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Business development requires patience

A short story about business development: It’s evening and I’m glancing at my phone’s health app. I click on the pedometer. It said 1,077 steps. Not much to brag about. This is what happens when you sit still in the office all day.

“This won’t do,” I think, and change to go for a quick walk. It’s a pretty nice evening despite some rough weather. It is often the case that I feel better outside, just getting out, than what it looks like from the kitchen window.

When I get back home, sweaty from the high pace, the counter reads 8,234 steps. “There, that’s better,” I think.

We have started a family competition where we collect steps. If they are too fluffy in the evening, we go out to collect a few more. In fact, this makes the phone even more of a necessity if you want to keep track of your steps.

Thinking about getting a smartwatch instead, but we’ll see. I haven’t worn a wristwatch for over 20 years…

Business development

What does this have to do with business development and improvement, you might think? Yes, I started to reflect on it as I am now gathering these steps, in order to achieve a result.

The reflection is that any movement requires that we also do something to get where we want to go. In the above example it is for feet. We need to take one step at a time to get where we want to go. If we stop and hesitate, time passes and we delay the arrival at the destination as much as the time we stopped.

Sure, we can run for a while and maybe make up for lost time, but we cannot escape the fact that steps need to be taken, one by one, in the right direction. And running also costs more energy.

The right direction is important. You cannot compensate the wrong direction with a higher speed. If you are heading in the wrong direction, you will get further away from your goal faster. Of course, you also learn faster that it was a wrong result. This can be a good thing in itself, as you will know more quickly and can move in a different direction.

However, it costs energy. Energy is probably limited, so you need to conserve it.

What is more important in business development is that we know with high probability that we are heading in the right direction, because then we don’t have to “flit this way and that”, because we move step by step towards the goals we know are right.


As you move step by step in the right direction, you need to be patient. If you are convinced that you are heading in the right direction, then you need to hold on and persevere. Patience is a virtue in this.

There are enough people around you who are change-averse and will want to sow doubt in everyone they can. Then you want to stay the course and patiently fight on. Don’t get distracted by a lot of other seemingly shortcuts.

Shortcut is good, right?

Shortcuts are latecomers, I learned when I was a kid and would run over to a friend’s house to return a toy. Mom and Dad were waiting at home because we were going away for dinner. I thought I would cut through the forest, instead of taking the paved road. It’s quicker.

Swoosh… I was lying there in the mud left by the rain. Back home, much to my parents’ annoyance, I had to change my clothes, which made us late for dinner. As well as the extra jobs I created by having to wash the clothes.

Back to business development.

You might think it’s a good idea if we just skip the step by step, but take us straight to where we want to be, by helicopter or something. Yes, you might think it would be quicker and easier.

However, we humans need to be part of the journey. It doesn’t work that we just buy someone else’s tanks and install it in the business.

  • Stealing the neighbor’s process and putting it in our house is quick, we think.
  • Buying a new IT system that promises to fix everything, without having to specify how our process works. They will be fine. We buy the supplier’s ideas about the flow and think it should suit us.

But no, it doesn’t work. People will react with, as they say, “not invented here”, meaning that we did not invent this. And then it didn’t turn out so well.

So the fast journey, where we took a helicopter instead of a step-by-step approach, will instead end up with energy having to be spent on explaining, anchoring, educating, communicating, convincing, that the fast choice is so very good. Much of it may be needed in the step-by-step variant as well, but at far less energy demand.

“It’s the journey that’s worth it”

Closing with a wise quote from a wise leader, Helene Lott, who I worked with many years ago. “The journey is worth the effort”, she repeated over and over again when impatience set in, especially among those who were not actively involved in the work.

For those on the sidelines, the desire can always be to go faster. But this is a gross oversimplification of reality.

A simplification that can unfortunately turn out to be very costly in the end. Either the need for work (energy) will be much higher, or you will not even reach the target. Or maybe both.

I wish you a patient week as you work step by step in the right direction towards your goal.