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How collaboration can help your startup business grow
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How collaboration can help your startup business grow

Learn how collaboration can help a business grow and read our five expert tips on how to develop healthy teamwork in your startup.

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In the Argonautica, an epic poem from ancient Greece, Jason set out on a perilous quest with a team of 50 heroes—the Argonauts. Each Argonaut possessed a unique ability. Heracles had superhuman strength, Orpheus could charm people with his music, and Argus was a talented shipbuilder who crafted the boat they used on voyages. 

They faced different trials during their quest, like battling mythical creatures and planting a field of dragon teeth. But by joining forces, and with the help of allies they met along the way, they overcame every challenge and achieved their common goal of retrieving the Golden Fleece.* 

The Argonautica shows us that by working together, we can accomplish whatever we set our mind to—from meeting heroic goals to hitting ambitious KPIs. 

But teamwork isn't always easy when you lack visibility on project progress and who’s doing what. Plus, maybe it was easy to work together when you were starting out and only had a team of five. But when your business grows, working with 50 Argonauts is going to take more careful planning. 

The hard truth is that 90% of startups fail in the first few years—and team issues are a leading cause.** The good news is that improving collaboration can help your business grow—and steer it through even the most treacherous waters.

In this piece, we’ll walk you through the benefits of internal and external collaborations and how you can develop them. We’ll also give you some tips for encouraging the practices that help your people get more done together in real time or async. 

Let’s set sail.

Build stronger, more resilient teams as you grow. 
Switchboard’s online collaborative workspace helps your people work together better, both with internal teams and external collaborators.
Learn more

How does collaboration impact business performance?

“Teamwork makes the dream work" is a cliche for good reason. According to Asana, over half of employees (55%) in highly collaborative organizations report revenue growth over the past three years, compared to only 28% of teams who struggle to work together. Team players are also more resilient and better able to respond to challenges.

Here are some other ways working together aids business growth:

  • Increased creativity and innovation. There are more eyes and brains on a problem when you come together as a group. Diversity of perspectives, skill sets, and resources also opens up the door to new business opportunities, which can be crucial for a growing startup. For example, if you run a small content marketing agency, partnering with an external search engine optimization (SEO) team gives you a better chance to upsell or cross-sell to each other’s customer base and offer a more comprehensive service.

  • Improved efficiency and reduced costs. When teams are fully in sync, they’re able to communicate better and solve problems more efficiently. And if you join forces with other business owners, you can pool your resources and come up with solutions to your client’s problems more easily and quickly.

  • More access to new resources and connections. Working with other businesses lets you learn from others and grow your network. For example, collaborating with a software development company as a social media marketing agency both helps you deliver a better full-stack marketing service and expands your network in the tech industry. These connections can be valuable down the line when seeking partnerships, referrals, or even potential investors.

  • Happier, more fulfilled team members. Asana found that 92% of workers at collaborative organizations find value in their work. That’s because employees can come together to tackle important challenges and focus on what truly matters. When people understand the impact of their work and are accountable to each other, they’re more satisfied in their roles.

  • Happier customers. When you work together effectively, you can address customer needs more quickly and find creative solutions to improve their experience with you. For example, if you run an ecommerce business, you can partner up with a logistics provider to fulfill orders more quickly and securely.
“As the saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one,’ and we couldn’t agree more. Group collaboration can only bring in new ideas, perspectives, and approaches to solving problems. This allows the team to build upon one another to create an end result better than the sum of its parts.” –Alex Melone and Andrei Marin, co-founders of Code Crew

How to develop collaboration in your startup 

The Harvard Business Review found that collaboration can improve an organization’s financial results by 17% and its annual revenue by 34%. 

These studies also show that working together across departments and teams also boosts retention rates. New hires who are asked to help on other’s projects and have team members jump in to help on theirs are 65% more likely to stay in their roles long enough for the company to become profitable.

But collaboration doesn’t just happen by itself. As an entrepreneur and a leader, you need to be intentional about implementing steps that help your teams get more done together. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Build company culture around collaboration 

Company culture is the foundation that can make or break a startup. When collaboration is rooted in your culture, it sets the stage for how people work together. Here are some ways to build teamwork into the very essence of your company: 

  • Build team connections. When remote and hybrid employees feel close, they’re more likely to work together effectively. On top of that, their teamwork is more impactful and creates more opportunities for knowledge-sharing. To help your people build deeper connections, encourage team collaboration activities, regular team huddles and 1:1s, and spontaneous interactions.

  • Establish clear guidelines for how people should work together. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) give clear structure and direction to people’s daily work—whether they’re a new hire or seasoned employee. This is especially important for startups and small businesses because it lets you scale and onboard new people more easily. Create SOPs on communication protocols, project management, how to use your company’s internal collaboration tools to better support teamwork and more.

  • Foster psychological safety. This means creating an environment where your teams feel safe to express their ideas, ask questions, and give feedback without fearing negative consequences. It creates healthier group dynamics and encourages your people to be more innovative and creative, which is vital for startups. To do this, start by building company values–like kindness and respect–that build trust and model those behaviors yourself.
  • Give your teams what they need to get things done. Whether they’re in a meeting, working at the same time, or async. This means creating a space where everyone can ask questions, solve problems, and move things forward more quickly. For example, combine platforms like a digital workspace that doesn’t rely on one-sided screen sharing, visual collaboration tools like whiteboards, and knowledge-sharing software that brings all your documents in one place.
Pro tip: Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace that lets you and your team work together on projects and browser-based apps, files, and documents inside a virtual room—without having to share your screen. When you use Switchboard for working together, you can create dedicated virtual project rooms and bring all the tools you use under one roof, which saves a ton of time. Give your people an engaging, multiplayer experience where everyone can contribute in real-time and async. 
Switchboard room showing eight web-based collaboration app logos.
With Switchboard, you have a unified workspace that makes teamwork easier by letting everyone navigate between tools, documents, and files more smoothly. Source: Switchboard

2. Automate, streamline, and outsource

Embracing automations, streamlining workflows, and outsourcing non-core tasks frees up your people’s time and energy so they can work together more effectively on projects and in meetings. This is particularly helpful for startups because you often need all hands on deck and people may need to be flexible about their hours and workload. So the more you can help safeguard your people’s time and energy, the better. 

By reducing manual work, eliminating unnecessary steps, and leveraging external know-how, your teams can be more productive and move the needle forward more efficiently. In fact, in their 2023 State of Work report, Slack found that globally, employees save on average 3.6 hours every week through automations. People who are happier and most productive at work are significantly more likely to be using automations (78%) than their less productive counterparts.

Here are some specific actions you can take: 

  • Identify repetitive and time-consuming tasks. These can usually be automated to save a ton of time. For example, you can automate data entry by using software or AI that extracts the information you need from documents and populates it into your database. Or you can eliminate meeting note-taking by using transcription software like TL;DV or Otter.

  • Consider delegating non-core or specialized tasks to external service providers. Outsourcing can be a cost-effective solution that frees up internal resources and lets your people contribute their expertise where it matters the most. For instance, if you’re launching a new online dating app but don’t have the resources to build your minimal viable product (MVP) in a reasonable timeframe, you can outsource it to an external software development team.
  • Evaluate your internal processes and workflows. Identify areas that can be streamlined. For example, look at your project management tool to find steps that are redundant or could be simplified. Just make sure to strike a balance between what your team members think and what gives your clients the best output.

For example, Alex and Andrei, share how they worked with a newer team member to revamp a longstanding process that hadn’t been questioned for months, if not years: “Her idea led to an account-wide collaboration, which in turn led to us updating one of our central documents in a way that allowed us to be even more flexible on client accounts,” they explain. This not only improved their client experience, it simplified their internal processes and made them more effective.

3. Partner with other companies

Collaborative relationships with other types of businesses can help you grow, learn different skill sets, and tap into new markets. For example, you could partner with another company or content marketing agency to access new markets. Or you might bring in a product team to help your in-house team overcome hurdles in developing your minimum viable product. You might even team up with a much larger company to offer a product or service that bridges the gap between your respective customer bases. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for external collaborations: 

  • Look for companies that share your values, target a similar audience, or have skills that complement your own. For instance, if you run a food delivery service, partnering with a local grocery store can offer customers a convenient one-stop solution.

  • Nail down the why behind the partnership. Partnering with large companies gives you access to a lot of resources, connections, and experience. On the other hand, startups are more agile and can be easier to collaborate with. So before you look for a partner, get crystal clear on what you’re looking for and who would be the best partner for you.

  • Set common goals. Clearly define shared objectives with your partner. Whether it's expanding your customer base, developing new products together, or accessing new distribution channels, aligning your goals ensures everyone works towards the same thing.

  • Explore co-creation opportunities. Find opportunities to cooperate on joint projects or initiatives where you can combine your strengths and accomplish great things. This could involve co-developing a new product, providing learning and mentoring opportunities, or hosting a joint webinar on LinkedIn. For example, in June 2023, Code Academy, an online coding school, partnered with Out in Tech, a nonprofit organization, to give 100 LGBTQIA+ individuals learning programming free subscriptions. 

4. Overcome barriers to collaboration 

Collaborative working is the key to growing as a business and as individuals, but it’s not without its challenges. For example, different time zones, communication styles, and goals can make it harder to be productive and enjoy working together. Here are some tips to overcome these barriers: 

  • Provide communication and collaboration training to give your people the skills they need to express themselves better, adapt to different situations, and overcome obstacles together. For example, you can give a workshop on active listening, organize peer training sessions, or do group problem-solving activities.

  • Set clear goals and review them regularly. According to Asana’s report, almost nine in ten workers (87%) at companies with clear, connected goals say they're better prepared to meet customer expectations. This is compared to 37% of employees in companies with unclear or conflicting goals. Define clear and specific objectives for projects and communicate them to all team members. Consider using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to set measurable targets and track progress. Regularly review goals, assess performance, and pivot as needed to keep everyone aligned and motivated.

  • Use Agile practices. Implement Agile methodologies, like Scrum or Kanban, to promote flexibility and continuous improvement and make teamwork easier. Agile practices emphasize iterative development, frequent feedback, and adaptive planning, which helps startup teams work together better and respond to changing needs as they scale. For example, if you’re a content marketing agency, you can use Kanban boards to track the progress of new content through the workflow and assign tasks to writers and editors.
  • Provide the right tools and technology. Equip your teams with collaborative tools that are designed for remote and hybrid work and built for two-way communication. The right tools should give you a centralized space to keep all project work together and where your people can connect and work side-by-side or async—no matter when or where they are.
Pro tip: When you use Switchboard for teamwork, you can create persistent, dedicated rooms where team members can join to work together. They can use Switchboard’s built-in whiteboard, sticky notes, and visual canvases to express their ideas and get things done internally or with clients or external partners.
Screenshot of Switchboard’s virtual room with four participants collaborating on some files.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save all your progress so you never have to start a meeting or co-working session from zero again. Source: Switchboard

5. Lead by example and model collaboration 

In startups especially, the buck really does start and end with you as the leader. That means you need to lead by example to build a positive, collaborative company culture and meet business goals and client expectations without causing burnout. This involves actively seeking out different points of view, living your values, and modeling collaboration. 

Here are some ideas on how to get started:

  • Set company values that inspire teamwork. Your organizational values guide your people’s decision-making and behaviors. So for example, values like radical candor, extreme ownership, or transparency encourage your people to regularly give feedback kindly and fairly, communicate honestly, and take accountability for their actions. For example, encourage honest, two-way feedback and act on it.
  • Foster a growth mindset. Encourage and live a mindset of continuous learning and improvement, where challenges aren’t barriers, but opportunities for growth. Emphasize the importance of adaptability, learning from failures, and embracing new ideas.

  • Celebrate successes. Recognize and celebrate collaborative achievements, both big and small. By acknowledging and highlighting successful examples of teamwork, you inspire and motivate your people to continue working together. For example, you can shout people out in your company all-hands meetings for examples of great teamwork, or make it part of regular assessments. 
  • Develop a collaborative leadership style. This means creating an environment that emphasizes working together, involving others, and coming together across the business to solve problems collectively. For example, involve your team members in developing company goals, OKRs, and values. Seek input and make sure everyone’s aligned with the organization's direction.

Strong teamwork: The wind in your sails

More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek poet and scholar Apollonius of Rhodes wrote an epic poem that still resonates today. It told the story of how Jason and the Argonauts set out on a quest to find the legendary Golden Fleece and restore Jason to his rightful throne.

While you may not have to fight mythical monsters like the Gorgon in your office, startup leaders do have to overcome epic challenges and continually strive to meet their goals. And one fact that still stands the test of time is that you can accomplish more together than you can individually.  

That said, inefficient collaboration can lead to burnout and prevent your team from sailing off into the success sunset. That’s why it’s crucial to create an environment where people enjoy working together and can get more done in real time together or async alone. By recognizing the advantages of both internal and external collaboration and actively fostering them, you empower your teams to be more productive and surpass client expectations—all while prioritizing their wellbeing.

To develop collaboration in your startup, take steps like building company culture around collaboration, leading by example, and partnering with other companies that share your values. Build a company culture based on teamwork and automate and outsource wherever you can. 

Finally, don’t forget to provide the tools your people need to work together effectively. Switchboard does this by giving you a collaborative project and meeting workspace you can use to get together with clients, teams, and external partners to move the needle faster on projects. 

Build stronger, more resilient teams as you grow.
Switchboard’s online collaborative workspace helps your people work together better, both with internal and external stakeholders.
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about how collaboration can help a business grow

1. What are the key factors that contribute to a successful collaboration?

Some of the main factors that promote successful small business collaboration include:

  1. Shared goals 
  2. Clear communication 
  3. Trust and mutual respect 
  4. A collaborative company culture 
  5. Leaders that model collaborative values 
  6. Accountability and responsibility
  7. Diversity of experience and opinions 

2. What are the challenges of collaboration?

In small hybrid teams, some of the challenges of collaboration include:

  1. Inadequate collaboration tools 
  2. Communication barriers
  3. Siloed working environments
  4. Lack of psychological safety
  5. Conflicting goals and priorities
  6. Managing too many stakeholders
  7. Different working styles 

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Build stronger, more resilient teams as you grow.

Switchboard’s online collaborative workspace helps your people work together better, both with internal teams and external collaborators.