Jan 25 2024

Signs your CBDO isn’t scaling

(This is the third post in the series… The first one When to Hire your first CBDO is here, and What does Great Look Like in a CBDO is here).

The metrics for understanding whether or not your CBDO is scaling differs from other functions like Sales, People Ops, Customer Service, and Finance because throughout the scaling process the CBDO team is likely to be small. So how do you know if your CBDO is scaling if they’re essentially the same size regardless of what the rest of your company is doing? I have found that CBDOs who aren’t scaling well past the startup stage are the ones who typically operate in the following ways.

First, a CBDO who isn’t scaling is throwing everything over the wall internally. Some people in this role, especially ones who have been long-time bankers or consultants and who are used to having armies of junior resources at their disposal, don’t like or don’t know how to roll up their sleeves and handle execution. The reality is that in-house BD teams are very small, frequently only one or two people, and the person leading the team needs to do a lot of the work, not just the planning and external meetings.

Second, if your CBDO has an over-reliance on outside advisors like bankers and lawyers, that’s a sign that they’re not scaling. The whole reason companies in-source this role is that they expect to have a fair amount of activity — developing partnerships, executing a roll-up strategy, building out the channel.  While external advisors are critical for a number of those activities, knowing when, and when not to hand things off, especially when the advisor bills by the hour, is critical.

A third sign is if your CBDO is focused on quantity rather than on quality.  I have found that there are times when it’s important to be able to show a large number of partners, for example if you’re trying to run an industry-wide coalition or program. And also there are times when it’s important to show a lot of deals in the pipeline, for example if you’re pitching an M&A roll-up strategy to a potential financial sponsor.  But you know your CBDO is in trouble when the focus becomes the number of deals in the pipeline as opposed to making sure there are a few larger ones with deeper, multi-faceted relationships that will move the needle on the business objectives. Your CBDO should be helping to develop the ecosystem and this is done a lot easier by finding and working with the gems rather than developing all sorts of channel partnerships or deals that look good on paper, or get good PR, but don’t actually move the business forward. 

( You can find this post on the Bolster Blog here)