I've owned a small business for over 25 years and in that time I've changed, my business has certainly changed, tools and tactics have changed and, in typical small business fashion, I believe I've handily adapted to the ebb and flow and lived to go at it another day.
When you grind away, adding this and that, and taking advantage of each little shift in strategy as single events, it pretty much feels like gradual change, hardly noticeable at times.
However, as I step back and take in the entire journey that's been the last few years I can see that the aggregate amount of change in the way I go to work has altered the very existence of what I've called my business.
Today I don't go to work in a business so much as I cultivate an ecosystem.
Now, I don't write that to sound like some grand or pompous bit of consultant jargon, I write it as a realization of what I think it takes to survive and grow in this day and age.
It is no longer enough to make a great product or service, promote it and read the P and L to see if you made any headway.
Several factors come in to play in this notion of building an ecosystem over building a business:
- Our markets have never had more access to real time information, yet never had less time or attention to consume our messages
- Social behavior has become a business expectation and means of communication rather than a business tactic
- Almost every service, solution, product or idea can be acquired for free, the market now only pays for an experience
Given those factors, I believe that even the simplest business ecosystem must include:
- A strategic emphasis on building a collaboration community around prospects, customers, suppliers, partners and competitors
- A commitment to the publishing of concepts, ideas and methodologies in every size, shape and format
- The packaging of content in both free and premium models that leverage a market's desired consumption devices
- The development of products that support services and services that support products
- A leadership brand that can build and tell stories and a commitment to get in front of audiences
- The building of personalized hubs of communities in the social spaces where our markets hang out
- The construction of a formal network of partners that provide every product and service our markets need
- The Fusion of online and offline tactics as a way to create more convenient, yet highly personal engagement
And, hanging somewhere above the ecosystem, much like the atmosphere, is the overarching need for a simple, inspirational, purpose driven vision that drives the system and runs through every story, hire, decision, message and brand asset.