How do I create a business development culture in my firm?

The short answer is to make it worthwhile for employees to get involved.  People want career development as part of the payback, not just money.

Business development gets confused with sales. It is not the same. Development is usually about creating long-term relationships. This involves making contacts, taking meetings and maintaining a high profile, often out of normal hours. Hard work, in other words. So it needs to be properly rewarded.

The first rule for spreading responsibility for business development is to make contributing to it part of annual appraisals. Nothing concentrates the mind more than the thought that bonuses, share options or promotion might hinge on how much a person has done to help grow the business over the past year.

You may be picking up a theme here: Recognition. Most people at every level want where they work to succeed, but they also want their own contributions to be acknowledged publicly.

Startups and smaller firms are often better at coming up with innovative ideas. This is often because a survival gene kicks in when things start, usually with just a few people, and there is more positive energy around. Everyone from top to bottom recognises an incentive and responsibility to make sure the venture is a success.

The problems can start when, ironically, things are going well. Hierarchies emerge with success and expansion. People are then often happy to work in their particular ‘silo’, assuming no responsibility for anything that is not in their job title. They may also not have been part of the original launch team, with all that implies in terms of commitment and connections to the product and top team.

So, the key to encouraging your team to help you lies with two words that work together: Reward and recognition.