Capturing Growth Opportunities - Keys to Developing a Successful
Business Development Program

by Tom Flynn

We have all read or heard that the majority of Strategic Alliance and acquisition deals fail. Yet there are still thousands of transactions completed each year, and even more that are contemplated. Why is this? The simple answer is that companies must grow. With Organic or internal growth increasingly difficult to obtain, external growth opportunities offer the most potential.              

External growth opportunities come in many forms, such as strategic alliances, joint ventures, partnerships, new market entrance, and acquisitions. All of which have unique challenges and rewards.
But, how do you go about:

  • Planning for and prioritizing your needs?
  • Determining the proper opportunities to focus on?
  • Capturing the opportunities?
  • Managing your way through the complexities involved with an acquisition, joint venture, or strategic alliance?

To begin with, an external business development strategy should be an essential part of your overall corporate strategic plan. This includes a serious assessment of your business to determine the strength and weaknesses of your solutions versus the competition and what it will take to achieve or maintain market leadership.

Getting Started

Ask and answer the following questions:

  • What are the gaps in our product and service offers?
  • What do we need to do in order to provide our customers with stronger product and service solutions?
  • How do we stack up against our competitors?
  • What are our company’s most valuable assets?
  • What assets are not providing the expected value?
  • Should we shed under performing assets and leverage the new capital to fund our growth initiatives?
  • Can we achieve both a cost savings and a revenue increase through a strategic alliance?
  • What is the best decision…build, buy or ally?

Once you answer these questions and integrate your market and business development plans as a component of the strategic plan, you can rally the troops and ensure that everyone from the senior management team to your front line employees understand the growth strategy and know what is required to execute the plan.

Drilling Down

All business development plans should highlight the markets you want to address, the types of solutions you need to either enter new markets or grow your existing base, and should include both a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and a Gap Map (an analysis of your current solutions in comparison to your strategic initiatives and customer’s needs, segmented by geography.

With these tools developed, the real question becomes how to execute the we build, buy, or establish Alliances to most effectively address our needs and get to market in a timely fashion to capture the bulk of opportunities? This is often a strategic discussion involving a cost/benefit analysis and the results often leads to either a buy or ally decision.
At this point in the process you will have a relatively solid understanding of your gaps and what you must do to fill those gaps in order to strengthen your solution and drive increased revenue. You will have a clear picture of the course of action your company should pursue.
Now the question becomes, "Who is the right fit for a Strategic Alliance or an Acquisition"?


    • SWOT Analysis
    • Gap Map

Developing Your Profile

Based on your previous planning sessions and tools, you have a documented needs assessment that becomes the basis of defining and identifying your most desirable candidates. We use the word candidate; although you will see several references to targets, alliances, focus companies or prospects.
A candidate profile tool is an absolute must. A proper profile should spell out exactly what you are looking for in a company from products to services to management team to geography to culture. And don’t forget culture…it is a critical component.
The key to selecting the best candidates is being able to compare the candidates objectively. First, create a list of characteristics that make a candidate attractive, so you can distinguish a good one from a bad one. For example, you may want a company within a certain revenue range, with a minimum level of profitability that covers a certain geographic market.
A weighting scheme or Fit Assessment should then be developed and applied. The weighted ranking will give you a notion for prioritizing your candidates, based upon your most coveted needs. For example, if corporate culture is important to you and your prospect has a great one, then you might give it a “10.” Multiply your weights and ratings, and then add them up to arrive at one number for each candidate.
Prioritizing is key because you can spend a lot of energy, and money, tracking down the wrong candidates. You will need a keen focus on those that can make the most impact to your strategic objectives.


    • Candidate Profile
    • Fit Assessment Checklist
    • Candidate Weighting Tool

Executing the Plan

Your business development team now has a clear objective and can begin to approach candidates with a targeted value proposition. Remember, the value proposition and approach can vary greatly depending on the type of relationship you seek (acquisition, joint marketing agreement, alliance, or joint venture).

With multiple candidates potentially in play, it is important to proactively manage the opportunities and a professional project manager is often a must in order to make progress and meet targeted timeline and budget schedules.


    • Targeted Approach Piece
    • Value Proposition
    • Opportunity Management Tool

Some Final Thoughts

Planning, communication, and sponsorship are the some of the most critical elements in developing a successful business development program. Once you develop the tools you need to move through the planning phase to the execution phase, the tools can be leveraged over and over again.

The process itself is also a critical element. Developing a consistent methodology will help you to ensure that you maximize the efforts of your team and make the most progress in the least amount of time.


    • Consistent Communications
    • Strong Sponsorship
    • Consistent Methodology



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