Ad Agency business development is too often an individual sport. Even though they have a team behind them, the job ultimately falls on BD, alone, into the wee hours of the night, lost weekends, missed anniversaries, but I digress. The role is certainly unique among all others in an agency and most of the time the rest of the agency is nowhere to be found when they hear BD coming. Imagine the high school track and field team. Who is going to hang out with the shot putter (no offense to Michelle Carter or Ryan Crouser, gold medal winners!)
In so many ways, the business development lead at an agency is an ideal candidate for a mentor. In their role, they are required to make many decisions on the fly, with little consultation, and minimal input from other agency members. The approach to BD is also changing as a reflection of the marketplace and marketers. I often hear from the account sup or the CD that the BD underpriced or over-scoped, when in fact, she tried to get their input but everyone had gone home for the night.
The role of BD requires knowledge across every aspect of an agency, but usually has limited experience, often only in account management. The BD person must be a skilled politician, negotiating time and attention from diverse constituents. He or she must be a disciplined project manager, driving the process forward against all odds. And must be inspirational to other agency people who are perpetually behind on their client work not to mention time sheets and expense reports. It is a heroic job for unsung heroes.
Having a mentor can make all the difference in business development. The BD job requires senior level management skills, maturity usually found in someone double the age, and hard-worn experience to skillfully navigate the chaos, cut corners and jump hurdles as the deadlines loom. Read what makes a BD person successful. Too often, BD people are expected to learn or fail as they go. A good mentor regardless of their specific career path has all those skills already developed and has the learning, ready to pass it on.
Good mentors are inspiring. They bring experience to guide you through the toughest challenges. They are seasoned coaches to help you win the game. They have extensive relationships with people and resources. They give recognition, encouragement, and support. And, they offer unqualified friendship through success or failure. Once you establish a good relationship with a mentor, his or her counsel will make you more confident, more in control and ultimately a gold medal winner at new business.
Ok, ok, you are sold. You need a mentor. So how does one find a good mentor? First, read these experts’ advice. Then just do it!
Lolly Daskel has some good advice in FastCo: http://www.fastcompany.com/3033499/ask-the-experts/askthe-experts-how-do-i-find-a-mentor
Inc. has good advice as well: http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/how-to-find-an-incredible-mentor.html
I like the Fizzle overview: https://fizzle.co/sparkline/how-to-find-a-mentor
LinkedIn has a list of the top 25 mentors https://www.linkedin.com/title/business-development-mentor
Or just Google. You’ll find around 150 million results.
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