What is business development?

I define business development as the following: 1- An amalgamation of various skills including thought leadership, marketing, partnerships, sales and branding.

2- The early stage of any venture from conception to execution until scale can be established at which point divisions within the company will form (e.g. marketing, sales and business development).

3- Ventures can be diverse in nature: a new start-up, an event or a new initiative in a 200 year-old company.

4- The recipe to build anything.

5- It will look different based on the goal of the venture. Once the goal is established, all work should be aimed at developing that outcome. Depending on the set goal different amounts of the above skills (marketing, branding, sales, thought leadership and partnerships) will be necessary.

Common misconceptions & clarifications:

1- It's really easy to want to make business development out to be something indescribable because then we're not held to much, are we? We'd rather title it as magic and innate skill than something that's trackable. When building a business, you are in essence always selling one of a few things:

Technology: software, API's, things that no one else has and that will make their life easier

Service: something you will do for them instead of them doing it themselves. This can be combined with technology too to make it more powerful.

Access & Audience: if Google buys your start-up, they may just be buying you (the talent) or they are interested in the 1 million users you acquired, why? Because they want your audience. Or they might want to oust their competition to have access to technology they don't want their competitors to have.

2- Know which one or two you are really building and business development should align to build that.

If you are growing your start-up:

Do you plan on selling?

Do you plan on sticking around for a while and then maybe selling?

Do you want to be like 37 Signals and have a straight cash-cow business?

Your goals become different based on what you're hoping to accomplish. Marketing and thought leadership is less important to a company whose sole goal is to acquire 1 million users to then go and sell to Google or Facebook. But for a young start-up like Readmill, thought leadership and marketing become important. They want to be around for a while and need more than just users to build a brand that becomes credible.

What are your thoughts?