Business development

Sep 18, 2017

Your next generation of business builders has arrived. Have you shown them the way forward with a comprehensive set of goals and expectations?

What are the career paths in your firm? The next generation wants to know – specifically.

This generation grew up with structure, technology, and instant gratification. They want a clear, accelerated career path so they can make an immediate impact. To recruit and retain talent, business leaders must help shape fulfilling career journeys, and teach missing skills, knowledge, and abilities.

In “The Millennial Question” (an interview with Tom Bilyeu on Inside Quest), Simon Sinek lays down the challenge. “Teach them the joys, impact, and fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time that can’t be done in a month or even a year,” Sinek says. He says good leadership will help this new generation build confidence, learn social skills, and lead a more balanced, meaningful life.

To meet this challenge, Shive-Hattery outlined four career paths for employees: Business development, design, operations, and project management. Each career path has skills, knowledge, and abilities to develop over time – years of experience that require intestinal fortitude.

Business development path. Ongoing coaching helps staff shape their learning plan. Architect Spero Valavanis is a passionate storyteller teaching business development to the next generation at Shive-Hattery. Valavanis breaks down specific activities by years of experience to help mentees continually progress:

  • First five years. Foundational to your success is knowledge of your firm’s values, capabilities and experience. Share your story about why you are excited to be part of your firm with anyone and everyone. Look for ways to give back through participation in professional and non-profit organizations. This will help you develop a network of professionals/peers and meeting skills.
    • Develop communication, marketing, and presentation skills
    • Research opportunities through relationships, networks, and media
    • Understand your personality type (everyone can be effective) and how to connect with people
  • Five to 10 years. Existing clients are ideal training ground for learning relationship development. Through client service, accountability, and availability you become a trusted advisor to long-lasting clients. Spending time with clients – professionally and socially – is important. Tell stories that interest them and share anecdotes related to their needs and goals.
    • Participate in presentations
    • Take leadership roles in volunteer and professional organizations
    • Make calls on client/opportunities related to personal expertise and referrals from relationships
  • Expert and mentor (10-plus years). After a decade of experience, the decision makers are your network of professionals/friends become decision makers. You lead marketing calls and presentations. Develop presentation teams and strategies. Connect colleagues with clients and opportunities, and mentor them through the process. In the broader market, leverage your personal experience, expertise, and knowledge in design.
    • Market sector expert and client relationship manager
    • Promote peers in your firm to clients to create the next generation of relationships
    • Speaking engagements, publication, and media
  • Strategic leader (10-plus years). The pinnacle of the BD career path is market sector leadership. You influence firm-wide client pursuits, project-type targets, growth, and business planning. Your knowledge about trends, opportunities, and challenges makes you valuable to clients. Most importantly, you invest in your firm’s staff as a mentor, guiding career development and ultimately the succession and sustainability of your firm.

Where to Start. For skills, knowledge, and abilities in marketing and business development, check out the Society for Marketing Professional Services “Body of Knowledge” or MARKENDIUM. It defines six areas of marketing and business development to learn: marketing research, planning, client and business development, proposals, promotional activity, and management.

The essence of business development is the ability to form trust-based relationships. There are an array of skills, knowledge, and abilities you can teach beyond simple selling techniques. If your new generation finds fulfillment in continuous learning, and takes time to build the trust of colleagues and clients, your firm will be an innovative, growing enterprise with a deep bench of leaders.

Greg Kanz is marketing director for Shive-Hattery Architecture-Engineering. He can be reached at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.