Placeholder canvas

Mastering the Craft of Business Development in M&A: A Dialogue with Industry Veterans

The journey of a business developer in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) realm is fraught with unique challenges and opportunities. It is a critical role, blending strategy, creativity, and relationships into a unique alchemy that drives success. A recent conversation between Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO of Opus Connect and Robert Derbabian, Senior Director of Business Development at Marcum LLP, sheds light on the intricacies and personal philosophies that guide this process. Their discussion offers valuable insights into the motivations, challenges, and joys of business development within the M&A sector.

The Joy of Creation: The Essence of Business Development in M&A

Robert Derbabian articulates the essence of business development as the joy of “creating something from nothing.” This perspective transforms the business developer’s role into one of a creator, bringing new opportunities and relationships into existence. Derbabian’s passion for his work is evident as he discusses the thrill of turning the intangible into tangible success. “There’s nothing, and all of a sudden I do a couple of things… and then something happens,” he explains, highlighting the unpredictable yet rewarding nature of the field. This creative process is not just about generating leads or closing deals but about forging new paths and possibilities where none existed before. Despite the absence of immediate rewards, the satisfaction of building meaningful connections and paving the way for future transactions provides a deep sense of fulfillment.

Embracing the Non-Linear Path

One of the most compelling aspects of business development, especially within M&A, is its nonlinear trajectory. Derbabian and Sokolovskiy touch on this theme, noting that success in the field does not follow a straight line. Instead, it’s marked by unexpected turns and opportunities that arise from a variety of interactions and efforts. “It’s all over the place… you got to try stuff out,” Derbabian remarks, acknowledging the complexity and dynamism inherent in developing business relationships. This nonlinearity requires a degree of flexibility and adaptability, urging professionals to remain open to opportunities that may not fit within a conventional framework.

Derbabian’s career reflects a journey marked by persistence and adaptability, traits essential for navigating the complex landscape of M&A business development. The acknowledgment of business development’s non-linear trajectory serves as a reminder that success often requires patience, resilience, and the willingness to explore uncharted territories.

Cultivating Relationships: The Heart of M&A Business Development:

At the heart of business development lies the foundation of relationships. Derbabian emphasizes the importance of building connections with individuals who not only respect the professional value one brings to the table but also share a mutual appreciation for the relationship beyond the confines of business. “I want to do business with people that appreciate what I do… these are people I would hang out with anyway,” he states. This approach underscores the idea that successful business development in M&A is not just transactional but deeply relational, resting on the bonds formed between individuals over shared goals and mutual respect.

The centrality of relationships in M&A is further underscored by Derbabian’s approach to networking and collaboration. By prioritizing genuine connections over superficial interactions, he illustrates how cultivating a network of trusted partners and clients can lead to more meaningful and productive business opportunities. This approach not only enhances the quality of deals but also enriches the professional journey of an M&A business developer.

Learning from Failure: Key Insights for M&A Professionals:

Failure is an inevitable companion on the road to success in business development. Derbabian candidly addresses this reality, noting that failure is a normal part of the journey. “Failure is normal. It’s all failure to some degree,” he observes, suggesting that setbacks and challenges are not just obstacles but integral components of the learning process. This acceptance of failure as a pathway to growth is crucial for M&A professionals, who must navigate the high stakes and complexities of their industry with resilience and perseverance.

Embracing the Journey: Wisdom for Future M&A Business Developers:

Looking to the future, Derbabian offers sage advice for the next generation of business developers in M&A. The essence of his guidance is to embrace the work with dedication and patience. “You got to do the work… If you don’t put the time in, it doesn’t just happen,” he advises, emphasizing the importance of commitment and effort in achieving success. For those entering the field, this advice serves as a reminder that business development is a marathon, not a sprint, requiring sustained effort and a long-term perspective.

Furthermore, Derbabian emphasizes the value of learning from every experience, whether a meeting leads to an immediate opportunity or not. “The 600 meetings I had this year are a direct result of just being out there. You got to be out there,” he states, illustrating the importance of visibility and active participation in the industry. This proactive stance is crucial for building a reputation, establishing credibility, and ultimately, securing successful deals.

The conversation between Sokolovskiy and Derbabian illuminates the nuanced and multifaceted nature of business development in the M&A sector. Through their insights, M&A professionals are invited to view their work not just as a series of tasks but as a creative, relational, and dynamic journey. Embracing the unpredictability, building strong relationships, learning from failure, and committing to the process are all part of the art and science of business development in M&A. As the industry continues to evolve, these principles remain ever-relevant, guiding professionals toward success in an ever-changing landscape.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn or Instagram! @opusconnect.

By Opus Connect
March 2024

Share this post: