It’s been said numerous times in numerous places that companies are people. This notion is especially true in startup business development. Understanding that companies have personalities just like some of your closest friends is important to figuring out which partners to target, how to pitch a potential partner, and how to position a deal or relationship.
Here are 5 types of friends that will help you understand your future business development partners.
- The Experimenter: We all know this person. He was the one who had to be the first to try anything, the risk-taker. If he wasn’t first, then he didn’t want any part of it. The same personality exists in the form of a company. However, I’ve noticed that it tends to come in one of two flavors. First, the company that has nothing to lose. They’re more than happy to be your guinea pig. The upside of working with them isn’t incredibly high, but the downside is mitigated because they’re likely not a crucial partner. Second, the company that has made a name for itself by being innovative with partnerships. They want to be first because it’s in their DNA. In this instance, the upside is significantly higher, but the downside is also rather extreme.
- The Sidekick / Fast Follower: This was the person who was always tagging along with The Experimenter. Once The Experimenter gave the go-ahead, The Sidekick was next in line. Again, I’ve noticed that this type of partner comes in one of two varieties when it comes to biz dev. First, The Sidekick may come in the form of an ally to The Experimenter. They could be owned by the same parent company or just work together frequently. Once you have The Experimenter on-board, it’s up to you to figure out who the best ally is. Second, The Fast Follower may also be a competitor to The Experimenter. After securing The Experimenter as a partner, approach a couple key competitors who will be driven to work with you to outdo The Experimenter.
- The Friend Who Needs Permission: Growing up, there was always a friend who had to ask for permission from his parents before doing anything. He always held up plans and slowed down the momentum of our group of friends. When working on biz dev deals, this type of company can often emerge. The leadership at the company is excited to work with you…they just need to talk to their parent company first. The derivative of this situation is a slightly more junior person who is thrilled to work with you…he just needs to pitch his boss on the idea first. Sometimes these situations are unavoidable; but it’s critical to make sure your point of contact is a strong advocate on your behalf. Just like you may have coached your friend on how to convince their parents to let him do something, you may need to coach your biz dev partner in a similar way when they ask for permission, providing them with additional matierals / info and generally doing most of the legwork.
- The Conservative Friend: This friend is a close cousin to the one who needs to ask for permission. The Conservative Friend is the last guy in the pool. He won’t try anything until everyone else has gone before him to make sure it’s safe or OK. From a biz dev perspective, this type of company is usually some sort of incumbent in their ownindustry, is oftentimes very large, and may believe that their mere presence in the partnership will ensure its success. It usually requires closing several deals before convincing this type of company to work with you, and they may have very little patience for the bumps in the road that are inherent in a startup releasing new features / products. While it is always ideal to have your product buttoned up before entering into a partnership of some kind, it is most critical when working with this type of company.
- The Friend Who Needs Attention: Then there was the friend who needed to be wooed and courted before doing anything. He had to be asked several times before agreeing to something, always evaluating multiple other offers that may be on the table from different groups of friends. Usually a company that falls in this bucket is one worth pursuing. It requires diligent follow-up, consistenly updating them on new feature releases, case studies on other successful partnerships, or similarly important milestones. You’re likely competing against other startups for this company’s time, attention, and, potentially, money, but hopefully, after demonstrating the value you would contribute as a future partner, they choose to work with you.
It’s critical to realize that the companies you’re working with often assume the personalities of the people who run them. It’s important to understand how they’re motivated, their appetite for risk, and ultimately, how you can align your interests with theirs to close deals and build successful, mutually beneficial partnerships.