October 7, 2015
Business development is necessary but expensive, particularly for very early stage startups on a shoestring budget. So what are ways you can maximize your effectiveness on your trip?
When maximizing every second on business development trips as an entrepreneur, I focus on three factors: streamlining logistics, securing speaking opportunities, and utilizing my network to secure explorative meetings.
Logistics matters, particularly in certain cities (I am thinking of you, Bay Area!). For me, and for most entrepreneurs, business development trips are usually centered around one particularly important meeting with a key client or potential client, or around one key event, such as a major conference. So, whenever planning a trip, the first thing I do is divide each day of the trip into a logistical area, and then look to secure all the interesting meetings I can in that area. For example, on my San Francisco trips, which more often than not tend to be for three days and center around one major meeting in Palo Alto, I divide the trip into a Palo Alto day, an SF day, and a San Jose/further out environs day. Then, I email each person in my key contacts list with the day of availability based on their region, and try to get them on the calendar. It’s far more efficient and, if someone cancels (and they always do) I can quickly email another contact in that regional area and swap them in, without throwing my entire set of plans into disarray.
The second factor I look at are roundtables or speaking opportunities that happen to coincide with my trip. Currently, I do this manually through a mixture of my interns doing research and reaching out to my friends in the area for anything exciting they are going to or participating in where I can take part. I also have just started using my friend’s startup, called Casual Speakers, to book speaking and roundtable opportunities, offering my time in exchange for contributions by the attendees to charity.
The final thing I do is mix networking with explicit business development. At its root, I think business development is about relationships, and building relationships is a lot like tending plants – you give them care and attention for a long time when you don’t need it, and then eventually they are there when you do. So, I fill the rest of my time meeting with and reconnecting with my best contacts in the area – accounting for logistics of course – and strengthening my relationships even if I do not have a direct goal in mind. I know that, down the line, it will come in handy.
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