How do we (really) measure progress?  What constitutes appropriate ROI on what is plowed into business development efforts?

In a recent post on the similarities between business development and planting a tree, we recounted the story of French Marshal Lyautey. The story underscores the fact that growing something strong takes time.

The practical challenge is that between the planting and any tangible signs of growth, it is difficult to measure progress.  And tough to be patient, because so often we address business development needing to see immediate fruits from our labor.

Add the fact that a sporadic approach makes it tough to be confident we’ve planted in the right place…and believe the work will eventually pay off. This is not a comfortable place to be.

So, unable to see signs of growth, we shift from silver bullet to one-size-fits-all solutions.

By contrast, a mature and successful strategy has been in play long enough to have a healthy blend of investments in the future, and past efforts that have grown strong relationships.

The Formula For Successful Planting

Build around silver bullets and quick fixes, and you’ll probably rock along with the same level of biz dev success you’ve enjoyed.  If you’re lucky (and some are), you’ll invest in the right area often enough to stay flat, or enjoy modest growth.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in designing a strategy that delivers marked organic growth from the investments you make in business development, consider these three principles for effective sowing and reaping.

  1. Plant wisely. Strong relationships don’t grow on trees.  Throw seeds everywhere, and you’re wasting time and resources.  Here are three ways to evaluate whether the ground is fertile.  Look for areas of:
    1. High consequence change
    2. Personal affinity
    3. Deep expertise (personal or organizational)
  2. Nurture carefully.  Want weeds growing in the midst of your marketing and biz dev efforts?  Pay attention to them only when its convenient…or urgent, and you’re not going to find much you can build upon.  Quality relationships grow in the context of conversation, collaboration, and valued contributions.  Invest here…and invest long enough for something to actually grow.
  3. Pay attention to the season.  Success is built around a strategic look at the calendar.  While planting takes time, effective biz dev isn’t about waiting 100 years for the tree to grow.  Each effort is unique; but if you’re planting today and counting on seeing significant results in less than somewhere between 12 and 24 months, you’re not building around a realistic timetable. This doesn’t mean you won’t see results based on work done earlier; often a focus on quality nurturing activates some “planting” already done.

Target smart, focus on building relationships, and allow time to maximize your investments, and you’ll begin to see something far too rare these days — organic growth.