The corporate development function is crucial to a company's growth, primarily focused on strategic decisions to achieve inorganic growth. The more activity, the bigger the function should be. But scaling is not always easy, especially the first time around. In this article, Saurabh Tejwani, Vice President, Corporate Development and Business Operations at GoPuff, talks about how to scale a corporate development function.
"Hire enough people so that they're pushed, not bored. But make sure they're not pushed so hard that they are burned out." - Saurabh Tejwani
Saurabh's principle is to hire for potential rather than experience. Look for intelligent people who are culturally fit, then figure the rest out. He believes intellectual strength is the most important thing and that M&A can be taught. Train people by showing them the processes and slowly giving them minor roles until they get familiar and are ready to take on more significant responsibilities.
The first hire should be someone trustworthy. Have a solid team before expanding and taking risks. As a team begins to scale, hire for diversity. Avoid hiring people from the same background because all teams need multiple skills and specialties.
Furthermore, hire hungry people who are willing to do work. Saurabh likes to hire people new to corporate development rather than those who have done this role for years and who can easily become bored.
Aside from the educational background and career development, Saurabh looks for hard and soft skills.
When screening for hard skills, he likes to give out case studies that can challenge skills and knowledge. He gives out a simple case study that will take fifteen minutes to solve and then a one-week case study. It will help determine if the candidate is hungry, dedicated enough for the role, and likely to stay for a couple of years.
For soft skills, nothing beats interviews. Multiple interviews with a diverse panel will help assess if the candidate is a good fit for the company and their ability to work well with others.
A dedicated integration person is not for everyone, especially a dedicated function. An integration management office is only needed if a team is consistently doing large deals involving thousands of people. However, If a team is doing multiple transactions in a year, it may be necessary to have a dedicated person for a specific function, like HR, but not every function. Hiring specialized external help is also always an option.
The biggest challenge when scaling a function is hiring the right people. The objective of the corporate development function evolves, and there will come a time when the skills of the people hired are no longer applicable. Be willing to retrain people to keep up with the function.
However, if it turns out that the wrong people were hired, or people are not trainable, then find them a new role inside the organization. This will help drive the efficiency of the entire corporate development function.