What are Company Development Strategies?

August 10, 2011

Can you clearly define your company development strategies? For early stage organizations, it can often be a matter of asking the right questions.

company development strategies

In the past, I’ve written about aligning your company’s aspirations with a set of business growth and competitive advantage strategies, all of which work together to lead your business down the right growth path.

But the truth is, those strategies are only effective if you have a structure in place to help execute them. That structure is your company development strategy.

By definition, company development is the design, creation, and delivery of an independent, robust, growing and profitable business that is composed of a team of talented people who align with meaningful aspirations (mission, vision, and values). Building off of that, company development strategies are the vehicles that allow you to achieve those long term goals.

And while company development is a process independent of any other strategy, you need to possess a clear understanding of your long-term aspirations, the business growth strategies you want to implement, and the competitive advantage you want to gain in order to create a clear set of company development strategies that support them.

Quite simply, they all work in harmony.

The pragmatic approach is to consider each an ongoing work in progress and iterate on them over time. In other words, take a stab at each component and then improve on them as you go. The results of each one will inform the others.

Assuming that you’ve roughly planned out your aspirations, business growth strategies, and how you propose to create competitive advantage, you can start working on your company development strategies. After all, what good are each of those things if you can’t deliver and achieve them?

I’ve found that the best way to describe company development strategies is to outline them in five key dimensions.

Here are the 5 core “whats” of your strategy:

  1. Target People: What are the key skills or positions you need in and around your company?
  2. Other Target Resources: What are the other key resources (intellectual property, physical assets, software systems to support the business, information capital, partnerships, logistics infrastructure, cash in the bank, etc.) you need in your company?
  3. Target Activities: What are the key activities that you must do well to achieve your business growth strategies and create competitive advantage. These may be methodologies like product design capabilities, software development activities, direct sales activities, channel development activities, or customer service activities.
  4. Target Economic Model: What is your target economic model that will ultimately bring you the right financial results?
  5. Target Management Systems: What are they key management system components that help the people associated with your company optimize the execution of your strategies? This may include your organizational approach, recruiting and people management systems, communication systems, meeting structure, rhythm, and key reports. It also includes any other components that get the right people in place, allowing them to do their best work and maximize their total impact.

It’s important to note that if you have more than one business growth strategy, you need to consider your company development strategy in the context of each one. There are also some additional “whats” to consider when you’re mapping out a company development strategy:

  • What are your goals for the strategy?
  • What are the anticipated results from your strategy?
  • What are the anticipated risks?
  • What are the anticipated obstacles you need to overcome?

Once you’ve answered the “whats,” it’s time to better describe the framework of your strategy by addressing the “hows” that will help you execute it.

Those “hows” include:

  • How will you get the key people in and around your company? Will you hire an executive recruiter, use an internal recruiter, or hire a business development employee?
  • How will you develop your other key resources? Will you build organically, partner with others, merge with a company that already has those key resources, or source an additional investment?
  • How will you develop your key activities? For example, you can assign internal resources, hire someone who can create them, send your people to training, or use a third-party consultant.
  • How will you achieve your target economic model? One possibility includes targeting activities that address a specific component that is currently furthest from the target.
  • How will you develop your key management system components? For example, will you hire someone who knows how to develop the components, do some research on your own, or hire an outside consultant?

Now that you have the “whats” and “hows” addressed, it’s time to better support them with the “whys” of your business growth strategy. Asking yourself a few key questions will make sure that you’ve identified the best strategy for your long-term goals.

Those “whys” include:

  • Why will this strategy best help the company align with its aspirations?
  • Why will this strategy best help the company meet its business growth strategy goals?
  • Why will this strategy best help the company meet its competitive advantage goals?
  • Why is this strategy best aligned with your company exit strategy (if you have one)?
  • Why are other company development strategies less attractive?
  • Why are your answers to the “how” questions the best options for your company?

The “whats, hows, and whys” are the broad brush strokes for a complete company development strategy. Defining and addressing them will set you up with the best company development strategy and make it easier to drive it into your operating rhythm.

If you can clearly articulate, execute, and iterate on your company development strategy, you should achieve your business growth strategies, competitive advantage goals, and, ultimately, your aspirations.

It’s important to note that many earlier stage companies that are still discovering their core product market may not be ready to completely stake out their company aspirations or development strategies. If that’s the case, don’t sweat it. But if you’re growing to more than 20 or 30 people, it makes a lot of sense to clarify your aspirations and company development strategy to ensure that you’re building the right team of people, resources, and processes that align with your long-term goals.

As the company continues to grow and becomes more capable, company development strategies can also allow for the execution of unique business growth strategies and competitive advantage. The more company capability you possess, the more sophisticated your business growth strategies will become and the better competitive advantage you can achieve.

So can you clearly articulate your company development strategies?  If you can’t, why not?

Scott Maxwell founded OpenView Venture Partners in 2006 and has worked in venture capital for over 11 years. For more insight from Scott, you can visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @scottsnews.

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.