Reflections on Biz Dev Camp 001

Photo credit: Brandon Steiger. Staring hopelessly at Jenga credit: Adam Kurzawa

Biz Dev Camp is a new three-day event of moderated discussions and breakouts covering a host of business development topics determined by the participants. The group responsible for the event, Bureau of Digital, has a long history hosting camps and summits each focused on one discipline in digital, from business development to leadership and design to operations.

I attended the inaugural event in late March: Biz Dev Camp 001. Back in the ETR office refreshed and brimming with ideas, I sat with our Associate Design Director, Reid Hitt, to share my takeaways from the event.

To start, tell us about your role at ExpandTheRoom and area of expertise.
As Head of Partner Development, I spearhead ETR’s business development practice. This includes prospecting, qualifying leads, presenting capabilities, pitching, generating SOWs, and negotiating MSAs. In a nutshell, I identify opportunities for ETR to add value to our clients and their customers.

What was one the best things about going to a conference like Biz Dev Camp 001?
There are not many business development conferences focused solely on the challenges facing digital agencies, like ExpandTheRoom. By having this focus at the heart of Biz Dev Camp 001, attendees were automatically speaking in a common language and able to get right into the meat of discussions.

What was the atmosphere like at Biz Dev Camp 001?
The Bureau of Digital do a great job with all of their events. In advance of Biz Dev Camp 001, each attendee filled out a survey to give organizers a sense of the topics attendees desired to cover, items that might be too sensitive/difficult to share, and we even got down to detailed food preferences. We each filled out personal bios in advance that were collected into the Event Dossier provided to each attendee before the conference.

Mother Nature even played an unforeseen role in this event. We were originally scheduled to be in Coral Gables when Hurricane Irma hit Florida last year. Due to the devastation, the event wound up being postponed 6 months. There is an exclusive attendee-only Slack Channel, which allowed many of us to get to know each other before the conference even with the delay.

The atmosphere was unlike any other event I’ve attended. While a few folks knew each other from previous Bureau events, there were plenty of first-timers in attendance like me. The Bureau team created a great seating plan and Code of Conduct for the event, facilitated very personal intros, and generated an agenda that bore results. The snack/lunch breaks and group dinners were also a wonderful way to swiftly generate bonds. Over the course of three days, I got to know all 30+ of my fellow attendees and the Bureau staff pretty deeply. There were spontaneous late night activities, epic Jenga (see above photo), South Beach dinner excursions, and I even managed to solicit a new friend, Jason Berg, to join me for a 6am run over the Rickenbacker Causeway in Biscayne.

Photo credit: Lori Averitt and Jen Hyde

Each of the sessions were laser-focused and people were quick to jump in with stories of their successes/failures and new ways of differentiating their organizations. There was never a moment where someone raised a problem and someone (or several people) wouldn’t jump in to offer practical guidance on how to improve. Several of us commented later in the event that none of us have been in such a nurturing and open group of fellow sales professionals.

Now that I think about it, I’d be hard pressed to call this a conference at all. When I think of a conference, there are speakers who talk AT you and if you’re lucky there are openings for limited Q&A and peer networking. Biz Dev Camp 001 is a personal development experience where professionals, who are often in high-stress and results-driven roles, can openly share areas where they are in need of improvement and someone is there immediately to offer quality support. There was also a validation aspect of the event, where I left knowing that our business development practice does a lot of things exceptionally well and, most importantly, I came back with tactics and new thoughts on how to accelerate in areas where we can improve.

What did you learn?
I was both inspired and learned something new on an hourly basis. I was easily able to generate a minimum of five key takeaways each day that will improve me as an individual and our business development practice within ETR.

Lastly, what advice do you have for people just starting out in partner development or sales that they might not already know?
I’d tell new digital/design focused sales people to find a mentor who can help be a sounding board as they develop their skills. There is no right way to do sales, but many paths to being successful at your craft. Be creative, experiment with different tactics, and be prepared to learn from your mistakes quickly. Persist, persist, persist, and develop the ability to move on seamlessly from a let down or setback. This tough skin will prove invaluable as you progress in any sales-oriented role. And if they still have any questions, I’d suggest they attend a future Biz Dev Camp to soak in a diverse array of sales perspectives and generate relationships with peers they can call on for advice.