Other than the weekly executive meeting, your daily schedule as a CEO probably rarely has an entry for “meeting the CBDO.” But because deals can be infrequent, it’s critical to engage with your Chief Business Development Officer on a regular cadence. That way, when something does come up, you’re not wasting time getting to know each other again. There are a few ways I’ve typically spent the most time with or gotten the most value out of CBDOs over the years.
You can engage with the Chief Business Development Officer by making ecosystem maps together. You and your business development leader need to understand exactly what ocean you’re swimming in, what other fish are swimming nearby, and which ones are sharks you need to watch out for. This understanding can make or break the CBDO role, and it’s vital for you as CEO to engage with and help shape that understanding since you’ll have specialized knowledge of some of the other players, their CEOs, and their strategies. The ecosystem map is actually a fun thing to create, and it not only leads to better clarity about where you’re at and where you could go but also aligns you and the CBDO on a deeper, strategic level.
While you can plan out the ecosystem mapping activity, a lot of the engagement I have with my CBDO is sporadic, unplanned, and spontaneous. The deal world is intense and unpredictable. When you’re working on a deal, you may be talking to your CBDO 20 hours a day. When it’s business as usual, you may go weeks without deep interaction. So unlike the other executives, the time you spend engaging with your CBDO will likely be compressed into highly intense time frames.
Another way I engage with my Chief Business Development Officer is in-market and in-transit. As with the CRO, I spend time extensively with the CBDO since we are likely going to the same place at the same time a few times a year. As Ken Takahashi identified correctly in his section of Startup CXO, the essence of the CBDO’s job is to be a trusted ambassador on all fronts, and the CEO should constantly be engaging the ambassador on the organization’s most current thinking, positioning, and forward-looking strategy. Over the life of Return Path (and currently at Bolster), there’s no question that I spent the majority of my “planes, trains, and automobiles work time” with my CBDO.
Building trust and clarity takes time, so it’s important to engage with your CBDO regularly, even when you’re not actively working on a deal together. There are plenty of ways to make that happen, but these are a few I’ve found particularly helpful over the course of my career.