Tag Archives: Analysis

MVP or “Only one chance to make a 1st impression”?

MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a topic that won’t die down in 21stC Biz Dev. I covered it – and its weaknesses earlier, but had a practical personal example this week when I launched my London FinTech Podcast

London FinTech PodcastOne summary of MVP theory is “you should be embarrassed by your first version” – the whole point of that methodology being to get something out there and iterate fast.

However there is a very interesting and very relevant principle in Taoism here … Continue reading


What You Can Learn from Long Sales Cycles

I was at a London Tech week event recently and one of the panelists was referring to having been through 3 years sales cycles into banks.  There was some discussion as to what to do in these circs.  Strangely no-one mentioned the obvious conclusion “get a new job!” 🙂 I mean if you are selling a fleet of Airbus or some such you expect the process to take some time – but there is a very big-ticket at the end of it. But just selling something into a bank?!

get a life

But what if it is not quite that bad? What do you need to learn short of moving to Airbus where you would at least land a whale not a fish after 3yrs? Continue reading


The Best Things In Business (&Life) Are Free

Actually not all of them are for example the Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai is one of the best things in life and it most certainly isn’t free 😉

dhara deviHowever an increasing number of things are.  One of the best and simplest ways to accelerate your business (or personal) life and development is to leverage these.  Furthermore if you don’t you risk being left behind – we live in a world that changes at the speed of light – literally as anything new gets tweeted round the world and soon copied.

There’s just one small problem – which is the tsunami of content and free stuff out there. Wading through it takes time – or a guide… Continue reading


Brain Hacks – The Immense Value of Doodling Stories in BizDev

Funny how some weeks you see lots and lots of the same pattern.  As if the universe is trying tell you something… The one I kept noticing this week in BizDev conversations was one of the most common roadblocks I see folks confronted by in Business Development. Namely being “stuck with the facts”.

Now there is nothing wrong with facts or descriptions. That is unless you are trying to do BizDev 🙂 For BizDev we need messages, we need to arouse emotion (emotion drives action), we need to convey the essence of what we are trying to get across.

Once folks are stuck in this descriptive place there is no easy way out.  The logical parts of the psyche are in control and the logical parts of the psyche don’t like anything that’s not logical 🙂  Like creativity or seeing the way out of the logic trap 🙂

But there is a great Brain Hack.  A way out of the cul-de-sac of prosaic and unsexy explanation…

visual thinking Continue reading


The Importance of Dating

Darth Vader doesn’t date. Mind you, based on a poll I saw, Anakin Skywalker and Padme’s on-screen “romance” was judged the least believable ever – so Anakin barely dated either. But they – and “American style” 20thC manipulation marketing – belong in a galaxy a long time ago far, far away.

In our galaxy, here and now, different principles need to apply. In the second part of The Tao of BizDev YouTube trilogy on how Business and hence BizDev has changed in the 21stC I emphasise the importance of dating as an antidote to many of the challenges of 21stC business development.

The Tao of BizDev - Dating

In talking to folks subsequently it’s clear that many – or even most – agree, but few understand all the ramifications. I believe there are five main reasons why dating is vitally important (it is after all The Tao of BizDev’s second principle}: Continue reading


Case Study of a Strategic BizDev Audit

I first saw Hawkind in 1978 at a gig that the local evening paper suitably described as “a weird evening”. Never mind that punk had happened – every hippy and assorted entity who lived under a stone had been drawn there as if by a tribal dog whistle.

masters of the universe

The previous year they had written a song called micro-man, which has a key line which has only become more applicable over time:

It’s the age of the micro-man, who sees the detail and never the plan

Which is highly relevant to business development today.  In this world of speciation and specialisation we are all admonished to be ever more detail focused and ever less plan focused – to drill into and live amongst the pixels. This, de facto, means less time attention and thought for the big picture.

Detail is fine and dandy – and essential in many professions, or even the arts – ever seen a ballet rehearsal?. However time and time again I see that it’s The Big Picture that makes the biggest difference.  No amount of tactics will make up for strategic drift.

One Tao of BizDev strategic consultancy gig was Continue reading


Beyond Networking – Micro-Partnerships

Last week I discussed the problems around networking. One key way into this was these two images:






Too much “networking” is of the left variety – sometimes a spark will jump across but rarely.  In most cases in a few months time you have no idea who that contact is on your LinkedIn list.

On the other hand (ha!) it can take some time to get to the right image – walking hand-in-hand in the same direction.  Besides, in a world of change, one rarely walks a long path parallel to any person or organisation. Furthermore in a world of overload one can simply lack the time to develop such a “hand in hand” approach.

The answer is micro-partnerships 🙂 Or for those lean startup fans a different type of “P” in “MVP”. What are they? Continue reading


21stC Networking – Hands, Rifles, Shotguns and the Russian Revolution

You must have had those moments when a topic bombards you from all directions. I had that recently with many different sources suddenly bombarding me on the same topic and all agreeing. Uncanny. To spare you the hassle of being besieged and having to think it through yourself here is the current best-practice, 21stC networking theory.


Let’s start by going back just over a century to a dispute between Lenin and Martov over the editorial board of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party newspaper. From tiny acorns do large oak trees grow and this widens into a split between the Bolsheviks (you’ve heard of them) and Mensheviks (finally some purpose to my history O level 😀 ). Ironically the Bolsheviks (from the Russian for “majority”) believed in a tightly knit cadre (you can see how this led quite easily to dictatorship) and the Mensheviks (“minority”) a much broader-based party.

Just in case you think I have lost the plot 😀 … fast-forwarding – do you, like the Bolsheviks, want  handfuls of “party-members” actively contributing to your cause? Or like the Mensheviks hundreds, thousands of passive “party members” on LinkedIn/Facebook et al?

Right now many people Continue reading


The Internet and Candyfloss Addiction

When I were a lad, in ‘t days of ‘t horse and cart, show grounds were epicentres of candyfloss. Yucky sticky stuff which would coat and rot your teeth in seconds.  There’s probably a conspiracy theory out there that it was funded by dentists.

candyflossFortunately in those days even a five-year old could only do candyfloss in certain places. The supply was limited.

But now we have the interweb and constant interwebbing devices we can do candyfloss at any time. And like all addictions there is a lot of denial and rationalisation associated with it. Indeed some otherwise very bright buttons have spent a lot of time explaining  to me why they only do candyfloss and why there is actually no way they would – say – do meat and veg.

And this causes a problem. A problem that hits the best businesses hardest. Continue reading


What is the Minimum Minimum Viable Product?

Funny how coincidence goes. I was only last night watching Eric Ries gig at the LSE – which two years on seems surprisingly dated (see eg Wu-wei, Growth Hacking, and The Rise of Marketing-less Marketing) when what should I get today but a text from a buddy asking about the above koan. How could I resist 🙂


For those of you not in the loop. Ries’ (a silicon valley programmer turned manager turned director) book is based on his experience of spending 6mts and a whole bunch of funding developing a product that no-one ever downloaded.  A pain I can relate to as my first gig way back was porting Unix to an ICL mainframe (when the UK had a mainframe company). Lots of work, lots of stress, huge efforts, brilliant work. And it never got used. Ever. [ICL was sold to Fujitsu].  Not long after I promptly became a Merchant Banker 😀

Ries methodology centres on having an MVP – a Minimum Viable Product – that you can put out there ASAP to at least find out if the market wants it.  In the extreme case it’s a single page website which says click here for more info.

It’s a solution to the old Supply-Push, Demand-Pull balance. It’s product development interacting ASAP with Sales.

We can also Continue reading


Will Purpose-Driven Businesses Blow Away Marketing-Driven Businesses?

In the seminal, if dated, 1999 HBR article “Unbundling the Corporation”, Hagel and Singer declared that every company contains three different kinds of business and that in future they would unbundle. nice work for consultants if you can get it (which is probably why it’s free at McKinseys site lol) … followed only 5yrs later no doubt by them “Rebundling the Corporation” 😀

unbundling the corporation

This is a nice way in (well I think so lol) to framing things in a different take.  Using the first three steps in the BizDev Cascade – Value, Marketing, Sales – we can “Unbundle the Corporation” in a different way.

Starting with Marketing-driven business, I would say that the sans pareil definition of most Global American Mega Cos in the food industry – is that Marketing has become the product.  When you drink Coca-Cola you are drinking a brand not benefitting from a dozen teaspoons of sugar and some chemicals. Continue reading


Rab C Nesbitt taught me more than I ever knew about raising Angel investment

Yesterday I went to some Elite Business Event in Shoreditch.  A while back an entrepreneurial buddy had said “come to this”. By the time I arrived I had completely forgotten why – other than Neil sending me an email saying to come along. So I guess that says a lot about 21stC marketing in itself – the power of personal recommendation. And no, money can’t buy it.

And hence, after basking in the morning keynote in awe of the phenomenon that is Karren Brady, I found myself in the Rab C Nesbitt guide to Angel investing.  Or so it seemed:


The gentleman looked like the eponymous chap above albeit he had shaved and did wear a shirt and a very “Scottish flasher”s coat (indoors).  Maybe it wasn’t him. However he did proceed to give a very Scottish, very un-PC, very honest and very helpful talk on Angel Investing.  Or rather on how not to raise Angel funds.

To give you a flavour the last point was “have a sh1t product” 😀 … and he gave a couple of his favourite examples – one was Continue reading


BizDev when there is no Conduit to Market

I have had some interesting conversations recently with various different folks who are all doing different types of business where the clients are in Financial Services.  They all break the simple textbook Product-Conduit-Market model.  This model is fine for selling your cornflakes in supermarkets perhaps but of little relevance in more consultancy-based businesses. For Financial Services perhaps most of the sellers into it have to build up their own contact list.  There are no real channels as such.

As I wrote last week the modern “Beyond Marketing and Selling” process is heavily dependent upon searching for and attracting leads.  This is even more vital when you and your firm “wearing out the shoe leather” is the “channel to market”.

Churchs shoe sole

So what is the secret to “21stC shoe leather” marketing?  Continue reading


Moving Beyond “Marketing” and “Sales”

Do you like being “marketed” to? Do you like Ads? Do you like being “sold” to? Do you like some guy selling you stuff?

Thought not. Me neither. So why does everyone persist with Marketing and Sales?  Well the same reason everyone persists – inertia. But if “we always do what we always did” … in the 21stC we will not continue “to always get what we always got” – this is my whole point – 21stC business development needs a radically new mentality.


I believe we can all make a leap forward by taking a step back, re-examining the intent behind “marketing” and “sales”, why we resist them and how we can expand our business in a harmonious way that we flow with the Tao rather than swim against the flow. Continue reading


21stC BizDev in 5 Words – What? Who? What? How? Why?

Once I wrote a nice simple, clear post … doesn’t happen often 😀 – 21stC Communication Essentials – Simplicity, Clarity, Brevity You simply must get that inserted into your DNA to succeed in our noisy, overloaded 21stC world.


Basho should have been a 21stC marketer

Basho should have been a 21stC marketer



Easily forgotten.

In a noisy world.


I was reminded of this recently Continue reading


Can Marketing ever get beyond Manipulation?

It’s koan week this time 🙂 Is “manipulation-free marketing” an oxymoron? Is it the sound of one hand clapping?


Oddly there are plenty of folks who don’t think they are being manipulated.  Well I guess they should either watch more Derren Brown shows more or check out the lust for “A/B” testing in the interweb age (where you test two titles, two layouts etc for hits, click-thru et al).

Did you know that if you have a red button to click on your site rather than a green one you will get twice as many clicks?

Did you know that “Improves your relationship” gets ten times (as I recall) the hits of “Improve your relationship” – as the latter sounds like you have to do some work whereas the former there is some simple pill/solution to do it for you? Continue reading


How to be English and do Marketing

Any English (or probably Brit for that matter, although the periphery always had to be better at staking its claim) of a certain age certainly has absorbed the “hide your light under a bushel” vibe.  It’s just not classy to go out and “brag” is it?

Tyndale tralsated bowl as bushel 500yrs ago.

Tyndale translated the Bible using “bushel” rather than bowl.

Well ironically that saying is from a parable where Jesus says that you should precisely not hide your light under a bushel (or under the bed or under a stand). Less historically at present in the 21stC world of information overload, even fellow Anglos have left their bushels behind and taken to the roof-tops with 100Watt stacks.

So what do you do? Abandon your principles and tell everyone how awesome you and your products are?  Probably not. So what then? Continue reading


The Yin-Yang of Business Development

I reckon about 99% of business advice is “define target, load, aim, fire”.  What’s your product, what’s your market etc etc. Define it and then do it.  After all it’s “sensible” isn’t it?  Maybe – but life is rarely like that.  Skype was an Estonian start-up working with peer-to-peer file sharing. Facebook was for Harvard. Marc Eckō practiced spray painting t-shirts in his parents garage for almost a year till he got real good at it before selling one t-shirt and ended up with a billion dollar business. Madonna started as a virgin not like one.


The yang approach to getting somewhere – scientific, engineering mentality – is to have a clear defined goal and converge everything towards that goal.  That’s cool – as long as you have the right goal…  Sometimes it is the best way whether it’s to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade or to get a bunch of good exam results by the time you leave school.

The yin approach is the opposite – art, evolution – nurture what you have, take the next step and then decide on the next step after that. Hmmm these two chords strummed together sound good … I wonder whether this third chord goes with it. A divergent process.

So let’s keep this post simple.  The next time someone says “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, “what will your new business be?”, pause and think of this yin-yang model of development.  Sometimes the yang way is best – but I would say more often yin is the way.

People who ask those kinds of questions are often folks giving training courses, or writing or reading) textbooks – not real world business folks. Real world folks know that generally things evolve – and that the reason it works this way is that if we co-evolve our ideas in the world we co-evolve something that folks will buy and which has been co-designed by the market.  Sometimes you can get away with “inventing something in a dark room” and then selling it – but not as often as anyone tells you.  And even then it’s a tough sell.

How Yin or Yang is your Business Development approach? Which way has worked best for you?


A Must-Read Article On Bitcoin By The Inventor Of The Web-Browser

I never had any interest in all the hysterical articles on Bitcoin until I read this non-hysterical one by Marc Andressen who wrote the first web browser, co-founded Netscape and now is investing in Bitcoin-related businesses.  Nor have I ever used a post to summarise someone else’s content.  However rules are made to be broken 🙂

I have been tangentially interested in Bitcoin only as the first crack in governments’ control over money (and in seeing governments do everything they can to prevent and ‘diss it).  So much attention is placed on economic monopolies but we seem to be stuck with political monopolies [“one party/two brand” systems] and currency monopolies controlled by said political monopoly (or arguably by the civil service monopolies which in practice control the politicians more than vice versa).  Screaming Lord Sutch, erstwhile leader of the Monster Raving Loony party put it well when he asked why there is only one Monopolies Commission.  He should have taken his argument much further 🙂
Lord SutchHere are some snips to whet your appetite from the NYTimes articleContinue reading


“Hackathons” – An Innovative Approach to New Business Creation

Hacking is back in fashion.  I met real hackers in the Computer Science Dept at Cambridge in the very early 80s – the leftovers from the hippy days of computing.  There was one guy who was an ace hacker who was the type that didn’t wear shoes, hair down to the waist and – as I memorably read the genus described as once – “equate altruism with not washing” 🙂  But a real genius who could do cool things.

hackathonsAnd years on the spirit is back.  This time with good grooming 🙂

Recently I wrote a snappily entitled post (cough) about hacking and marketing – “Wu-wei, Growth Hacking, and The Rise of Marketing-less Marketing”.

But back to this post – what is a hackathon? Continue reading



In a couple of weeks I am talking to 100+ 5th and 6th formers at a local school on The World of Work Has Change Forever or and more specifically what this means for teenagers. I have asked a whole bunch of folks for advice they wished they had been given – and if any of you reading this out there on the interweb have any advice please send it in.

I lose control of the audience at my talk

I lose control of the audience at my talk

Now superficially this has little to do with business development. But the interesting thing is that the first two folks that spring to mind as sources are both 21stC business experts I really respect – Seth Godin and James Altucher. And the second thing that springs to mind is how relevant much of Seth’s advice is to folks already in the workforce. Continue reading


“Find the Gap” or “Mind the Gap”?

Regular readers (hi mum :-)) [Even your mum doesn’t read you… Ed] will know that I reserve a certain amount of sniffiness/contempt for business school tick-box-isms about “How To Do Business”.  The same contempt that Taoists felt for the Confucian tick-box approach to how to be human.  Life ain’t like that.

Conventional wisdom is that the business development strategy is to find the gap.  Rather I would caution that one has to mind the gap…

mind-the-gap2Why? Continue reading


Business Development vs Business Growth

This one has been on my mind for a while – I’m not quite sure about it [Are you allowed to say that in a blog? Surely you should present absolute certainty! Ed].  It’s certainly the business/economic koan for the C21st. What do you think?

Marsh Ruby is a great cafe/restaurant in Lower Marsh near Waterloo station in London. They do:

Fresh & healthy, home cooked Indian food.  Served fast!

Sign in Marsh Ruby

Sign in Marsh Ruby

… so they have sussed out the need for a “tweetable” encapsulation of their product/service 🙂  And it is really fresh and un-oily and unlike almost all Indian food in this country.  People like it who “don’t like Indian food”.

So what is the relevance to this post? Continue reading


Decision Fatigue – Took A While To Decide About This Post

So I looked at the menu and chose the turkey with quince jelly – well it is nearing Xmas. Hmm list of starters – oh well won’t bother – that will save thinking about it.  My chum arrived later and stared at the menu. The waitress came. He was still staring.  Then he decided he wanted a starter … oh no, I better have one too. Here’s the pub by the way.. (or rather the sign).

hare-and-houndsStill he hadn’t chosen. Grr.  What is going on and why is this really important for 21stC BizDev? Continue reading


Every Model Is Wrong But Some Are Useful

This is a great one.  Well it would be great if it was accurate lol – the actual quote (from George Box) is “all models…”.  Unless Hugh MacLeod (aka gaping void) was using recursion by misstating the quote 🙂



It’s very Taoist. … the ungraspability, the undefinability of reality … the pragmatism about whatever works works … until it doesn’t.  The opposite of Confucian certainties about right and wrong.  The opposite of the West’s current love affair with ludicrously complex laws, regulation and bureaucracy.

So what’s the application to BizDev? Continue reading


Wu-wei, Growth Hacking, and The Rise of Marketing-less Marketing

Last week I wrote about wu-wei and the perfect presentation. Now let’s go the whole hog and consider profound non-doing/effortless-doing/natural-doing and marketing as a whole.  What’s better than Marketing?  No Marketing!

And I joke not. Gazillion dollar start-ups such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AirBnB and Dropbox grew without marketing budgets worth mentioning. I saw some linkbait today about getting 10,000 hits a day without marketing.  Growth hacking (well it does come from California lol) is all the rage.  What can we learn from it?

growth hacking Continue reading


The Scariest – But Most Important – Ingredient In 21stC BizDev

Start your meeting with “This might not be of relevance to you”.

Nothing scares the amateur BizDev-er more than starting with what they would see as “failure” – ie the end of a conversation and no chance of a sale. But nothing is more important to 21stC BizDev. In a world of excess “selling” we must adopt an “educational” approach and be simple and clear about our value (see Value Encapsulation).  Then (and spot the 21stC concept here) the BizDev process stops being about “sales” and becomes about “search”.

search-marketingThis “search” approach is the antithesis of the archetypal “slippery second-hand car salesman”, “sell to anyone and everyone using every trick in the many books on ‘how to sell’ “.  Besides as “sales resistance” has increased and customers wise-up to at least some of the “moves” that approach has got much harder (and less succesful) anyway.

So what is the 21stC “search” way? Continue reading


Value Encapsulation – the 21stC Key

I resisted this for a long time.  I resisted the “Twitter-isation” of society. So how come I gave in? Why do I now think it’s vital?  Why is it the next 21stC BizDev step which must come after the all-important Value Mining and Refining?

beach-surrender Continue reading


The Ne Plus Ultra of BizDev Secrets – Value Mining and Refining

This is biiiig.  I rarely meet anyone or any firm who really gets this.  As I mentioned in The 6 Stages in the BizDev Cascade the BizDev process is like a series of stages of water flowing downwards.  Time and again I observe implementors having a hard time at a client site as the sales guys promised the moon.  Time and again the sales guys get bogged down as the marketing guys hinted at the moon but they are just selling rock.  Marketing messages can only reflect the Value but if that’s not clear the whole thing takes on a life of its own .. we might consider Coca-Cola.  What is the value in 12tsp of sugar and a bunch of chemicals in a can?  The product has become the marketing message – that’s what sells.

So value mining and refining is absolutely key… any error here and the whole stream is polluted.  So what do I mean by this?

mining Continue reading


The 6 Stages in the Business Development Cascade

Earlier I wrote about the trade-off between spontaneity and flexibility on the one hand and replicability on the other.  One can have too much structure or too little.  I did not address what a BizDev process structure might look like.  My model of this is a cascade:

source: wikimedia commons

source: Wikimedia commons

Many of these terms are actually very poorly defined and folks waste time arguing over the definitions (generally as turf and budgets come with definitions). However one of the biggest failings – especially for individuals and SMEs – is not having a clear distinction between the various phases of the BizDev process.  Not doing so fails to recognise that one needs radically different material and approaches at each stage. Here are the six stages I use and my definitions of what is required at each: Continue reading


The Benefits of Being a Headless Chicken

I blame it on schools. Although that’s not fair as they are just passing on cultural biases.  In more expansive mode I blame it on the Age of Reason.  And if pushed I blame it on Plato.

The blame for what? For “right-answer-ism”.  We are conditioned and conditioned and conditioned at the formative stages of our brain development into there being a “right answer”.  Especially in these days of national curricula and marking schemes “the right answer” is embedded in the whole results process. Hard to escape.

The problem is that in life, in business, if there is a “right answer” it’s one that’s always changing.  This Taoist symbol is perhaps the most famous in the world – people have seen it who have never heard of Taoists or The Tao:

yin yang

Here we have constant change as the central emblem (yin and yang are always in motion – the pic is a snapshot). Which leads us on to headless chickens.. Continue reading


Sales Secrets I – Tai Chi Not Foie Gras

We live in a world of Excess. Excess Selling. Excess Marketing. Excess Advertising. Excess Choice.  Excess Spam [Er surely an oxymoron? Ed.]

Consequently we have developed a strong resistance to being sold to.  Judging by the click-thru rates on web Ads our resistance is hard-wired at very deep levels in our perception – we don’t even “see” these Ads – we look at a page and our brain filters it out for us. As for someone knocking on our door (literally or metaphorically) – when was the last time you bought something like that? We feel this instinctive “go away!”.

And the same thing happens in business.  Some pushy salesman – or more subtly, manipulative, salesman – tries to get us to do something.  We instinctively resist.  Many of the 20thC “tricks” that decades of sales psychology research in the US (surely the most “salesy” culture on Earth?) no longer work.

So what’s the secret?  How do you overcome sales resistance? How do you “sell” something if that’s what you need to do – whether it’s selling yourself, your company’s products or services, or just your ideas to a colleague?

Tai-Chi holds the answer.

My qigong teacher - Master Lam

My qigong teacher – Master Lam

Continue reading


SmallCo? NewCo? String of Pearls or Sausage Machine?

Let’s take the smallest SmallCo – you!  Chances are your career has been rather like a string of pearls … one after another string along a necklace with some gaps.  However where do you get your next pearl from?  In the worst case its tough diving around trying to find those oysters and prying them open.


source: pearlsonly.co.uk

NewCos and often SmallCos operate the same way.  We need that first flagship deal!  OK got it … now we need a second … hmm hang on they want something rather different etc etc,  NewCos and SmallCos can be stuck in pearl territory for a long time, and like most traps, the strongest trap is one you don’t even know you are in. Continue reading


Flowing Smoothly, Struggling as Symptomatic

The Tao – or the way things are – is like a river. Sometimes flowing this way, sometimes that. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. Sometimes gently, sometimes turbulently.  The connection to our business/personal development is clear. Sometimes business goes smoothly, sometimes our career goes smoothly.  At other times the whole show can go over the edge of a waterfall (cue pretty pic :-))


So what to do about this? How to go beyond trite metaphor to practical application? Continue reading