Business Development: The Importance of Trust and Relationships

By Jackie Paplaczyk

A little over a year ago, Rick Brown came to Summus Group as its Director of Business Development with over 20 years of experience. Thirteen of those years, Rick spent at Systems & Programming Consultants (SPC) and CG Technology, which later became Carlisle and Gallagher Consulting Group (CG), where he was an initial founding member back in 2002. From the beginning, Rick worked alongside Tom Carlisle and Bob Gallagher learning the business and ultimately, what it takes to be the best in the business. Rick said it is these two men who have had the biggest influence on his career, along with the many great folks he has had the pleasure working with since starting his career in 1997.

Throughout Rick’s career, he has built long-term relationships by aligning business strategy and consulting services to client needs. This approach has made him a trusted advisor in business development, specifically within the financial services industry. “Selling is trust”, Rick said. “That’s all it is.”

To sum up Rick’s outlook on life, which drives everything he does, he would tell you, “Be. Do. Have.” When you think about your goals and dreams, you must first be the person you want to be, then do the things that person would do to allow you to have exactly what you want.

“Life is not a straight line. Things may not happen in the order or way you expect them to, but if you apply these principles, what you are after will happen.” When applying this paradigm to his career, Rick said, “There is no easy path in life, and it is no different when building a company. In order to achieve success, you have to put work in. The business is a grind and it’s every day. You are going to get knocked down and it’s how you get back up that truly matters. Anybody can be good when things are already good. Good is when things are not good and you turn it into success.”

This month we sit down with Rick Brown to hear how he strives to build relationships through trust and how this makes Summus Group a great organization to partner with.

As a seasoned sales professional with over 20 years of experience, what do you enjoy most about this career?

I have a strong passion for my relationships and the business. I’ve enjoyed growing my career from my roots in Massachusetts, to a small banking town which is now the second largest financial institution city in the country. It is great to walk down the street and bump into people I have known since the late 90’s, either as a consultant, business partner or colleague, who I have had at least some sort of impact on their career or life in Charlotte.

I enjoy the art of networking and helping to connect the dots – simply put, I enjoy people and growing the business. For me, it is about having an impact on both people and the work we do.

I grew up on the recruiting side and overtime, moved to the sales side. Because of this, I feel I truly understand the end-to-end process from sales, fulfillment and ultimately, to delivery. Simply put, sales boils down to trust and relationships and over time, you need both to be successful. It is through these relationships that I enjoy building a strong partnership with our clients and making them happy which is the ultimate goal.

How would you describe your approach to business development?

My approach is built around honesty and trust by doing what I say and saying what I do. Because of this, I do not over promise and under deliver. More importantly, I try not to be everything to everyone. I will be the first person to tell you if it is something we can’t do as a firm because no firm can be everything to everyone.

To do this, you must be able to align to the client’s needs. I genuinely want to understand the specific need to ensure I am doing right by our clients and not just filling a role or proposed solution. Through my many years of experience, I am able to quickly determine what will and will not work.

In a smaller company, like Summus Group, your business development leader needs to understand delivery. Many times, people don’t understand how to look at a deal from inception to fulfillment. There are a lot of pieces in between and it is critical to understand how best to remove any obstacles and friction along the way in order to deliver a true solution.

One strategy I use is to start from the end and walk it back. I ask what needs to happen and then focus on the most important aspects to ensure it happens. As a sales executive, it is your job to know how to do this. If you lose one piece, many times, it can result in losing the trust required to build a long-lasting relationship.

It is also critical to focus on the right things, meaning those that are important to your clients. One example is understanding the sales process at your client’s organization. This will allow you to help remove barriers and reduce pain points associated with the process. It is about making their today and tomorrow better.

After joining Summus Group in early 2018, the firm experienced exponential growth, putting Summus Group in the Top 10 of Consulting Magazine’s Fastest Growing Firms in the world. What main factors do you believe contributed to this growth?

Summus Group’s growth is not from one person, but a collaboration of efforts; not any one piece of work is sold on an individual basis. Delivery is fundamental. If you don’t have good delivery, you don’t have anything to offer and build great relationships around. Through great delivery, we have been able to enhance our partnerships with existing clients and expand what we do through new partnerships. What has allowed us to do this is our people. Selling does not come from one single person; the most successful firms’ efforts are based on the foundation of “team selling.” I can go sell anything when it’s our people and this is because of our people’s execution and delivery.

No work was ever won because of a deck thrown on someone’s desk. It is because of relationships and trust. We are in the business of consulting and consulting 101 is being able to identify a problem and propose the best solution to solve that problem. In order to do this, you have to ask questions and more importantly, listen, in order to comprehend and understand how you can go about solving the problem. Many times, people go right to the solution instead of listening to understand the real problem, but this is where trust is built.

After that, you need the right people for the job. It is so important to put the right people in the right roles. Placing the wrong person could be detrimental to the trust you have built, and again, trust is so important. A key part of any proposed solution is putting together the right team to solve the problem. This is how you build strong relationships and create a long-term partnership.

Lastly, we have done a good job of increasing the awareness of our brand. More and more people know who we are from the work we do and the people we work with. We have invested in our talent acquisition to ensure we can continue to find top talent that aligns to our specific demands.

We are on track to continue to grow and scale, and as a growing company, the job of recruiting never stops. In order to grow, you have to have good people.

With many options available to both existing and prospective clients, why should organizations want to partner with Summus Group?

It all goes back to having good people. When you buy Summus Group, you buy our people. When you choose us, it is because you trust we will give you the right people and you know we are going to do what we say we are going to do.

Before we even begin to deliver work, we focus on listening and understanding our clients’ needs while doing our part to remove any friction to help ease the process of creating a partnership. This is because we get it and we care.

We understand that what we are doing matters. Because it matters to our client, it matters to our firm and more importantly, to the people who are on the ground doing the work. Because of this, I am both confident in and stand behind our product because it is our people.

All of us, regardless of role, help sell the products or services of the company we work for. In what ways can others contribute to an organization’s business development without the official title?

Team Selling!

I think everyone is responsible for growing the business; it doesn’t just fall on business development. Whether we realize it or not, everyone is selling through the relationships they build and the work they deliver, so the best thing anyone can do is to focus on building strong relationships rooted in trust.

A firm can only scale based on what it can deliver and delivery and sales have to be in synchronization. When these two things come together, anything is possible and is what truly makes this business fun and rewarding. Therefore, it’s a combination of everyone recruiting, selling and delivering!