Getting Into BD Straight From College With Jonathon Madruga

Jeff White November 24, 2021

Jeff White

Jeff is a small business expert focused on marketing, finance, sales, business development, and legal work. He's been featured in a number of publications such as USNews, Forbes, The Week, The Street, Investopedia, and CNBC.

As we continue to dive into the foundations of industry leaders and how they landed in a business development career, we’re pleased to hear from Jonathan Madruga today. He is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Points, a platform designed to help consumers get and use their favorite loyalty currency. 

All of the responses to our questions and prompts below are completely provided by our interviewee, Jonathan Madruga, and are his personal thoughts and opinions.  

Describe your background before you broke into Business Development & Partnerships 

After graduating from Western University I knew I wanted to give a career in business development a shot. I come from an entrepreneurial family and always had a built-in summer job working for the family business in property development and management. This motivated me to pave my own career path coming out of University and I had always gravitated to the people facing aspects of the family business, such as securing tenants and working with trades on executing projects.

When I wasn’t studying or working I was always a competitive athlete from a young age. I competed for many years in Squash, Golf, and Tennis leading into University. Being nationally ranked in Squash, I played on the varsity team for Western and always loved squash, golf, and tennis as a sport where you are in control of your own results and learn to compete with individuals of all ages and backgrounds. 

What made you want to break into BD & Partnerships? 

I had a strong motivation for forging my own career path, a desire to work with people from all backgrounds, ages, cultures, and competitive nature from both competing in sport and exposure to the family business. Due to all of this together, Business Development jumped out as a function I could be very successful at. 

What are some lessons that you learned earlier in your career that you still rely on today?

The two biggest lessons I learned early on were: 

  1. Without trust, there is no partnership
  2. Integrity is required 100% of the time to be successful in BD/Partnerships

What was a major pitfall or challenge you faced early on in your BD & Partnerships career and how did you overcome it? 

My 2nd role in BD was with a company called WagJag (a daily deal site based in Toronto). They hired a sales team to secure deeply discounted offers at restaurants and retail services during their non-peak business hours to increase foot traffic at these times. There were 30 of us and aggressive targets, so I knew that if I wasn’t successful in hitting targets that this role would be short-lived. I was determined to prove myself and put in the time to be a top performer (literally knocking on all the doors available in the region of Toronto, which I was given as a target), so that’s what I did and was averaging 25 deals a month. 

After three months into the role, it was clear to the organization that the WagJag customer demand for non-peak dining or services offers wasn’t enough to generate the revenue required to keep our service providers happy or this feature in the app live. Everyone on that sales team was fired except me and they brought me on to the established daily deals BD team. 

This bittersweet experience always stuck with me and reaffirmed the importance of leaving everything you have on the table when presented with an opportunity to be successful. If you do that, every challenge just becomes a valuable learning opportunity to course-correct your career path. 

What education or training, if any, has most helped you in your career in BD & Partnerships?

I was nominated to participate in a Mastering Leadership course 2 years ago at Points, which I found tremendously valuable. The three key focuses were:

  1. Identify & know my leadership style 
  2. Effectively manage my team 
  3. Lead my business function along with several tools to support each of these 3 buckets (i.e. fixed vs growth mindset, acquiring trust, 13 trust characteristics, solution trees, etc). 

This course rang home that one type of leadership style doesn’t fit all requirements to achieve my goals, be the best leader I can be for my team, successfully navigate business scenarios, and work with cross-functional internal teams. It highlighted the importance of listening first to determine how to best go about approaching a challenge or achieving a goal while retaining the trust and respect of all involved along the way. 

What is your favorite part about working in Business Development? 

Working with great people to achieve their business goals and help solve complex objectives.

Where do you see yourself going in your career long-term?

Leading the Strategic Partnerships team at Points is a dream job for me, as we work with partners around the globe that are passionate about travel (something I love to do) to deliver value to their members or customers. I work very closely with the BD and partner strategy departments of our organization, which I thoroughly enjoy. Continuing to evolve and grow our team and mandate within Points is a direction I see my career going long-term. That said, as long as I regularly work with BD & Partnerships folks I will be fulfilled as these are the areas of focus for any organization that bring me the most amount of joy.  

Bottom Line

As you can see, even someone who knew he wanted to work in business development during college didn’t have a clear career path to getting into the field or to be successful long-term. If you’re interested in learning more about how great leaders landed in BD or what your career path could potentially look like, you should apply to join Firneo’s community of business development professionals.