One of my responsibilities as the managing partner of Atomic’s Detroit office is business development. At first it sounds like a new-age word for “sales,” but while there is a sales component to this responsibility, at Atomic it encompasses more than being focused on a single sales transaction.
Don’t misunderstand me — we’re working hard on bringing work to our growing Detroit office. Our ability to remain in the Detroit market depends on it. But “business development” means taking a longer approach, becoming an active, contributing member of the business community and building relationships with other people in it.
Here are four ways we’re developing business and growing in Detroit.
1. Be local.
There is a growing nationwide trend towards supporting local businesses, and this seems to be doubly true in Detroit. It’s not enough to have a great reputation for what you do outside the city. People are more likely to support a business with a great reputation and a local presence in the city.
I often hear how excited people are that Atomic has made a significant commitment to the city by opening an office in downtown. Because we’ve brought our business into the heart of the city, people are more willing to learn more about us and discuss their project with us.
Of course, being in the city only gets you so far. Your work still has to be great. Thankfully Atomic Object has a well-deserved reputation for working closely with clients, designing and developing great software, and building long-term relationships with our clients.
2. Be part of the business community.
A great way to grow in Detroit is to get people to know who you are, and a great way to do that is to be a part of the community. By participating in networking events, hosting groups, joining local business chambers, sponsoring local conferences, and working with other businesses that have similar goals, you have an opportunity to meet many great people. This gives you an opportunity to learn about them and what they do and also for them to learn about you and your business.
Opportunities in Detroit are growing — new businesses are starting up every day, businesses and people are moving into the city again, there are new retail establishments being opened, and soon a new rail system connecting downtown and midtown will be completed. In short, the energy in Detroit is amazing lately, and there seems to be no shortage of folks with great ideas and a passion for turning this city around.
Being involved in this community will be a significant factor in the success of any business in Detroit.
3. Be generous with your time.
One thing I really think is great about Atomic’s sales model is that we follow up on every opportunity. We spend a lot of time with new entrepreneurs especially, discussing their projects and helping them find the right strategy for their situation. This is a great community practice because Detroit’s economic growth owes a lot to its new entrepreneurs.
It’s also a smart business practice. One project I’m working on now started out 8 months ago with an idea from a hopeful entrepreneur. We spent time with him (Carl even had dinner with him) to discuss the process of turning his idea into a real product. We knew full well that he didn’t have the financial resources to complete this project at the time, but Carl and Shawn still put together a proposal and budget for him. Now 8 months later, he has raised the funds to actually move forward with his vision, and we are happy that he chose to work with us — in part because of the relationship we formed a while back.
4. Hire great people.
Having great people is a big factor in the success of your business and its ability to grow. When you have great people, you can provide great service, meet timeframes and budgets, and make your customers happy — the keys to gaining a great reputation and opportunities for new projects.
And how do you get great people? By being part of the community, being a good place to work and having a reputation for great customer work are key factors in attracting smart people who care about the work they do and the clients they serve. This is part of the culture of Atomic Object, and one of our main goals for 2014 is to ensure we fully embrace this thinking and practice in the Detroit office. I believe by doing so it will go a long way towards helping us achieve our goals of getting better known and developing our business in Detroit.
I’m curious to know what factors you consider keys to being successful in Detroit.