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A Piece of Earth

Comparisons between business development and the fight against viruses.

A series of publications, expert opinions, and research reports on the Earth’s climate situation: I could say that the number of these types of writings has multiplied in recent months, but I don’t like to make statements that I’m not clearly convinced of. And they may have been there in front of my nose all along, I just didn’t notice them, or worse, I ignored them. I had a general understanding of the whole situation, of course, but I wasn’t immersed in the information. I should have been! And it wasn’t just the coronavirus that should have made me realise the need to understand this topic more deeply! I was irresponsible! And the fact that most people could make the same criticism of themselves is no excuse! But I have a duty to study these things, not only as a responsible human being but as a business development professional. After immersing myself in the subject matter over the past few months, I have realised that there are incredible similarities between the challenges of saving the Earth and the challenges of doing business.


It is shocking to read statements by reputable scientists that there were clear signs about how a virus could wreak such mental and economic havoc, and that we were lucky to make it until 2020 without such a disaster. For decades, we have been receiving warnings and clear predictions that the takeover of natural habitats (e.g., urbanisation), an increasingly direct relationship with wild animals under absolutely unhygienic conditions, (e.g., a Danish mink farm), and non-compliance with health rules (e.g., Wuhan animal markets) will result in human loss. Of course, we respond to such threats based on our personality types. Some are more frightened than they should be, and if, after reading such an article, the world does not end a few months later, they go on, forgetting their sudden-onset fear. Some people wade right through the information because the simplest attitude is that it can’t happen to us anyway, or if something similar happens, it won’t affect us much. I could list the reactions of different people, but the point is the same: we don’t pay enough attention to clear dangers. We usually read and listen to the facts, but we don’t act until there is a real crisis. Welcome to my world, the world of business development! I’ve been in business development for exactly twenty years, and I planned to celebrate this milestone, but 2020 had different plans; it elicited massive challenges for my profession. I came across many companies where there were clear signs of serious problems with the business. Even a few ten-minute conversations with the company owner or manager were all I needed know that the company needed improvement. But they didn’t act. After all, the business was still moving; it was still making decent money, and why would anyone do unpleasant or taxing tasks until they really have to? Well, maybe to avoid the crash that decimated many businesses this year. If we have a business, it’s a piece of Earth that we must care for, whether large or small. It must be cultivated and nurtured constantly. We should not grieve when our land no longer bears fruit. But it is our general nature to use our resources, be them physical items or human resources, that is, our colleagues. Many businesses are in danger, as the indifference of recent years, which squeezed resources, is now backfiring. We can already see how nature punishes us. But how does business punish us? Many companies didn’t really deal with many fundamentals, including business strategy, identifying and getting to know their target group, building and stabilising the organisation, understanding the people within the organisation, and really motivating them. Then some companies seemed to have dealt with it all. I don’t know which is more dangerous. If management doesn’t deal with something, or if they convince the owner to deal with it. To be sure, there are very few companies where management and the owner have effectively dealt with these tasks in recent years. They are the ones who still know what to expect from the future, where to change, and where to eliminate business modules. And the others run blind. They don’t know where the problem came from, they don’t know how it spreads, and they don’t know how to stop it. There is nothing left; now we have to wait for the vaccine, which will solve everything. But scientists claim that some 1.7 million viruses could circulate the world, and 540,000 to 850,000 of these pose a real threat to humanity. And the vaccine will now be for a virus that, of course, will save millions of lives now, so it’s very important!


The following similarity is found in the judgment of scientists. That is, we can draw serious parallels between the judgment of scientists and business development professionals. After all, if there were a scientist whom everybody listens to, because everyone knows that they are not speaking hyperbolically, but saying only black and white facts, then there would be no question about rescuing the Earth. But it’s not like that. There are plenty of scientists and even more pseudo-scientists in the world. Plus, we should not believe that the best professionals are the loudest. Many don’t speak much because of their personality type; instead, they work more and dedicate their lives to their craft. They are not out there doing interviews or posting on social media, so we do not hear their voices. In general, the greatest scholars have a considerable Expert personality factor, which means they focus on professional challenges and usually reject the notion of performing. But then, of course, some scientists promote themselves very well—those who are loud, exciting, and who can sometimes exaggerate about themselves or their scientific backgrounds. We have been watching them too, and quite often they have been tremendously disappointing for us. Again, welcome everyone to the world of business development! Because I’ve lost count of how many conversations I’ve had where the company manager or business owner reported that they started a business development project as a “careful owner”, but it either didn’t bring any progress or hurt the otherwise well-functioning business. To this day, I do not understand how the latter can happen. Like in science, with the advent of the coronavirus, semi-professionals, quarter professionals, and simple brokers have emerged. Because of which, by the way, managers are already resistant to the topic of business development. But in a coronavirus situation, even pseudo-scientists have an audience, because their audience is afraid, sometimes even terrified, and any help, even if it is ultimately harmful, can seem like help. And just like in the world of scientists, in business development, the real professionals are quieter because they are doing their jobs. Especially in 2020, since if a business development professional is proven and really understands their profession, they’ve been working 16-18 hours a day, every day of the week, since about mid-February. And this can only be done by thinking of your profession as a profession, not a job. It only works if you can enjoy building companies or saving them from collapse.


This feature merits a separate article because it causes human losses. And in the case of business development, the loss of one’s business. Reliable scientists say that if we took a fraction of what we spend on military defence and spent that on virus prevention, then we could prevent such viruses from appearing again. Based on their calculations, for every euro spent on managing the current crisis, countries could have provided meaningful, lasting protection had they spent a mere 1% of such management expenditures on prevention. Not too much, is it? Such little money is worth millions of lives, no? And why doesn’t it happen? This past year, contrary to my MO, I tried to meet as many business owners as possible to discuss business development. But I only initiate new collaborations when there is a concrete consulting element involved. That’s because my private mentoring practice is very stable, and more business opportunities come in from the recommendations than I want to deal with, so I don’t feel motivated by general conversations. But this year, I wanted to do my best in my own micro-environment to keep businesses from going bankrupt, stopping production of excellent products, or firing people with serious potential. I had no other goal than professionalism, but what I saw was a serious illness plaguing owners and company managers’ mindsets. We had meetings with companies whose 2019 revenues exceeding 10, 20, or 30 million EUR, and the owners confided that they did not really even sell their products anymore; their products were based on such specialised knowledge that their clients seek them out. In the fall, around October, 80-90% of their total capacity was typically booked for the following year, so they could plan with confidence. But by mid-October 2020, 2021’s bookings constituted exactly 0% of their capacity. There are no orders, so they have now realised that they need a sales team to survive. They already have a perfunctory sales team, but they’ve never done anything other than client intake. It’s not the biggest challenge, nor the highest level of professional task, to build a sales team; we’ve cultivated such teams more than 1,000 times, but not typically when bailing a client out from an emergency. The shock only occurred when the consultant, as usual, prepared an offer of 100,000 EUR for the creation, recruitment, training, motivation, and control of the complex sales organisation, and the owner considered it too much. Relevantly, these companies run 25-30% profits, so even the smallest among them endangered an annual profit of over 1.5 million EUR. Yes, a lot of owners are simply greedy. Yet many of the greedy ones do not even invest much in their own lives; it is not in their nature. They started their business, the money came right away, and they received subsidies or EU funds, so the ownership position did not yield them all that many real benefits. And it blinded them so much that they ran straight into their loss. In such situations, the consultants asked what to do. I didn’t say much, just that it’s not our terrain, at least not right now. Let’s deal with the partners and potential partners who are real businesspeople. And experience has shown that these companies will end up spending anyway. It may not be with us, but it doesn’t matter. I have a partner I started working with right after such a story because he claims he “woke up” after our meeting. I love people who are honest about themselves, so we have been working together for 12 years now and just broke ground on our ninth venture.

Humanity must come together to save our planet. Even if such a sentence sounded like a meaningless and trite slogan years ago, today I think it suddenly resonates everyone. I also take part in this in my own way. I will pay more and more specific attention to the things that will give concrete support in the fight for our planet. However, we can also play a bigger role in business development. I always stress that having a new partner, or having a drastic increase in revenue, is both joyful and stressful because it creates new responsibilities. We need to earn trust and take responsibility. This is how we can help more businesses succeed.