Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Carreer Path for Bus Dev person

Way back here, a question was asked... Here it is. I hadn't heard the term "necro post" before, so that in and of itself was good reading.

What is the traditional career track for someone in business development? (If indeed one exists.) Clearly, one can work up to a title of 'Director of Business Development', but what comes after that? Admittedly the answer depends on the org. structure of the company in question. Generally speaking though, what jobs are those that hold the title of "Director of Business Development" looking for? CEO? Chief Science Officer / Director of R&D? CFO? Vice President of Sales & Marketing? It seems like business development may not be considered true ‘science’ work, nor true ‘sales’ work, nor true ‘finance’ work, yet it certainly may be a combination of the three, depending on the company. As a business development careerist, if you’re not considered a specialist in any of these areas you may not be qualified to lead these groups.

So - where do I want to go and what is possible? I am looking to move up the Bus Dev side of things and then go the CEO post. I look at Bus Dev as having to have your fingers in everything. I have to understand sales. I have to understand manufacturing. I have to understand the direction of the company. I, as you point out, am not a master of any of them. I am, however, familiiar with all of them. COO would be another position that would be possible, depending on you focussed yourself. CSO is unlikly as you have strayed too far from the research side of things. The basic thing that Bus Dev does is understand how the company works and then try and take it to the next level. If you bring in things that you can't manufacture, don't fit with your R+D team, or aren't aligned with what your sales reps can sell -> you haven't done your job. You won't be doing the basic thing of "take company to next level". You will have accomplished "burden people with stuff they can't deal with" which is not what you are supposed to be doing!

You then state

I'm looking at Business Development as an alternative to the research track, but I'd like to have a better idea of what my career options will look like in twenty years. On the science side of the house there is a clear progression as one becomes group leader, then rising to lead ever larger numbers of researchers. Eventually one can head the entire company’s R&D, then theoretically on to CEO. Less clear to me is the progression in Biz.Dev. – unless of course it’s common to make the jump directly from Director of Business Development to CEO.
I don't agree with the CEO part from climbing the research side. I do NOT agree that CEO's should (or do) come fromthe R+D side of the house. It is a mistake (in my opionion) if they have been over there the whole time. A pure R+D focus will NOT prepare you to run the company. You know, if you have been over there the whole time, nothing about sales, manufacturing, marketing, or any of the other bits of the companies. I don't see the heads of any of the big companies (or any of the quickly growing smaller companies) as coming from the pure R+D side.
I think a good CEO is as I describe (and I am biased here as it is what I want to become) - well rounded. They HAVE to know the tech side of things cold. They can not be like John Scully at Apple - Pepsi guy trying to sell computers. Didn't work... Joel on Software has a lot more to say about that and says it a lot better than I do (you have to search his archives, as I am too lazy right now) but his basic point is "how can a CEO lead if he doesn't even understand what his company sells/makes/develops or the market they operate in. The cult of MBA has this illusiong that all companies are the same and that you just "have people for that" and they take care of things. I, and I think Joel, would pretty firmly disagree with that.

SO - they have to know tech, but that can't be it. There is also this sales and marketing thing. If you don't know about that you won't do it right and you will make errors. Operations (making sure the lights stay on, people have what they need, and the bills get paid) is a whole other thing that has to work. Basically - My view of the CEO has them knowing a bit about all of these things. In a pinch they can do them, but as the company gets bigger they just have to know enough to call BS when someone else lies to them.

SO = I have strayed off topic. BUT - I look at Bus Dev as having my finger in everything. This is, I think, good training for the step up. I look at Manager -> Director -> VP -> CEO as the progression. The names change along the way in that you may not be called business development and may get labled as "Corporate Development" or some such. Some Bus Dev jobs have a much bigger sales component than mine does, so your milage may vary.

Answer the question?


Anonymous said...

Excellent, thanks for the response. (I'm the 'anonymous' that posted the original question.)

I couldn't agree more with your section on 'what makes a good CEO'. Of course, I'm a little biased as my background is in finance (MBA) prior to returning to school (PhD – Molecular Biology). Although my plan all along has been to round out my education with the PhD prior to heading into business development, I’ve questioned my strategy at times. It’s interesting how the biases of the all-academic-scientist environment can effect a person. To them, all problems in biotech are scientific.

On the flip side, you mention the cult of the MBA. While this criticism is fairly common there’s a good deal of truth to it. Previously, I was employed by a large technology firm. The company had traditionally been driven by its engineering units, and led by a small group of talented ex-scientists that learned the business side later in their career. They made billions from the 1970’s through the 1990’s and in the process changed the world. As the 90’s wore on, the company grew ever larger, and along with it grew a class of managers to keep everything running smoothly. While on one hand this is a natural progression with a maturing company, many of the managers became completely ignorant of the core business. In my time there, I knew more than a few high level business managers who seemed almost proud of their ignorance of the engineering complexities that went into their product’s design. In the years since I left them the company has had a series of missteps and failings. They’ve wasted billions in new product development that never panned out. Much of this is the result of a culture that failed to translate the scientific challenges and opportunities into a language that the decision makers could understand. Then again, the fact that translation was necessary at all indicates a problem in itself. Anyway, the entire situation is another vote for well roundedness I guess.

TW Andrews said...

I've got a question that's more focused on the other end of the business development career path. Specifically, how do I get on it?

Currently I'm working for a smallish bioinformatics company as a cross between a FAS and what feels like business development (for instance, I'm currently drafting our initial response to an RFI, which I gather would normally not be part of the responsibilities of a FAS). It seems like this would be a pretty good position to jump into more business development, but at my current company, any growth in responsibility will have to be concurrent with the growth of the company, and owing to some rather drastic changes in our management, it seems unlikely that we are going to do much beyond acquire a few new clients and maintain our current ones.

It's a viable business strategy (at least in the short term), but leaves me feeling that opportunites for career growth will have to occur at another company. I've spent just over 5 years at my current company, starting as a programmer, and then moving into an application support role as preparation for my current role, which I moved into just over a year ago. This was not only a move in role, but also geographically as well. Our company is based in Europe, and I returned to the US to become the primary technical/scientific resource for my product in North America. This means that not only am I responsible for supporting our sales staff as a pre-sales resource, but also responsible for coordinating between them and our home office, in addition having primary responsibility (directly or indirectly--we've just hired another person to help me, whom I am responsible for training) for all of our customer relationships.

I have a BA in Mathematics, but no post-graduate degree. I would like to get another degree (either a masters in applied statistics/biostats or an MBA. Any recommendation on which would help more?) However, for personal reasons, I'd like to postpone a return to school for 3 - 5 years. It seems as if a move into business development would be possible for me, based on what I've seen and read, and would allow more opportunities for career growth than I have currently. Do you think that's the case? If so, I have a couple of questions: How much will I be held back by my lack of an advanced degree? I have a pretty good command of much of the technical information in biotech/pharma, and very detailed knowledge of the scientific and technical issues in the area which my product addresses, which I've mastered on the job. What is the best way to get my resume in front of people who are hiring folks for business development, and what is the salary range? I'm currently making 91K, and would be hard pressed to take much less. Is that a plausible number for a business development person in a major market? (SFO/SD, BOS/Cambridge, or NJ/NY) Finally, while I've been with this company for 5 years, I've only been in my current role for a year. Will hiring people look askance at that? Should I consider staying in my current role for another year before looking to move on?

Any input is very much appreciated.