What is a Biz Guy?

Nov 15, 2011
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I will be using the term “Biz Guy” often in this post – it is a non gender-specific term:

I, more than most, understand that sentiment regarding Biz Guys. I loathe the question “what do you do?” at social events – I fall back on being a blogger so I don’t have to say I’m a “Biz Guy.” I feel like the 3rd wheel at Startup Weekends, because i’m not ‘producing anything.’ I’ll never call myself a “product visionary” or a “big thinker,” but I sure do hate that Biz Guy is the best title I can give myself.

Among the comments of yesterday’s post, the term “Biz Guy” was thrown out in many respects, referring to anything from incompetent marketers to product visionaries (depending on who you’re asking). It’s no secret: Devs hate Biz Guys, and Biz Guys hate Devs. I mean, don’t get me wrong: we want to work with each other, but when the other’s not around, we laugh with our like-minded co-workers about how the other essentially does nothing.

I don’t want to go into when Biz Guys are and are not necessary (at least not today), but I thought I might take the time to talk about what exactly is “A Biz Guy”

He’s everything else…

The “other” box, the N/A, the etc – much like he is described, the biz guy is ‘everything else’. Depending on where you are in your startup, the biz guy performs various functions. On day one, the Biz Guy contacts the lawyer to incorporate, finds an accountant and gets a lawyer. When you’re ready to raise funds, the Biz Guy is contacting VCs left and right, in meetings and helping firms do due diligence, preparing pitch decks, writing up executive summaries, and creating growth projection charts. The Biz Guy translates code-speak into VC-speak. The Biz Guy is selling and marketing your beta, contacting journalists for the big press release. The Biz Guy can do a lot of things, some of which he’s never had to do before, because each new company has its own needs. He’s adaptable to a situation and is willing to do anything – as long as his Devs and Designers keep coding and designing. In Short, the Biz Guy’s responsibility is to make sure that a developer spends as much time developing as possible.

If you’re a Dev, every minute spent NOT developing is the fault of the Biz Guy, if you have one – and your fault for not having one if you don’t have one. This is why, statistically, startups with 4 co-founders (usually well-balanced between the three) are more likely to succeed than startups with 3, 2, or 1 – in fact, up to 4 co-founders, the more you have, the more likely you will succeed. If a Dev needs to buy new server space, the Biz Guy whips out his personal debit card just to get things going – he’ll work it out with accounting later. If the Dev guy needs lunch, the Biz Guy ordered Pizza 30 minutes ago….

So…Where do I find one?

Finding one is harder than you think, in fact. While there are many graduates from Business Schools, I think Devs can agree that it’s not about what school you come from, but what your track record is. France is finally starting to distance itself from the “Hello my Name Is___ and I’m a graduate of ____” phase, at least in the startups, but you can feel the business school graduates holding onto it – for good reason, too. It’s easy for a Dev to show off code, but it’s hard for a Biz Guy to differentiate himself from a Social Media Consultant or Web Marketer – we’re not that.

The truth is that there is no educational institution, nor corporation, that is currently producing consistently gifted startup Biz Guys – not in France, for sure. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary in some instances.

How do I spot one?

I don’t pretend to have the eagle-eye for spotting Biz Guys – it may be an exact science, but i haven’t read any text books yet. Instead, let me offer a few vital attributes that NON-Biz Guys often lack that makes weary of their ability to launch a startup alone

  1. Understanding the User: A good Biz Guy can look at a product from a user’s point-of-view and understand what their turnoffs will be about using the product, and thus how to address those turnoffs. A good Biz Guy gets inside the head of his user, even if he is not a potential user, and uses that viewpoint to make judgments that can affect product development, business model, marketing and more.
  2. Knowing ALL your competitors: While this seems like an easy task, a Good Biz guy knows the difference between a director competitor and ALL competitors. In addition to knowing offhand any direct competitors, he is aware of any indirect competitor he might have. He knows that a competitor is anyone with whom you compete for the eyes of users, knowing exactly how wide a range that can encompass.
  3. Knowing the Pressure Points: A good Biz Guy can instantly identify the pressure points in a startup, no matter how involved he is. If it is his startup, he is ready to say what they are and how he intends to address these points. He is not timid about admitting that the correct execution on these fronts are what will ultimately determine the success of his startup, and any feature, update, campaign or acquisition is negligible if it does not immediately pertain to executing well on these pressure points.
  4. Has the Street Cred’: Just like a developer shows off his code, a Biz Guy is only as good as his credentials. If he’s incorporated a startup, that’s good – If he’s raised funds, that’s great. There are lessons that can only be learned the hard way in setting up a startup, and the more experience a Biz Guy has, the less resources wasted on learning how to solve those problems.
  5. Knows his place: Finally, a good Biz Guy combines being humble with being confident well, demonstrating his confidence that he is doing what’s best today, while illustrating his constant awareness of potential impending pivots. He understands the value of every role in a startup – his own and his co-founders.
It’s easy to see what a Biz Guy should look like. When I judge the merit of a startup, no matter who chooses to speak to me, I treat them as the Biz Guy. If you do not possess these qualities, and someone else does, you either need to get your Biz Guy to come forth and speak about your startup, or you need to make it very clear that you are NOT the Biz Guy. When I meet startups that lack some or all of these qualities, I wonder how they will advance 6 months down the road.
For Devs, it’s not too difficult to interview a potential Biz Guy. Make sure they know your sector – do they know any of your direct competitors off the top of their head? That’s a good sign. When you pitch your idea, be aware that you might pitch it poorly. Be patient with them – because your vision of the product might not come across clearly. When a good Biz Guy understands the problem, solution, and product, they will be able to pitch your own product back to you within minutes, or even to the next person you talk about. Have a potential Biz Guy pitch the idea to another co-founder, or even a friend.

Make sure he’s smarter than you..

It is true that a Biz Guy can not be immediately identified as good or not, and they can certainly disappoint in results after a good first impression – they know how to sell things, so why wouldn’t they sell themselves well? A good Biz Guy will know more than you – if he doesn’t, he’s not a good Biz Guy.