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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on March 27, 2012

Are you the swan in a family of ducks, and trying to prove you aren’t ugly?

That's the challenge for anyone who works in - or runs - the B2B division within a large B2C company. 

Any business unit that’s different from the overall company is going to face special challenges. Particularly when it comes to getting resources and attention.

B2B in a B2C company

The dynamics of a B2B division are different from B2C divisions.

To compound the issue, senior management will tend to be more familiar with the B2C environment.   

If you’re the leader of a company that has both B2B and B2C elements, bear in mind that a little neglect goes a long way. 

If you are focused primarily on your B2C businesses, you can’t expect the B2B divisions to sustain their performance.

As with any specialized group within a company, it’s difficult to sustain great work without senior-level support.

This will manifest itself in financial performance, and probably employee attrition as well.

It’s important to know the differences between B2B and B2C units, and set distinct expectations for the different types of businesses.

B2B in a B2C company is different

If you’re running a B2B division within a B2C-dominated company, here are a few things to consider:

  • Manage expectations about performance carefully. Not everyone will have a good feel for the dynamics and rhythms of a B2B operation (or sometimes a B2C operation).

    So you will need to educate them, and this will need to happen on an ongoing basis. Remember to educate both upward and laterally, especially with functions like finance and HR.
  • Look for opportunities to integrate your activities into the rest of the business – but don’t get too distracted by the drive to bring disparate activities together.

    As with any collaboration, keep things separate where it makes sense in terms of your standalone business objectives.
  • Keeping your team motivated and stable is likely a key preoccupation for you already. Typically they will need to be team-oriented generalists, since you probably won’t have enough headcount to enable much specialization.

    Working in this type of “different and special” business unit can be a fantastic professional experience for your team members, but can also generate frustration, which can be alleviated by strong leadership.
  • Supplement your team with external resources as appropriate, whether that includes external consultants, individual contractors, or even interns. That kind of flexibility can bolster your team and slingshot the performance of your unit without requiring the same kind of negotiation for resources that full-time hiring does.

Do you have experience leading both B2B and B2C divisions at the same time? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

Are you the lonely B2B leader surrounded by B2C businesses? What do you find is key to success in that situation?