Rome wasn’t built in a day

The hype surrounding the start-up culture that has gripped western economies over the past decade or so has become a de facto yardstick for any kind of achievement. Essentially, one struggles to find enough people to understand that not all businesses should be built upon the start-up model; particularly in respect to the notion that it is possible for every business to reach stratospheric heights with resultant riches flowing.

The Colosseum was built in ancient Rome, it was the largest amphitheater of its time.

The Colosseum was built in ancient Rome, it was the largest amphitheater of its time.

Nothing wrong with ambitions and the start-up model per se. I would never discourage anyone from trying to build a start-up to reach their goal. The problem as I see it is the lack of endurance and, more alarmingly, ignorance about the fact that many things take time to develop. Thus the issue of unrealistic expectations when it comes to inter-business collaboration. Borrowing from the culture of ‘scale up fast or die slow’ so prevalent in the start-up world, many business-minded people (at least in attitude) seem to think that it only possible to conduct all business is only in that way. While there is some element of truth in the idea that things can and should move faster in order to counteract the rate of disruption and innovation, it is not a universal truth.

As far as collaboration in business goes, especially when we talk about collaboration between a number of enterprises coming together, speed is not the answer. A rapid scaling of activity is not really likely to bear results. So it is vital that enterprises, and start-ups in particular, take time to consider how collaboration as a business strategy can help them grow and sustain their impact over a long period of time. While the lifetime of a business enterprise has become shorter over the past few decades, a start-up can still aim for an enduring life.

We are likely to see some changes in terms of start-up culture in coming years. One change that has already been noted is the way some investors are behaving. Specifically, they are looking for more diverse models of start-ups including ones that can last and thrive despite challenges that inevitably come with the territory. We already know that many of the dominant business ventures that sprang up out of a start-up mould only a few years ago are not necessarily the best in what they do. But, they maintain their dominance because consumers are also a little tired of change. This means that good ideas, while worth pursuing, need to take into account market forces such as megatrends and consumer tastes which are not always about price or novelty.

This is where start-ups can deploy collaboration as a smart way to go the distance. Business models for start-ups do not have to be a matter of stark choices. A middle ground of slow growth and small gains through more collaboration with other enterprises who are in a similar stage of development can lead to capacity that is otherwise very expensive to gain. There is no one specific model that would work for a group of start-ups, which is precisely why collaboration as a strategic approach works. It is not that hard to envisage that investors too will be more interested in start-ups that are more collaboration-minded and prepared to take the time to build something over a long period. Just ask the Romans.


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