strategic alliances in business

The Ancient Romans Can Teach Us About Strategic Business Alliances


Caius Julius Cesar was one of history’s most skilled military leaders. The Roman consul, leader of all legions, and conqueror of Gaul will give us a lesson today. A lesson about strategic business alliances.

A lesson that can benefit YOUR enterprise and career.

Gaul was in the contemporary area that includes France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the majority of Switzerland, and parts of Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Caesar started a war to capture the whole region in 58 BC, and he was successful in only 8 years. It was Rome’s largest territory acquisition to date, and it remains one of the greatest military victories in history. 

However, diplomacy and local alliances played a key role in Caesar’s triumphs. Gaul was home to a multitude of tribes. Some had expansionist goals, while others are peaceful and focused on agricultural pursuits. A number of tribes banded together to establish the Helvetii, a confederacy headquartered in what is now Switzerland.

These Helvetii turned out to be one of Rome’s fiercest adversaries.

Caesar’s military acumen, cutting-edge Roman tactics, and legionnaire discipline would not have sufficed if not for the local allies. Allies such as the Ambarri and Allobroges, adversaries of the Helvetii.

During the war, Gallic tribes allied with Rome played critical tactical roles in assisting the empire’s territorial expansion.

The Romans were not shocked by the enemy attacks because the Ambarri notified them that the Helvetii were advancing through their country. The Allobroges marched alongside Julius Caesar’s army to battle against the enemy, and he regarded them as warriors of exceptional bravery.

Later, Caesar’s relationships proved advantageous to other Roman leaders, when the friendly tribes helped Cicero to escape from a conspiracy plot.

The same Alllobroges appeared in this strange episode. During the Catilinarian Conspiracy, Roman aristocrats attempted to pay non-Romans residing in the empire in order to incite public disturbance against the administration of Consul Cicero —yes, the great orator.

The conspirators made the error of attempting to enlist the Allobroges, which alerted Cicero. He directed his Gallic friends to gather physical evidence of the plot. As a result, the Allobroges urged the conspirators to write them letters outlining the conspiracy.

The letters eventually wound up in the hands of Cicero, who read them aloud to the Senate the next day in the third of his Catiline Orations. The ringleaders were apprehended and executed once the conspiracy was revealed.

Why Someone Would Make a Strategic Alliance With Your Business?

To have local allies, you don’t have to be a great Roman general. Nichola J. Raihani and Redouan Bshary studied why individuals could aid strangers in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

They determined, after a series of experiments and simulations, that in real life, people choose to pursue productive relationships and reject unproductive counterparts. Finally, when interactions entail several decisions, even amongst strangers with no future view, stable cooperation can be obtained.

The study indicates that humans may select collaboration partners based on the predicted productivity of the relationship, but it also considers the potential of one-sided cooperation. One-sided is when someone aids you without expecting anything in return.

What Are Strategic Alliances in Business

An alliance is a collaborative effort that results in an innovative outcome. Strategic alliances in business can be formed by a variety of organizations from both the private and public sectors. This can be as simple as two local businesses collaborating on a project or as complex as a multinational corporation.

Strategic alliances enable businesses to explore new markets, leverage technological resources and even protect themselves from being wiped out by competitors.

One of the primary reasons for forming strategic alliances is to increase one’s global presence and ability to better manage the competition. As you are aware, competition in multiple sectors nowadays spans the globe, so it is critical to go where your potential clients are.

These collaborations also allow you to be safer in some ways, because other businesses that are seen as trustworthy, interesting, and qualified will keep a close eye on your market activities, protecting you from any potential problems.

How Can Strategic Alliances Influence Business Operations

Strategic alliances between two or more organizations have become an essential component of any company’s business strategy in today’s globalized business world.

As both startup and leading companies in their respective industries recognize the value of multifaceted collaborations with other organizations and become more open to various strategic assets within their industry, the formation of strategic alliances is bound to increase.

Strategic alliances can have a wide range of effects on business operations. For example, a company seeking market expansion may seek to form strategic partnerships with companies in other countries. This would benefit not only the company but also its employees and investors.

Strategic alliances between corporations can be mutually beneficial for both parties. A successful strategic alliance, on the other hand, must be well managed in order to achieve mutual goals.

How Strategic, Local Alliances Will Contribute to the Success of Your Business

Every business effort is fraught with danger from the outset. It becomes increasingly risky when your new firm is in a new region or market. From examining several elements to choose location and market, to cultural considerations during the selection and training of your new workforce, to task delegation and dealing with bureaucracy, there are numerous opportunities for error.

You may learn through making errors — a genuine but difficult method. Alternatively, you may save time, money, and resources by speeding your learning curve and becoming an apprentice with others who have previously taken the same — or a very similar — road.

I’m Brazilian, and I got this crazy notion to start a business in Warsaw, Poland. A country where even smiles convey something different than they do in South America.

Fortunately, I got the opportunity to share a beer with one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the local cheap lodging market. Hubert was his name. We were not rivals because his company was located in a different location.

Disclaimer: Be extremely cautious when forming alliances with direct competitors, as this may be illegal in some countries. Better not do it and seek assistance from people in the same business but in other areas, or from people in different industries in the same location.

During our chat, I discovered that my deadlines were really tight and that it would be best to plan for contingencies if things did not go as smoothly as intended. During the nearly 90 minutes we drank together, he also told me about the management system that we now use to operate the firm and offered me a lot of useful advice.

Alliances provide benefits that are not limited to certain enterprises. Associating with local groups may provide several benefits to startups and smaller businesses. The advantages vary depending on the market and industry, but here are a few examples:

  • Strategic allies can provide information about local customer behavior. In my situation, I had a better understanding of how far ahead time travelers reserve their rooms in Poland; what their expectations are in terms of services and common areas; and what the appropriate size of a room is.
  • Strategic and local allies can provide you with information on government regulations and bureaucracy. I was fortunate to be informed of the necessity to request inspections from different government entities. Unfortunately, I was still penalized for failing to sign a single piece of paper.
  • Strategic and local allies can provide you with information on market practices. For my industry, touristic hospitality, this involves understanding if most establishments charge for extras such as parking or breakfast.
  • Strategic allies can propose suppliers and services to you. When you start your own business, you don’t want to put the quality of your goods to the test with your first clients. And, in order to begin with optimal quality, you must first find optimal (and dependable) vendors. Having a local ally who can tell you which providers are the most dependable — and have the best cost-benefit ratio — will make this task easier.

If you enjoyed this article about strategic alliances in business, I also recommend:

6 Factors Entrepreneurs Must Never Neglect — Why your best guess may be COMPLETELY wrong.

Even the not-so-young will learn valuable lessons from these great books for entrepreneurs.

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Levi Borba is the founder of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks, a website for Small Business Owners, and a best-selling author.

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