Founder/CEO, Opus Connect
Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Four: How To Build Your Own Business Development Real Estate
In my last article, I discussed the importance of embracing business development and suggested incorporating your hobbies and passions into your strategy. Today, I am going to introduce you to a great tool that will help you do that: Business Development Real Estate™ (BDRE).
Years ago, I had just started working in the M&A industry at an investment firm and was looking for ways to build my network. I started hosting happy hours for other M&A professionals and colleagues in related fields, and within a year more than 200 people were attending regularly. At a certain point, the events became too large and I felt that I was spending more time as an event organizer than actually taking advantage of the networking opportunities at the events. I ended up rebranding this happy hour concept in the form of Opus Connect, which hosts smaller events (usually around 40 people) for professionals in specific industries. We also curate the attendees and speakers at our events in order to cater to more specific audiences. Opus was originally intended to simply be a personal networking opportunity for me, but eventually it grew into a national company with its own revenue stream.
The experience of rebranding my happy hours into Opus Connect is what led me to coin the term Business Development Real Estate™. BDRE is an activity or event that you host consistently, in the same format and that targets the same audience each time. While the individual attendees might change, they are always from the same target pool. Here are a few classic examples:
Luke is a wealth manager with a passion for art. Once a month, he hosts an exclusive scotch tasting event in a private art gallery that is limited to 12 individuals who have a net worth of at least $10,000,000.
Lauren is an associate at a large law firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Every quarter, she hosts a breakfast for 20 private equity executives, and facilitates a round-table discussion on a topic of interest.
The main thing that both examples have in common is that in each of them, Luke and Lauren own the event. They have control over the timing, content and who is invited to participate in the event. In addition, both events are consistent and follow the same format each time, so that people know what to expect.
The key difference between these two examples is in the quality of the event. Keeping with our real estate analogy, Luke’s BDRE is like a mansion, whereas Lauren’s (at least for the moment), is more like a starter house in an up-and-coming neighborhood. The price per square foot of Luke’s BDRE might be higher, but, just as I did when I rebranded my happy hours into Opus Connect, Lauren still has the ability to increase the price per square foot of her BDRE as she develops better connections and ameliorates her reputation. Word of mouth will drive interest and the more demand she has, the more exclusive and upscale Lauren’s BDRE can become.
BDRE is a great tool because it is easy to create and it is highly effective. It can help you gain new contacts and maintain existing connections by adding value to your attendees in the form of information and referrals. To get started, think about what you are interested in and passionate about, and think about who you need to engage. Then you just need to come up with an event that you can consistently offer to that audience. Starting out small and simple is ok, because as we saw, you can always make improvements to your BDRE and thereby increase your price per square foot.
This is just one concrete tool that you can start using right way, but in order to really become a Master of Business Development, you need a comprehensive strategy or plan. Next time, I will discuss what the outline of that plan looks like.