Jan 11 2024

What Does Great Look Like in a Chief Business Development Officer?

(This is the second post in the series….the first one When to hire your first CBDO is here)

One of the tricky things about finding a great CBDO is that the role is fairly nuanced and there’s not a degree a person can get in “business development.” So you’re left with searching for someone based partially on experience, reputation, and alignment with your company culture and goals. But over the course of my career I have figured our what “great” looks like for the CBDO and I’m confident that what worked for us at Return Path and Bolster will work for any startup.

First, a great CBDO should have a good balance of the three core components Ken Takahashi outlined in his section of Startup CXO.  Those three components include partnerships, M&A, and strategy.  Even if a person started their careers out as an investment banker or a management consultant, or some other specialized field, they should still be able to bring all three competencies to bear to help further the goals of their team – to optimize the company’s place in the ecosystem. A one-trick pony will get you nowhere in the ecosystem and the CBDO needs to be a competent generalist in a wide range of skills.

Second, a great CBDO will look at business strategy first before trying to solve a problem because a solution that doesn’t advance the strategy will fail. It’s not enough to be able to develop a strategy, the great CBDOs will return to that strategy constantly. If a CBDO is highly skilled at one of the components, say M&A, they are likely to risk becoming the the proverbial hammer in search of a nail and they will put a primacy on M&A deals. The strategy acts as a safeguard to pursuing something because the CBDO wants it amd instead helps them pursue something that fits with the overal strategic drivers of the business. So, strategy is king in the CBDO world.

Third, a great CBDO will see the whole system at a company, not just one thing. They’ll see product (and all of its components) as well as go-to-market (and all of its components). Like the CEO, CFO, and Chief People Officer, the CBDO needs to have a holistic approach to everything and not only be closely aligned with the market-facing organizations. 

You can find this post on the Bolster Blog here.