When I grow up I want to be a New Business Director...

...Were the words never a child did utter. 

While most of my friends looked for jobs in banking and law, I was always drawn to advertising and design but even when I graduated and started looking for my first career move, becoming a New Business Director was not on my agenda.  It’s a role within our industry that is sometimes seen as an anomaly and often I hear people say, “I could never do that”, usually referring to the heavy work load and pressure, coupled with the lack of appreciation.  However, over the past 10 years having worked my way from a cold caller to running multi million pound global pitches for the world’s largest brands, I would like to distil a couple of myths and see new business recognised as its own brilliant discipline.

When my business partner and I set up Kiwi Gray, we were determined to help agencies do new business the right way.  Too often we have seen common mistakes made, such as agencies using too much jargon/nonsense in their comms, separating new business and PR as if they don’t impact each other, or appointing someone from client services to run the new business function.

One of the most important things I heard early on in my career, when I started my sales training (yes I said “sales”), was that you have two type of sales personas, ‘the hunters and the farmers’.  I recognised in myself that I was a hunter and it is why my hunger to discover and win new business is still as strong now as it was when I started.  Hunters are more independent and use their own initiative to make things happen, making them the ultimate new business people.  You can’t teach someone to be a hunter and therefore moving someone from a client services role (a farmer) into a new business role, just doesn’t make sense.

The hunter in us, is also what keeps us motivated - it’s why we work the long hours and strive for perfection.  For those of you who have been on the winning side of a pitch will know how great the feeling is, how it can bond a pitch team and even an entire agency; and the positive knock on effects it has on staff morale and productivity.  Everything becomes worthwhile and you soon see that new business really is the lifeblood of an agency. 

However, speaking on behalf of new business professionals, it's never them who get the praise - it will most often be the pitch leader or the creatives who came up with the winning idea. Of course these people deserve praise and I’m not here to debate who should receive more but the role of a new business director goes on behind the scenes like a cog behind a clock, constantly pushing the pitch team onwards.  I often liken it to being a conductor directing a musical performance.  Of course the orchestra can read the music and play the instruments without any help but we are there to unify the performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and listen critically to shape the sound of the ensemble.

There is huge satisfaction that comes from working in new business - the seniority it gives you in an agency and the business decisions it exposes you to; the diversity of talent you get to work with on a daily basis; the constant new brands you get to work on and their challenges you tussle with; the interpersonal challenges you have to overcome to steer your team to victory; the pace of the role; the independence; and of course the personal hunt for success.

But let’s not forget the other side of new business that is so easily forgotten – the marketing and PR.  When agencies start treating themselves like brands it opens up a whole world to what is possible in the realms of content and campaigns.  A full B2B marketing ecosystem is there at your disposal to help you build brand reputation and the new business pipeline. 

What I think our industry needs to realise and wake up to, is that new business, when done correctly, should be respected as its own discipline and that the people who work it in deserve the appreciation they strive for.  Agencies need to stop treating New Business Directors like glorified personal assistants or project managers and empower them to grow the agency.  Maybe then it will be seen as an exciting career opportunity as opposed to the ugly duckling.