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7 Myths: the truth from a fractional BD professional and how you can get started
What if you could do meaningful work that you believed in and also maintain flexibility over your schedule?
What would it be like to have your cake and eat it too, professionally speaking?
That is what Eric Johnsen wondered for nearly a decade before he decided to try fractional BD.
Today, Eric works fractionally (a.k.a. on contract basis) for 3 - 5 clients at a time. His clients are early stage companies in spatial computing / augmented reality.
Below Eric explains how he transitioned to fractional BD and he dispels 7 myths about fractional BD. Eric’s insights add to those shared last year in Jen Verriere’s guest post “What in the World is Fractional BD?”
How Eric made the leap to Fractional BD
In early 2020, Eric was jobless and unsure what he wanted to do next.
He had just helped sell the startup where he worked (6D.ai) to a larger company (Niantic).
For nearly 20 years, Eric had led strategic partnerships and business development teams at both established companies - like Cisco, Google and Amazon - and at startups. Now he had to decide where to take his career next.
A few weeks into this period of career reflection, Eric was contacted by a former partner who wanted to hire him full-time as VP of Business Development. While he weighed the offer, he was contacted about another full-time leadership role.
Eric decided to seize the moment.
Eric told both companies that he wasn’t ready to work full-time but that he could provide business development support on a fractional basis - up to 10 hours per week.
Both company’s agreed to his terms.
That’s how his new career - as a fractional BD professional - was born.
Since then, Eric has worked with over a dozen clients, some for three month projects and others for several years.
Advice to those considering Fractional BD
Getting started isn’t difficult, Eric argues. The best way to test out fractional work is by taking on an advisory role or a single client outside of your day job (so long as your employment contract permits this).
Eric believes that fractional work is the future of work for millions of people.
He decided to make that future of work his current reality.
7 Myths about Fractional BD
Myth 1: I’ll make less money.
Eric viewed his leap into fractional BD as a test: “I wanted to see if I could make as much money doing this as i could in a big company? And the answer is yes.”
Building a client portfolio took time. But eventually Eric’s client portfolio grew and his income what he made working full-time in BigTech. Eric said he feels confident that if he chose to take on more clients and work longer hours each week, he could surpass what he was making previously.
“Not doing this because you'll make less money is the wrong reason.”
Myth 2: Fractional BD is higher risk than a full-time role.
Eric points out that working full-time for a company, even an established company, carries its own risk.
“For your personal investment strategy do you put all of your money into one stock? Or do you diversify? That is effectively what I’m doing with my time. I’m diversifying it across my clients.”
With recent layoffs at companies as high-performing as Amazon, Google and Meta, Eric’s perspective on risk at big companies holds more weight than it did just a few years ago.
Myth 3: I won’t make the kind of impact I want to.
Eric shared the story of one of his first clients - a Lithuanian startup that had held initial partnership discussions with Meta. But they lacked the US-based talent they felt they needed to close the deal.
“Clients often come to me looking for help with tactics - finding their first customers or channel partners. But what they really need is more strategic. So I will focus first on their tactical request and then, over time, help them develop a more informed go-to-market strategy.”
For this startup, Eric landed the deal with Meta but he shared that “it wasn’t the deal that I was most proud of. It was the process of that deal that allowed me to help this early stage company understand demand signals in the market and how best to position themselves for growth beyond that specific deal.”
Impact comes in many forms. For Eric, helping early stage companies find paths to growth is the kind of impact he is seeking.
Myth 4: Fractional BD is more stressful.
Eric acknowledged that working fractionally does come with a unique kind of stress. Eric’s work requires constant context switching across clients. He manages numerous communication channels (email, Slack, calendar, etc), which can be dizzying with 3 - 5 clients at any given time.
And for some fractional workers, cultivating and managing a pipeline of prospective customers can be stressful.
That said, Eric maintains a level of control over his schedule that few full-time roles can match.
Working fractionally, Eric is able to work in weekly cycling rides. He also plays bass guitar in a ska band. These activities were harder to manage when he was fully dedicated to a single employer.
Myth 5: Being a BD generalist is the best path to success in fractional work.
Eric has been intentional about carving out a specific niche in spatial computing / augmented reality.
“For me it goes back to marketing fundamentals - you want to be the best in the product category that you play in.
Eric’s focus on spatial computing companies allows him to provide more value to his clients: “The conferences I go to, the research reports I read, the insights I uncover in partners meetings, they benefit each of my clients. I’ve even been able to forge partnerships between certain clients who’ve hired me.”
Myth 6: Only a full-time job will provide the health insurance that I need.
For many who have only worked full-time and used employer-based healthcare plans the idea of purchasing healthcare is totally foreign.
“If you need health insurance, you just buy it,” he shared, pointing to the Affordable Care Act.
He also cautioned that this path is not so simple for those who have costly health issues or dependents with special healthcare needs or who wants parental leave. For some, a large employer-based healthcare plan is a better option.
Myth 7: Contractors are expensive for companies.
Eric views his fractional work as saving his clients money compared to their hiring full-time a full-time BD lead.
He points out that full-time employees are expensive, especially once you factor in benefits and the cost of eliminating roles that are no longer needed.
“I often tell my clients that instead of flirting with each other for 6 months and setting up 10 interviews as part of a robust interview process for a full-time role, let’s just get some work done. Give me an objective and you’ll see how I work and if you like working together.”
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