A process-based model of network capability development by a start-up firm

H. McGrath, Christopher J. Medlin, Thomas O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Start-up firms are notoriously resource and time poor. One way of addressing these deficits is to develop strategic capability to access, activate and co-shape resources with other firms in the start-up's network. The capability literature assumes such a development is inevitable, provided a start-up survives. But developing network capability depends on the managers of other firms, the deepening managerial understanding of business relationships, and the ability of the start-up managers to adjust to and understand interdependence in networks. We present a processual model of how managerial understanding of network capability develops, comprising of three parts each building on the earlier: (i) in relationships, (ii) through relationships and (iii) in the network. The model was inductively developed from a longitudinal study of a start-up firm. Also, two sensemaking processes were found to predominate – problem solving and social-cognitive processes. Our model highlights the role of the start-up manager in sensemaking with managers across a number of firms to resolve commercial problems. Thus, the independence many start-up managers seek must turn towards interdependence. Second, managers' temporal horizons and the specific temporal profile of events and activities inside the involved business relationships are important in understanding and developing, with other firms, network capability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-227
Number of pages14
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Business relationship development
  • Capability understanding
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Network capability
  • Start-up firm
  • Temporal process model


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