The Art of Business Development

“Business Development”…it’s a big name for something that, in its purest form, is really quite simple. Whether in the maritime sector or any other, business development is really just sales and marketing with a strategic vision and focus. It’s the allocation and use of personnel and resources to galvanize your port’s long-term vision and viability while maximizing its current and future bottom-line potential.

For most ports, this centers on implementation of a Port Master Plan – a visioning document that “what if’s” your port’s future 10, 15 or 25 years down the road.

The successful port business developer must be part Ron Popeil, part Fred Trump and part Josh Flagg (or Altman). That is to say, part skilled and convincing pitchman, part shrewd property and asset developer, and part savvy closer. He or she must be able to inspire confidence, motivate teams, assemble networks, align goals, lead negotiations, and manage projects – all with equal skill and agility – against the backdrop of creating value and new opportunities for growth.

Attaining and maintaining these skills requires practice, training and career-long learning. While I am certainly not promoting gambling, the game of poker, which can be played in free games both online and in lounges in almost every town, is an excellent means of developing and sharpening one’s business development skills. It requires reading people and reading the room, “selling” your opponent on the story you are telling with your wagers, table demeanor and body language, and negotiating a desired outcome (albeit primarily non-verbally). Another great place to develop and sharpen your skills is at the American Association of Port Authorities’ Business Development Workshop. This one-day workshop on April 3 in Houston will touch on several of these skills and concepts and would be worthwhile for any port business developer – whether an up-and-comer or a seasoned pro – to attend. Learn more here.

About the Author: Amy Miller, who chairs AAPA’s Maritime Economic Development Committee, currently serves as the Director of the Port of Pensacola. With her appointment to that position in 2013, Amy became Pensacola’s first female Port Director as well as the only currently-serving female Port Director in the state of Florida.