced learning cultures and tend to outperform their competitors in their respective market sectors. So how do you create a learning culture in your firm?

Establish a link between learning and performance appraisals.

Your employees need to understand that ongoing learning and development is highly valued and that a capacity to engage in learning is an essential part of their role. Each team member should be set a learning and development objective at the beginning of the year and their performance against that objective should be measured as part of their mid year and end of year appraisals.

Integrate learning into day-to-day operations.

Team members should be encouraged to apply new learning to their jobs. Once links between learning, performance and outcomes are established, managers can support the learning by following up regularly on what employees are doing differently, what improvements they have made to processes, etc.

Make learning a strategic initiative rather than an administrative task.

Learning and development can be used to increase employee engagement and productivity. The best businesses create a robust, ongoing performance management process that fosters collaboration between employees and managers and makes learning from feedback part of everyday life. Give team members the tools to identify skills gaps themselves and empower them to find new learning opportunities.

Identify subject-matter experts.

Another way to deliver learning opportunities is to harness the skills and knowledge of subject matter experts within your business and implement knowledge-sharing programs. With this approach, you can link learning activities with core objectives and measure the impact it has on your business, the productivity of your team, etc.

Encourage accountability.

Employees may see their relationship with employers as reciprocal (even more so with younger generations such as Millennials). They expect access to learning opportunities as a partner in the relationship, but a partnership is a two-way street. As such, businesses can hold employees accountable for their own learning and development objectives. Managers need to be clear about who owns what and give their teams responsibility for their own development – and the tools they need to advance.

STRATEGY VS CULTURE

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

These words, often attributed to Peter Drucker, are frequently quoted by people who see culture at the heart of all great businesses.

Strategy is written down on paper whereas culture determines how things get done. Most people can come up with a strategy, but it’s much harder to build a winning culture. Moreover, a brilliant strategy without a great culture is ‘”all talk and no action”, while a company with a winning culture can succeed even if its strategy is mediocre. It is far easier to change strategy than culture.

Strategy ultimately consists of two aspects; which sectors should you be in and what is the value proposition that you will go to market with in each of those sectors?

A business’s cultural strengths are central to the first aspect of your strategy (sectors). For example, Ryanair has a culture of keeping costs down and offering cheap prices. As such, they would probably not succeed if they entered the premium, private jet sector where wealthy clients expect high-end service and the best of everything.

Maintaining cultural coherence across a company’s divisions should be an essential factor when determining a corporate strategy. No culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy. The second aspect of your strategy is the value proposition. Customers consider more than concrete features and benefits when choosing between alternative providers. They also consider “the intangibles.” In fact, these often become the tiebreaker when tangible differences are difficult to discern. For example, Virgin Airlines tries to attract passengers who like its casual, fun and non-establishment attitude in how it operates.

The businesses with the best cultures have instilled norms of behaviour that are essential features of their winning value propositions. For example, in Virgin’s case, offering consistently fun service at a reasonable price. What these companies really demonstrate is how culture is an essential variable – much like your product offering, pricing policy, and distribution channels – that should be considered when choosing strategies for your business. This is especially so when the behaviour of your people, and particularly your frontline staff, can give you an edge with your customers.

Strategy must be rooted in the cultural strengths you have and the cultural needs of your businesses. If culture is hard to change, which it is, then strategy is too. Both take years to build; both take years to change. Don’t let culture eat strategy for breakfast. Have them feed each other.