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HIRING

How to Hire a Business Development Director

The business development director plays a key role in growing your business. Here's how to hire for this important role.
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Jeff Maling and Geoff Cubitt have both been employees at Roundarch, a digital solutions and experiences provider for large organizations, since it was founded by Deloitte and WPP in 2000. Roundarch has offices in Boston, Chicago, Denver, and New York.  In 2005, the two decided to buy the company outright and grow it as an independent property. Since that time, they've seen an annual growth rate averaging near 35%, with some of their biggest clients including HBO, Avis, the U.S. Air Force and most recently the New York Jets.

As the company continued to grow in scale, they also needed to grow in staff. As Maling puts it, each and every new hire needs to have business development potential, in addition to the ability to handle their day-to-day responsibilities. And in 2009, the leadership saw a need to hire a full-time business development director.

"In my eyes, you need to consider the different areas of business development to see where you need the most help," Maling says. "Those areas are awareness and lead generation, facilitating a relationship once you've been introduced, actually closing the deal, and then of course the actual delivery. As a young organization, awareness was always our biggest issue. So we weren't looking for someone to coach us on sales or closing business, but someone who understood our space, knew our company, and was able to give us as many meetings and introductions as possible, and then to allow our professionals to do what they do."

Maling says he actually would have everyone in his organization handle business development instead of one person, but growth patterns can change that need dependent upon the industry and the organization. For Roundarch, they ended up hiring Paul Tebsherany, a person with deep knowledge of their business whom they had known and worked with for two years while employed at competitor, Razorfish.

"Paul had deep relationships in a different network than we did," Maling says. "For us, the biggest thing was to find someone who had a different network, who could introduce us to new places and people, and get us meetings and in doors that we wouldn't otherwise get through. It's different for every organization, but that was our need."

Hiring the right person for any position is imperative at a small organization because it is all about making sure that the person is the right fit. And to Malin's point, every employee in your organization should be focused on developing your business in some capacity.

Depending upon whom you ask, the average hiring mistake can cost a company $1.5 million each year, not to mention the wasted hours. Perhaps that number is even more shocking when you consider that the hiring success rate of managers is right around 50 percent. But hiring the right person for a business development role, whose responsibilities may vary but often focus on attracting new business and penetrating existing markets, is even more crucial to growth.

In this guide, we will address how a business knows when it is the right time to hire a business development director, what some of the greatest skill sets you can look for in that hiring process, and then getting the most out of your new hire.

Hiring a Business Development Director: What is a Business Development Director

A business development director can fill a variety of roles within an organization, and it certainly varies by industry, but the major responsibilities include identifying future business opportunities and managing relationships with key clients, existing or not.

Traditionally, a business development role will give your company access to new business contacts and assess what markets you are in and perhaps should be in. They tend to very good at evaluating your business from a large-scale perspective and then determining what the best approaches are in terms of marketing, customer service, management and sales. They can be either sales-oriented and dealing with external clients on a regular basis or more operational, depending upon your preference. And while there is no set background to finding the best fit, the skills you'll want this person to possess are abilities in sales, negotiations, finance and growth.

It is imperative that your business development director has an understanding not just of your industry, but where your company fits within the industry. There should be a high level of familiarity with competitors and customers that can turn in to lead generation and eventually lead management.

Dig Deeper: Business Development Director Job Description


Hiring a Business Development Director: When is it Time to Hire a Business Development Director

"For most organizations, when they say they're ready to hire a business development person, it's often too late," says Karen Mattonen, founder of HireCentrix, a human resources and employment recruiting agency in southern California. "You've got to be thinking ahead and managing your company's growth properly, so that individual is on board before you really even need them."

One of the initial keys to hiring the right person for the job is to make sure it is a real job that you need completed, and not just a series of disparate tasks. Before you try to find the best person to fit the role, you need to take a long, hard look at exactly what that job will mean to the person who will be doing it and what you as a company are looking to get out of that role.

Dig Deeper: What's Your Approach to Business Development?


Hiring a Business Development Director: What Makes a Good Business Development Director

"In most good organizations, you should expect all of your business professionals to be top business development people, from the top down," Maling says. "It's all about being proud of what you're doing and with responsibility and a culture that promotes growth, employees feel more determined to develop the business."

There is no set background or skill set that makes one business development director better than another, but there are common traits that the successful ones often share. By determining exactly what roles you need the new employee to fill, you'll have a better idea of who is the best fit for you. But the essential skills you should look for are fairly common.

"This person absolutely needs to be an entrepreneur and have entrepreneurial spirit," Mattonen says. "Perhaps they've jumped around to some different companies, or they seem to get bored easily. But it's those types of people who don't take no for an answer and are the real go-getters. Once they begin to feel comfortable somewhere, regardless of their role, they tend to seek employment elsewhere to challenge themselves. That's a great quality."

Business development experts can wash out quickly, whether it's a cultural mismatch, if they don't have the outside network to succeed as needed at the new company, or for other reasons out of your control. But hiring someone who is going to be the face of your company on sales calls and in essence, who will be representing your product as much if not more than your top executives, you need to make sure you hire the correct person.

Dig Deeper: Every Tool You Need For Hiring


Hiring a Business Development Director:  Getting the Most out of Your Business Development Director

Once that person has been hired, you need to bring them up to speed very quickly on everything about your organization. This is why hiring someone who has familiarity not only in your vertical but also with your company and what you do is a big step in the right direction. If it takes time for the new hire to understand what exactly they are selling, that's time that you're losing that could have been better devoted to obtaining actual sales. Similarly, it's time that you as a fellow executive or others in your organization are losing because you'll be devoting your own time to help bring them up to speed.

"Perhaps more than any other role, you need to make sure that you hire the right person in this role," Maling says. "It can take six months for someone in this role to get up to speed, and sometimes a year. I think in a perfect world everyone would see immediate returns, but that's just not realistic. You need to make sure this person knows your business inside and out before they're out selling. The main reason is that they're not taking up the time of junior people, but the time of senior management that could be spent in many other capacities."

In the words of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, "The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions."

Dig Deeper: How to Improve Your Hiring Practices

Last updated: Sep 21, 2010




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