As the founder of a software company that bootstrapped its way to life, I was always hyper-aware of time as a precious commodity. The startup stories you hear about long hours and sacrifice are true—I’ve been through the war and can confirm that you always wish you had more of two precious commodities: time and money. There never seemed to be enough of either to run the day-to-day operations, much less to develop and execute new business development. Yet the less time you spend on new business development, the less money you generate. Your choices become a matter of priority in your company’s survival.
Determined not to be a statistic on the big heap of startups that wither and die because of missed opportunities, I developed a process for making sure I made time for new business development. Here are the most important parts of my new business development process:
Along the way of launching and running Enloop, I knew it was imperative to make business development an assigned task. Otherwise it too easily falls by the wayside. An effective way to accomplish this is to assign the responsibility of new business development to one person and tie their compensation to the results. In the early days this might be you, which is entirely appropriate. Only you can synthesize the feedback you’ll hear from customers and partners during the course of your new business outreach. As a bonus, you’ll come to understand the intricacies of your business in deeper, more meaningful ways. You’ll find the direction of your company is vastly improved with the insight that new business development conversations afford.
If your business is like most others, the balancing act of just running the company leaves little time for anything else. Remember that the most important task for growing a business is to develop new business. Finding time for this task, which often is relegated to last on your to-do list, can sometimes feel like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. It sounds obvious, but you must set aside a certain number of hours every week for new business development. Create an on-going schedule of your time and assign new business development to a weekly block of time. Make that block of time a priority on your to-do list rather that an expendable item. Your schedule is one of your most important weapons, so guard it wisely and delegate as many tasks as you can to free up space.
Developing and working your professional network is critical. Make strengthening your network the top task on your to-do list. The best place to start is with efficient technologies like LinkedIn and Twitter. Learn to use these tools and embrace them in ways you never imagined possible. Next, join industry associations and groups that bring you into contact with people who can help you—and that you can help, remembering that networking is a two-way street. Your network can prove to be a lifesaver, as a well-cultivated network brings you exponential opportunities. Work it like you’ve never worked it before. Talk with everyone, including your customers, and listen intently to their feedback. What they’re saying might give you big clues for your next product or market opportunity.
The process of new business development affords business owners a critical opportunity to simply think about their business. By carving out specific, goal-driven time periods for business development you provide yourself with a window into the future of your company and the opportunity to creatively innovate. Give yourself the gift of steady growth through a well-managed new business development that’s smartly integrated into your day-to-day operations.