*Originally posted on Elevator Up’s blog
I just joined the Elevator Up team not too long ago and, I am not going to lie, this team is top notch! We have people from all walks of life and I am so proud to be part of a team that is passionate with what they create for our customers.
Now be patient with me because I started with this idea of what the actual heck is “Biz Dev” or business development? Is it just a fancy name for a sales person? When I turn to the “interwebz” Wikipedia defines it as this:
“Business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities within and between organizations. It is a subset of the fields of business, commerce, and organizational theory. Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.”
Well, that makes sense, but what does this look like for our industry and/or Elevator Up? I took to the streets or, rather, my good friends around the globe, to ask them what this looks like for their ventures/business. This will be a series of posts to better understand business development and how we define this for our team.
I ventured to my Twitter friends and got ahold of Ryan Brüssow at Teamgeek to see what this role looks like for him and his team in South Africa. Here is our conversation about business development and some insight into their story!
What does “business development” mean to TeamGeek?
At Teamgeek, we have quite a different approach to business and clients. In our 7 year adventure, we’ve never pitched for work. Instead, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing brands and normally get approached directly. Growth has been more organic for us and not something we’ve pursued aggressively.
Our focus is working with forward-thinking companies where we can add real value instead of just chasing the next cheque. I’ve learned a lot about having the right structure for growth in business, but it’s never been a top of mind focus area for me.
When times are good, we roll with the punches and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. When times are tough, we buckle down and look for opportunities where we can make quick gains to restore stability. As an entrepreneur, I believe you need to do whatever it takes to make it work. You’ll have good times and hard times. This is the game, the true entrepreneurs learn to adapt quickly and pivot when necessary.
What do you do to keep up with industry trends and what tools do you use to help with this role?
At Teamgeek we have a very collaborative environment. We use Slack and it’s normally flooded with inspiration and the odd “giphy”. From a marketing perspective and positioning, we’ve never really focussed on trends and buzzwords. We can do anything, or so we believe at least 🙂
What do you do especially well?
Ambivalent to say the least 🙂 I’m self-taught and the only geek without a degree at Teamgeek, which is pretty weird and exciting at the same time. I get to work with very smart kids and I add value by being an objective perspective in an otherwise overqualified space. I take care of user experience and interface design. My Bulgarian business partners (Ilian and Andrei) take care of our development and app development departments respectively.
We have a culture of developing great software from the ground up. We steer clear of quick fixes and drag-and-drop frameworks. We also put a lot of emphasis on human-centered design and spend a great deal of time improving user journeys and ease of use.
What are some mistakes you have learned from while growing your business or doing business development?
Take your time. Enjoy the journey of building your business. When you set out to grow too fast you end with big gaps in areas that could cost you reputation and clients. Work IN your business from 9 am-5 pm and AT your business from 7pm-12am. When we started out a very big global soft drinks brand approached us to help them with UX for their self-help portal. We were very excited! Back then this project would have covered overheads for a year!
A close friend and mentor convinced me not to take on the project and after being really pissed off and demotivated by his words I decided not to. Today I look back and thank him for his mentorship and helping me understand growth. Hire the right people, never lower standards when hiring no matter how badly you need people.
How do you get your customers and future customers involved with your company’s culture/vision?
We’re a diverse bunch of geeks. We have Asians, Bulgarians, Persians, a Tswana, some Afrikaners and a bunch of Brits! We share a collaborative environment with no cubicles and offices, so we all share in each other’s views and ideologies. We respect each other and we’re a family.
I believe this shines through whenever a new client comes in for a coffee. We also don’t employ account managers, which means our clients get to work directly with the geeks involved in their projects. This creates synergy, good collaboration and accountability.
Any advice for someone new to business development in the industry?
When I was still a corporate grunt I started following some creative agency dudes on Twitter. I needed to understand the thinking and kind of things these people looked for in partners, affiliates etc. I started attending some events and conferences and started mingling with people who worked in the industry to get a better understanding of things. This gave me the confidence to approach the right people.
Shortly after launching Teamgeek I approached these agencies and immediately started working with them, developing overflow campaign websites and stuff like that. This gave me the insight and understanding of quality expectations and so I set out to find my own clients. It probably sounds much easier here than it really was, but I believe if you have talent and can somehow get it in front of the right people, you’ll have queues of brands at your front door.
Any other thoughts you have on the topic?
If you’re keen to start a business, you have to do it for the right reasons. Don’t start a business because you want to get rich (quick) or think that you’ll have more time to do other stuff. The truth is; working for yourself is 10 times more work and 50 times more stressful than working for a boss.
In my case, I believe I’m unemployable and therefore I can never see myself working for someone with less ambition and passion for business. Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. Thanks for the opportunity to share my views.
Thanks, Ryan and Teamgeek team for the chat and good luck on your adventure! I can’t wait to see more of your work and how you tackle new problems. Stay tuned for more stories from around the globe of how companies are growing their passion/ventures and how we at Elevator Up understand our own process!
Do you want to share your story or have thoughts on business development?