Island vs Ecosystem

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

As a small business owner, it’s common to think of our company as an island. Isolated. Self-contained. Having to generate all resources from within. Surrounded on all sides by unknown threats.

That gets lonely. And stressful.

It puts a huge burden on the business owner to “make it all happen.”

What if you took a different view?

What if … instead of seeing your business as a solitary island, you saw it as part of an ecosystem?

An ecosystem = a system or network of interconnected and interacting parts.

Not lonely. Not isolated. Rather, affiliated. Allied together for a fuller experience.

Shifting to “ecosystem thinking” is something I worked on with a small, faith-based not-for-profit recently. They’re engaging in a strategic planning process to revitalize their mission and attract new members. (Just like a small business revisiting its “why” to expand its customer base).

I asked: Who benefits from the work you do? And how?

Here’s a brief rundown of their “ecosystem”:

  • Members. They receive tools to lead healthier, happier lives. They feel part of a welcoming and flourishing community.
  • Staff. They love coming to work for a place that appreciates their gifts and treats them with respect. They also get excited about the mission, which inspires their own creativity in their work. They are paid fairly for their work.
  • Leadership. They serve eagerly, and are happy to give generously of their time, talent, and treasure. They actively introduce good contacts and other donors. There’s a short list of terrific and talented people ready to step into leadership succession.
  • Communities. The organization has established strong collaborative relationships with other like-minded local organizations. The organization’s training programs have helped people nationwide establish their own groups and communities through study sessions, discussion groups, and dinner salons.
  • Other donors/strategic partners. There are many strategic partners and influencers who share the same concerns and are eager to support the organization’s mission. They are delighted there’s an outlet and resources for sharing the teaching important to them.

By taking on the ecosystem exercise, they felt a larger sense of purpose and connection. Reenergized to continue their work in a new way.

Part of an interconnected ecosystem, instead of an isolated island.

Your business has an ecosystem too … even if you’ve lost sight of it. Clients, staff, managers (if you have them), your Board (if you have one), advisors, vendors, strategic partners. And you.

So ask yourself: Who benefits?

You just might find yourself part of a larger and more welcoming community than you realized.

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