The business development paradox

We’ve been incredibly busy here at Warley Design for the past five months or so working on a big project that came “out of the blue” from seeds that were sown some time ago.  It has been technically very challenging and involved evening and weekend work, and less time off than we had planned for during the school holidays.  Fortunately, with a little support from our network of associates we managed to meet the demands of the project without negatively impacting our existing commitments.

Being that busy is great for business but there can be a down-side.

The big challenge faced by businesses that provide consultancy-style services is that there needs to be a constant stream of work to ensure that there is on-going revenue and that resources are appropriately utilised.  If our job is done correctly we will have a smooth hand-over of design output and then apply focus to the next job.  The obvious challenge is to develop the prospects of the next job so that it lands at the ideal time for the business – not several months early and certainly not several months too late.   Unless things are left purely to chance (as they are in some businesses) this requires a consistent level of business development in one form or another.

Being disengaged from all business development activities while the work is on-going is not a viable long-term strategy.  At some point the lack of time invested in planning ahead and generating the next cycle of work will come back and bite you.  This is the business development paradox: you need to spend time developing business at the time when you can least afford to.  If you wait until you have more time to dedicate to business development, by definition you already have time on your hands and are light of work – that is, you’ve left it too late.

In our profession there is certainly a time lag between your business development activities dropping off and the phone starting to ring less.  It is absolutely true that industries like ours are fuelled by repeat business and by referral but it is always necessary to pro-actively reach out to new potential clients to ensure we have a tomorrow.

The text book approach to business development is to block off some time each day or week that you and members of your team can dedicate to getting to know your clients’ businesses better, having quality conversations with existing and potential customers and being proactive within to your social media community.

Business handbooks hammer home the point that explanations like “I’m too busy to do business development” are merely excuses and that business development time should be an immovable rock in your diary.

But, sometimes you simply are too busy.

If this is the case what you need is a good business partner who understands your business and where it is going.  Part of their role should be to keep the business development activities ticking over in the background to enable you get on with what you do best, thus maximising productivity and ensuring  that work levels do not swing from feast to famine.


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