So, one of the things we like to do here at The Pack is share our experiences and knowledge in the hopes that in some way we might help other emerging creative businesses to avoid the perils and pitfalls that we have experienced in our long and occasionally arduous journey.
If you, like us, are tired of hearing about the hustle and bustle of the start-up world, then we’ve got a few words of worldly wisdom for you. For those of us in the music world, we already know there's no such thing as an overnight success - we just don't talk about the grind, it's not sexy - we sell the sizzling steak, but never the greasy BBQ.
Starting a business can be a lot like starting a diet: everyone wants to lose 10 kilos in 10 days, but in reality, patience and persistence wins the battle of the bulge.
While it may seem counterintuitive, a slow start-up can be more effective than a fast-paced one. Sure, it may not be as exciting as scaling at breakneck speed, or selling your soul for a Daddy Warbucks investor, but building a strong foundation takes grit, time and engagement.
So, let's break it down, shall we? Why has our experience led us to believe that a slow start-up is better than a fast one?
Here’s the thing… you can actually build a beautiful business without burning out, or selling out. You might just need to adjust your expectations, and take a practical and persistent path. This might not be as shiny and sexy as playing in the shallow start-up pool with the cool kids, but it can be much more rewarding if you’re a mission-driven business with impact as your key measure of success.
The idea of ‘slow start-up’ is becoming increasingly popular among entrepreneurs (of a certain age and persuasion - sorry cool techbro kids… this post ain’t for you) for good reason.
For starters, a slow start-up allows for more ethical and sustainable practices. You know, like not cheating your customers, exploiting your workers or the environment. It's kind of a no-brainer, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of trying to make a quick buck, ethics get thrown in the bin faster than a dieting resolution after New Year.
Taking the time to engage in authentic community building and creating ethical and sustainable business structures can lead to a more fulfilled team and a loyal customer base. Companies like Patagonia have successfully implemented these principles, and shown how holding purpose as paramount can truly lead to creating an almost fanatical customer community.
Fast start-up often prioritises growth over stability, leading to a lack of direction and a higher risk of failure. In truth, it also often leads to a lack of authentic engagement. Fail fast, fail cheap may be the catch-cry of the sector – but is it a healthy one?
Market testing and data analytics is a pretty blunt and disconnected way to figure out what your target audience wants. A fabricated user persona based on some disconnected social stats is nice… but, it’s kind of like dating, you can't just rely on a profile picture and a witty bio to determine if someone is a good match for you. You need to get to know them on a deeper level, and the same goes for your customers.
Active engagement and authentic user research are crucial components of a successful start-up. Slow start-ups take the time to immerse themselves in their community, often building an advocacy profile in support of the community need they are addressing, and listening actively to their marketplace and even building it if they can.
Slow start-up also allows for ethical business models to emerge, such as social enterprises, cooperatives, and B Corps. These models prioritise the well-being of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and focus on creating social or environmental impact in addition to financial returns.
A social enterprise, for example, is like a hybrid between a business and a not-for-profit. It's a business that is focused on making a positive social or environmental impact, while still generating profits. It's like killing two birds with one stone, except instead of birds, it's social and environmental issues.
And B Corps, or Benefit Corporations, are businesses that are legally required to consider the impact of their actions on all stakeholders, not just shareholders. It's like a business with a conscience, which is more than we can say for some people.
Cooperatives, on the other hand (like The Pack), are businesses that are owned and controlled by their members, rather than by outside investors. It's like a democracy, but for business. Everyone has a say in how the business is run and everyone gets a piece of the pie.
Slow start-up allows entrepreneurs to build a solid foundation for their business, developing a clear mission and vision, a long-term strategy, and assembling a strong team and support network. By taking the time to establish a strong foundation, businesses are better equipped to weather any challenges that may come their way and continue to grow and evolve over time even when faced with giant obstacles.
Over the past 18 months, The Pack has endured through real difficulty, with its amazing Board still intact, and in fact, growing. We’ve weathered storms that fast start-ups with fly-by-night Boards and nervous investors would never have been able to face, and we’ve come out with new supporters and partners waiting in the wings to give us the leg-up we need to achieve our impact.
So, there you have it, folks. That's why we at The Pack believe that you can build a beautiful business without selling your soul or losing your mind.
A slow start-up may not be as flashy as a fast one, but it allows for more ethical and sustainable practices, authentic community building, and alternative business models. And let's be real, who doesn't love a business that does good in the world while making money?