You can do everything you’re supposed to do in business and get so far. I know I followed the formula that is espoused by successful solo entrepreneurs.
I got clear on my niche and what I can offer that is distinct in my industry.
I learned how to do online marketing, funnels and all the fun stuff.
I dissolved my ego drives to the point where I could have effective sales conversations without anxiety.
I spent years working through my ‘money issues’ (which were hardly to do with money at all) to deal with my finances with confidence.
Yet after all this, there was still something missing.
I was missing a sense of family, my business family; folks like me who are in business for the same reasons, with similar values. The people who understand me. MY people.
So I started dreaming about not being alone, about being surrounded by other business owners like me for a purpose beyond just making money. And that’s when my idea of a business ecosystem was conceived.
Home is not where you live, it’s where people understand you
As humans, we all yearn to be part of something, to belong, to be surrounded by people who ‘get’ what we’re trying to be and do in life. If you’re doing business differently, it can be hard to find your people amongst all the noise about how you should be making money. It may seem like a necessary inconvenience filtering out the mayhem and paving the way on your own, but I’ve found that it’s more isolating than ever.
Are you flying solo in business? I’ve been a solopreneur for nearly 4 years and I’ve tried joining groups and networks to find others out there with a similar approach to business. But I never quite found what I was looking for, none of them ever ‘stuck’. And I eventually figured out why.
Why most business groups fail to serve people ‘like us’
Have you ever been part of a business community or networking group where you feel like you’re out of place?
Over the years I’ve been part of a few, some paid, some free, some online and some local, in-person groups. I’ve also surveyed other entrepreneurs who’ve done the same, and many of us seem to share the same complaint:
‘There’s no real connection, and everyone is in it for themselves.’
- Members feel their values are not aligned with other members
- The group tends to be dominated by a few, and competition for the limelight ensues
- Interactions tend to be centred around direct or indirect self-promotion rather than a genuine desire to help
- There are too many members which prevents more introverted types from feeling comfortable in interacting or have an equal platform
- Lack of guidelines so people are unclear on how to operate within the group, so members default to behaviours reminiscent of artificially hyped-up networking events
Genuine connection and support is rare, and most people don’t know how to do it in a group context. Many of us need ongoing guidance and skills development in the area of collaboration and cooperation, which is tricky to find since most business groups are not formed with that purpose in mind.
What sets ecosystems apart from most business groups
There are a few reasons why conventional business groups don’t work for spiritual entrepreneurs, and they mostly stem from a clash in life and business philosophy. In other words, we don’t share the same values as the groups we’re in. For example, if you’re a spiritual entrepreneur, your values will be different to mainstream business, and that informs how you run your business. Think about:
- Pace – Do you feel the pressure to keep up with the latest trends or would you rather build your business organically, in ‘Earth’ time?
- Size – Are you aiming for ‘global domination’ in your industry or are you happy with a business that has humble roots that may lead to an international movement?
- Complexity – Are you overwhelmed by the complexities of typical business operations and technologies and more interested in the simplest approach possible?
- Competition – Do you thrive on competing with others in business or is it true collaboration and cooperation that you seek?
You can see why these principles alone can lead you down two very different paths when it comes to connecting with other business owners. Common values in any group are binding; they are the glue that make the difference between a group that lifts all its members and one that polarizes them.
A business ecosystem is inherently distinct from your typical business group. It requires different values which generate different operating principles.
Specifically, greed, over-consumption, unhealthy competition and unnatural growth go against the principles of a functioning ecosystem. Ecosystems in nature thrive upon cooperation and moderate consumption. Therefore, the formation of a business ecosystem is only possible when the members themselves hold a value system that is conducive to working together, knowing their place and not taking more than what they need.
The 5 key ingredients of a thriving ecosystem
The purpose of an ecosystem is simple: to support the livelihoods of many creatures of varying species all at once. Each creature lives well in the context of the whole plant and animal community, everyone is fed and no resources are wasted. What makes this possible? Here are 5 key principles that allow ecosystems to be self-supporting:
- Role Definition – Each plant/animal has its own defined role that contributes to the whole, and it doesn’t do more or less than that. If it does, the system becomes out of balance and reform ensues.
- Limited Consumption – Each plant/animal only consumes what they need to survive, so there is limited accumulation. Otherwise, they would be taking away what is needed for other beings in the system to survive.
- Shared Resources – Waste is actively reduced and mostly recycled back into the system for consumption. If waste was allowed to accumulate, it would clog and under-resource the entire system.
- Service – Each member of the ecosystem is actively contributing to the health of the whole. If anyone were to take a holiday, the system would loose a link in the food chain and have to adapt to operating in a less optimal fashion.
- Connection – The plants/animals are intrinsically connected and inter-dependent on the entire system for survival. If they were to fight it, and try to go solo, they would suffer unnecessarily.
You might notice that all of these factors are based on limitation and contribution – one needs to limit their role and their consumption in order to be of greater contribution to the whole. All of these factors combined create harmony and equilibrium. And everyone wins.
A business ecosystem provides a fertile ground for growth
Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. Well, the tide only works if the boats are in the same place. Part of what defines an ecosystem is that it has defined boundaries; in nature, it’s by geography, online, it’s by grouping people together in networks.
When a member belongs to a group that is a true match for their values, it becomes a powerful driver to invest in strengthening the community over time. The business ecosystem becomes the first point of contact for doing business, whether that involves sourcing goods and services, testing a new offer, or giving or receiving advice. The primary focus on investing time, energy and resources in the community, rather outside it, builds the strength of the connections and its collective resources.
The critical first step is to ensure that members have a common value system and purpose for being part of the group. Then, operating principles can loosely follow those of a natural ecosystem.
Role Definition ~ Knowing your place
Each person in the group has a place, defined by their core business function, eg. fitness coach, spiritual healer, accountant, business consultant.
Limited Consumption ~ Consuming only what you need
Through their progressive value system, members are not driven to hoard money or material possessions, within or outside the group. This attitude supports sharing in all forms within the group.
Shared Resources ~ Pooling what you have
Members exchange information, advice, tools and even physical resources. After a while, collective wisdom starts to flourish, as the group forms its own identity.
Service ~ Actively engaging in governance
Each member is actively contributing to the health of the whole, through having input into the group’s management or operating principles (rather than one or a few people governing this entirely).
Connection ~ Seeking out meaningful interaction
With time, members create inter-dependencies within the group, as a result of personal bonding and supporting each other at different stages of their business growth. This is facilitated by an emphasis on in-person and online face-to-face interactions, above email or news feed interactions.
I have only touched on one of the most valuable aspects of a business ecosystem that is founded upon these principles: collective wisdom. Collective wisdom is generated when minds and hearts with a shared intention come together to access superior intelligence that cannot be accessed by individuals alone, a kind of meta knowledge base. There is no doubt that collective wisdom alone can make membership of a community like this a very powerful resource, even indispensable, in giving your business a creative edge.
Once kindred people become bonded in a container with a purpose, the opportunities for growth are magnified.
A more evolved way of co-creating our livelihoods is calling us…
Don’t you think it’s time we moved beyond the ‘I need to get ahead’ mentality and seek ways to thrive together? If so, I hope you’ll join the movement. You can start by sharing this article with a note to the people you know need inspiration for a brighter business future where cooperation is the name of the game.
We can make money with soul together…
The business ecosystem is what my colleagues and I are endeavouring to create with the True Abundance Oasis, a collaborative learning community for spiritual entrepreneurs. You can find out more here.