Two Miscalculations to Avoid in Business Development

Here are two miscalculations I’ve made and witnessed in others: from new-hires to well-seasoned business development leaders.  These are “Perfecting It” and “Winging It.”  It can be challenging to find the right balance between doing too much and doing too little.

  1. Perfecting It

If you’re in an engineering or technology-based company, your product is performance.  And that performance needs to be perfect.  But such an environment can lead to thinking that everything else surrounding that perfect performance also needs to be perfect.

During college summers I worked in a defense plant machine shop.  We’d get a package with a piece of aluminum and a schematic drawing of what needed to be done with it: folded, rolled, punched, etc.  Each finished piece was inspected.  If it didn’t meet the tolerances, the piece would be rejected and its maker would get a sharp word from the shop manager and razzing from the other benches.

So I made up my mind to make my pieces perfect.  And I did. The only problem was I spent so much time making the pieces perfect my section fell behind in production and – you guessed it – I got a sharp word from the shop manager and razzing from the other benches.  Then I got it.  I needed to meet the tolerances, not perfection.

Have you ever been on a team wasting valuable time and resources driving the solution to eye-watering performance while the customer only wanted “good enough” faster?  Most of the time it’s better not to be too perfect – just perfect enough.

  1. Winging It

This is the flip side of perfection.  It also involves time and resources, but in this case you think you don’t have enough of the first and you don’t need the second.  You’re a pro.  You may be young and smart or you may be a seasoned BD lead and it all seems second nature to you.  In either case, you can be in for a shock.  And it comes quick.

I was a U.S. Air Force officer in Europe and asked to deliver an address to an assembly of political and military leaders.  How hard could it be?  I was used to top-level briefings.  So I made a few notes on cards and showed up at the conference.  It wasn’t what I expected.  The gathering was very senior and very large.  Because not everyone could speak English there was an interpreter. But it wasn’t the slow-paced consecutive translation I was used to.  It was simultaneous translation over headphones.  And when I spoke I could hear the interpreter like a weird echo.  I lost my train of thought and to this day I can’t really remember what I said.

Afterward I asked a colleague how it went.  “You’ve done better,” he replied generously.  The thought of it still stings to this day.  The end result, however, was a great lesson learned: there’s always time to prepare for your customers.

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