10 Commandments of Business Development

10 Commandments of Business Development

I’m not enjoying the after-effects of the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

And I’m certainly not a fan of the banks, investment and other, which I believe were a significant contributor to the mess.

But, while my wife may disagree, I like to think I keep an open mind.

So when I saw an article talking about how Goldman Sachs grew from mid-tier firm to global player in a few decades I had to peek.

John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm in 1970, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts:

1.   Don’t waste your time going after business you don’t really want.
2.   The boss usually decides — not the assistant treasurer. Do you know the boss?
3.   It is just as easy to get a first-rate piece of business as a second-rate one.
4.   You never learn anything when you’re talking.
5.   The client’s objective is more important than yours.
6.   The respect of one person is worth more than an acquaintance with 100 people.
7.   When there’s business to be found, go out and get it!
8.   Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one?
9.   There’s nothing worse than an unhappy client.
10.  If you get the business, it’s up to you to see that it’s well-handled.

I love them. They’re full of common sense and they’re very practical. Written in 1970, these 10 commandments add to my belief that the basic, common sense principles of business never change.

Here are 4 things that business owners today can take from them.

First of all, being clear about what business they want and avoiding the temptation to grab every deal that comes along in order to increase revenue. Only take deals that provide good margins, with companies who pay on time.

Hold out for the first-rate piece of business. That’s the one that allows a company to do what it’s good at. Second-rate deals require the company to reinvent its core competency at short notice, for difficult customers who are price shopping and who never buy from the same vendor twice.

Companies, and sales people, that really understand that it’s the client’s objective that’s important, don’t have unhappy clients. Hard driving entrepreneurs sometimes forget that in their rush to achieve their objectives. As a service provider, I try never to take on an assignment unless I understand the deliverable. For example, I’ll say to a client: “Imagine we’ve just finished your offsite and you’re telling me how pleased you are that we achieved your goals. What has happened, what do you have, that’s making you say that?”

Finally, the last of Whitehead’s principles emphasizes the importance of focusing the company culture on customer satisfaction.

Mark Graham, who wrote, the article says that he’s built his business by putting integrity first, even if it seems at times he has to sacrifice short-term profits. He’s right – and that could be the 11th commandment.


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Tags: business, business development, business owners, clients, commandments, company culture, execution, Jim Stewart, Leadership, management, People, principles, ProfitPATH, profits, strategy


  1. Nathalie Dierkens says:

    Very nice. I really like the integrity part

  2. Jim Stewart says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Nathalie. Jim

  3. John Macdoanld says:

    Thanks for the reference to John Whitehead’s wisdom. I think your summary of them is right on.

  4. Jim Stewart says:

    John, thank you for taking the time to comment. Jim

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