The Guide to Business Development and Partnerships


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Section 1: What is Business Development?

When you ask 10 people to define “Business Development”, chances are that you will get 10 different answers. Here are some of my favorite articles that try to answer this question:

Section 2: Why Should Companies Invest in Business Development?

Thought leaders agree that every company should invest in business development, as it can help the company achieve tactical goals (like accelerate revenue growth) and/or strategic goals (like an acquisition).  Below are some great articles on this topic:

Section 3: When Should Companies Invest in Business Development?

Thought leaders agree that early-stage start-ups should avoid investing in BD until the company has achieved a degree of Product / Market fit.  However, people disagree on when exactly is the “right” time to invest in BD.  Here are some good articles on the topic:

Section 4: How Should Companies Execute a Business Development Plan?

I have broken the “How” down into a couple of sub-segments, as there is a lot of ground to cover.

a) Building the Business Development Function

Great BD folks are hard to come by.  Here are some thoughts on what makes an exceptional BD professional:

b) Evaluating a Potential Partnership

Advice on how to evaluate a potential partnership:

c) Negotiating and/or Structuring a Partnership

I have plenty of scars on my back from deals where I could have done a better job with negotiating and/or structuring.  I wish I had read these articles years ago:

d) Launching and/or Managing a Partnership

Closing the deal is the easy part.  The hard (and arguably more important) part comes next:

Section 5: The Intersection of Business Development and Corporate Development

Strategic BD (partnerships) tends to overlap with Corporate Development (Investments, M&A).  Here are some great articles on this topic:

Section 6: Sharpening the Saw (Best Practices for the BD Professional)

Here are some Best Practices for being effective in BD:

Section 7: In-depth Resources on Business Development

I have come across a handful of longer-form resources (guides, book, online courses, etc.) on the topic of BD.  Here are the better ones (most of which I have read):

If you find what you read here to be useful, please share with your networks. And if you have any comments or additions, please let me know.

  • Ariel Amster

    James, I thought I’d add to the discussion on Section 1 of your guide. Recently, I was grilled by a friend of mine in BD/Corporate Development regarding my interest in obtaining a new Business Development position. He asked me, “What is Business Development?” because he wanted to test my understanding of the role in emerging companies. I used a movie industry metaphor to describe the role – “It is anything unscripted that needs a script,” with regards to growing the company – marketing deals, distribution and technology ecosystem. If it has already been done and repeatable, then it is Sales… All of the articles you listed from Seth Goden, Scott Pollack et al… I believe elaborate on further defining BD and how it is different from Sales. Thanks for sharing…

    • James Cohane

      Hey Ari. I like the movie industry metaphor. Thanks for sharing.

    • Piet Lesage

      Hi Ariel,

      I agree with your statement: If it has already been done and repeatable, then it is Sales…

      The relationship with Business Development and Sales is like the relationship between Product Development and Manufacturing.

  • stephanromanov

    Thank you.