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Columbia Business Monthly

Let’s Work Together

Jan 02, 2018 01:22PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Dr. Kasie Whitener
President, Clemson Road Consulting
Lead Organizer, 1 Million Cups Columbia

Just about everything in business today is about connection. How can we collaborate? How can we find win-win situations? This is quite a pivot from the greed-is-good, dog-eat-dog, rat-race version of capitalism we were brought up on.

Collaboration has always had its advantages: when companies contribute specialization to the supply chain, they rely on partners for supplementary units. The entire chain is profitable when each link handles its area of responsibility well. Relying on partners no longer feels as risky as it once did and we see fewer enterprises trying to “do it all.”

As Seth Godin says, “in interactions that lead to connection, to shared knowledge, to possibility, it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a zero-sum game being played. In fact, the more enthusiasm and optimism people bring to the interaction, the more there is for everyone else.” Collaboration means opportunities for learning, sharing, and profit.

Part of this pivot might be a kinder, gentler business class: people who are genuinely interested in sharing achievements and doing good, encouraging the rise of the social economy. It might also be that the global landscape is so big that opportunity abounds. Gurus like Godin preach human connection driven by compassion and creation.

In the film industry, studios frequently seek outside help from casting agencies, costuming consultants, editing services, and post-production graphics specialists. It is not uncommon for dozens of niche businesses to collaborate on a single episode of Game of Thrones. Gone are the days of the mega studio’s self-contained lot. Creation comes from so many different directions that the real talent is in leading a successful project team.

Columbia’s startup community is a hot bed of collaborative activity. Every week at 1 Million Cups, we find out about new partnerships and joint ventures.

Tia Williams and Midlands Anchor have created a Small Business Cohort to support the publication with content and events. Made up of consultancies, agencies, retailers, and studios, the Midlands Anchor collaboration offers a model in crowd-support for an entrepreneurial venture.

SOCO, a member of the Midlands Anchor cohort and home to its own collaborative community, provides co-working space for creators. Its community support mechanisms, including workshops and events, encourage entrepreneurs and ideators of every stripe.

Brown & Browner advertising, Artvark Creative graphic design, and Fanatik Productions are collaborating on an event called Creative Kumité in which creative professionals compete for a big-time marketing contract.

Companies that actively seek collaboration and connection will continue to thrive.

In an October luncheon honoring the 25 Fastest Growing Companies in South Carolina, keynote speaker Governor McMaster said collaboration is the new buzz word in business. Wherever we see growth, it’s done through partnerships.

Strategic partnerships have always meant financial resources, supply chain expertise, innovative technology, and marketing. In an economy that prized growth-for-the-sake-of-growth, collaborations were eschewed in favor of acquisitions and mergers. Not so in the connection economy. Short term partnerships, joint ventures, and collaborative projects are becoming an economically viable way to reach into new markets and diversify service offerings. Whether these projects are short-term events like Creative Kumité or annual memberships like Midlands Anchor’s cohort, collaboration can buoy small businesses and provide access to opportunities.

If the workforce projections are to be believed, the future is niche: independent workers, specialized work, all ruled by collaboration and a company’s ability to form strategic partnerships. Columbia’s startup scene is ahead of the curve and boosted by a community that celebrates partnerships.

In every meeting with the Chamber’s Small Business Council, the office of economic development, the USC Incubator, Richland Library, the SBDC, SCORE, and 1 Million Cups we’re discussing collaboration. We want visibility to the bigger picture and meaningful connections between businesses in Columbia. Working toward that greater sense of community, the creators I meet in the startup ecosystem in the Midlands are dedicated not only to growing their enterprises, but to raising others up with them and making Columbia a model for community prosperity.