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Discover the Non-Negotiable Rules of Business Development



We talk to leaders and owners of small businesses every day, and one thing we consistently hear is that the strategies that work for them today are different from the strategies that worked in the past, when their company was smaller.

The guiding rules for almost every area of the company seem to change with the addition of new people. 

There’s a simple reason for that shift: people are the number one driver of complexity in an organization. That’s why the Organizational ReWilding Stages of Growth framework is so effective at diagnosing and even predicting the challenges facing small businesses.


Over three decades of research has shown that companies go through distinct stages as they gain (or lose) employees. 


Each Stage spans a specific number of employees. Within each of these Stages, there are rules that create the optimal environment for business growth. The rules that work for a Stage 1 business are not the same as those that work for a Stage 5 business. 

Organizational ReWilding is a comprehensive framework that touches every aspect of a business, from infrastructure and culture to leadership and strategy.


The focus of this article is on the rules that govern Business Development. 


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What is Business Development?

Business Development is an umbrella term that encompasses the revenue-generating functions of a company: marketing, sales, and customer service. While each area contributes to revenue, they all play a different role. 

Marketing is responsible for generating leads, sales is charged with converting those leads into revenue, and customer service keeps the revenue coming. 


A strong Business Development Department works together across these areas to generate, sustain, and grow revenue. Ideally, they should function like a medley swimming team—each with their own talents, applying their skills to successfully transition to the next leg of the race.

And just like a team medley race, everyone wins together, and everyone loses together.


Unfortunately, it’s often the case that these three functions are lumped together into one individual or team with no real distinction between them, or they are divided into distinct teams that compete with one another.

It’s no wonder that over half of small and midsize businesses report significant problems related to Business Development.


The Three Main Phases of Business Development 

Depending on the size of the company, the rules that govern Business Development are going to look a little different. That’s because Business Development plays a different role in the success of the business, according to its Stage.


Stages 1-2: Survive

In Stages 1 and 2 (1-19 employees), Business Development is how a business survives. Having the money to fund the continued existence of the business is critical is these Stages.

The ability for marketing to generate leads, for sales to turn those leads into revenue, and for customer service to keep the revenue coming goes a long way in ensuring the survival of the organization. 


If Business Development in a Stage 1 or 2 business isn’t effective, there isn’t enough money to invest in the business—to hire good talent, to invest in critical infrastructure, or maybe even to keep the lights on.

The business simply can’t survive.


Stages 3-5: Scale

In Stages 3, 4, and 5 (20-95 employees), Business Development is how a business scales. In these Stages, a business needs to have transitioned away from the owner-centric business it was in Stages 1 and 2 and move into an enterprise-centric mentality—the business must be able to scale beyond the span of control of the owner.

Where the top executive may have played a significant role in Business Development in Stages 1 and 2, they must move to scaling this function in their business.


Instead of growing by word of mouth, the leader must move to a sustainable process that doesn’t require their daily involvement. 

If Business Development in a Stage 3, 4, or 5 business isn’t working, revenue vacillates significantly.

And because there is no process to follow, it’s hard to bring on new sales professionals and help them be successful, resulting in a business that can’t scale.


Stages 6-7: Sustain

In Stages 6 and 7 (96-350 employees), Business Development is how a business sustains. At this size of an organization, Business Development must be a well-oiled machine—it must be generating consistent and growing revenue in order to support the organization.

At this point, marketing, sales, and customer service need to be that Olympic-level medley swim team, with each function performing its leg of the race well.


That is how a business develops continuity from the very first impression they make on a prospect through a relationship with a livelong, devoted customer. 

If Business Development in a Stage 6 or 7 business isn’t working, the business is dependent on people rather than structure. It’s always one resignation letter away from disaster.

Processes are very manual, not automated or systematized or streamlined, which results in a business that can’t sustain.


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Why is Business Development so Difficult?

Why do the majority of small and midsize businesses say they struggle with Business Development?

Based on our research, it’s one of two reasons: 


  1. They are using old strategies in a new stage. A Stage 3 business, for example, will flounder if it continues to rely on survival strategies that worked in Stages 1 and 2. The organization is larger and no longer as nimble as it was in those early days, so a survival-based strategy isn’t going to be effective; the infinite variability will make it impossible to scale.
  2. They’ve missed important rules along the way. Everyone knows you can’t lump a group of people together and watch them transform into an Olympic swim team overnight. There are steps that need to be taken along the way to ensure the Business Development function of a business is growing proportional to the organization. If those steps have been missed, the business will struggle. 


Discover the Non-Negotiable Rules of Business Development for Your Business

We’ve made it simple—and free—to find out the Non-Negotiable Rules of Business Development for businesses of every size. Take this short assessment (two minutes) and download a one-page PDF that lists the rules for your business at its current size and summarizes the rules that should have been completed during prior Stages. (Not sure what Stage your business is in? It’s easy to find out! The Stage Calculator gives you a fast, accurate response.)

Go even deeper by getting a copy of the Business Development Structure Guidebook. This concise book explains the underlying principles of Business Development Structure and illustrates the impact they can have on a small business. 


About the author

Matthew Pohl is a seasoned entrepreneur with a unique combination of strategic thinking, operational excellence, and deep analytical skills. As the Principal of The ReWild Group, Matthew takes the Organizational ReWilding framework and applies it to businesses around the world, helping them become more exceptional.