Today, I'm introducing the concept of the business ecosystem. It's a neat little term that a lot of peeps use to describe their network. 

I like the word ecosystem because a. network sometimes has not nice connotations and b. because an ecosystem connotes life and growth and a natural rhythm and cycle. 

Network feels transactional. Ecosystem feels relational. (Remember science class? We want to be symbiotic in our ecosystems, not parasitic.)

Ok then, let's get started. 

Ecosystems form the structure and foundation of the business cycle. 

And understanding the health of your current ecosystem will help you assess what elements need shoring up and where you can relax a little. 

For example, if my ecosystem is heavy on my friends and relatives (not a bad thing) but they don't really understand the underwater basket weaving that I'm trying to bring to the tech startup space then I need to tweak my ecosystem and meet more people who can either connect me with or who are my target market.

Let me repeat that.

Your ecosystem needs all kinds of members, specifically those who can connect you with your target market or those who actually are your target market.

For  example, I know that CEOs are the decision makers I work with to get more contracts. I very rarely interact with another decision maker in a company. Sure, I talk to a CFO or COO, but typically my clients are the big cheese. 

So naturally I gravitate towards CEOs in my ecosystem. But if I only had CEOs in my ecosystem, that'd be like having thousands of sharks in an ocean with no littler fish. It's not sustainable.

To balance that out, it's important (for me) to know executive assistants, sales people, marketers, investors and the like. Because they can all connect me target market: CEOs.

Today make a list of your ecosystem. 

(I do this longhand and then put it in a spreadsheet and/or a CRM.)

1. Just jot down names of all the people you know who are solidly in your ecosystem. Include the aforementioned friends and family (they count!) as well as professional contacts.

I don't mean just go through your facebook friends list. Be strategic. 

2. Next go through and tag them 1, 2, or 3 based on how well you know them. (1 means really well, no problem getting a meeting. 2 means name recognition/familiarity but not a guaranteed. 3 means outside help, well, helps. Dropping a mutual friend's name or colleague will help get a meeting.)

This tagging is for your purposes only.

3. Now go through and give each person a tag of A, B or C based on their ecosystem (or your knowledge of it). A really good massage therapist or dentist can have a fabulous ecosystem full of people you'd like to meet.

Meaning, you want that massage therapist or dentist to know what you do and for whom you do it. 

See where I'm going with this? You're going to start seeing your ecosystem in a new light. The chatty barista at Starbucks can be a valuable part of your ecosystem.

**A disclaimer: Some of you may feel this is particularly strategic. It is. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of taking a gimlet eyed look at the wonderful people you interact with regularly to see how they might help you, then being in business might not be such a good choice at this time. 

So, let's reframe.

How many of you enjoy referring trusted service providers to your friends and acquaintances? I know I do! I love being of service and passing along a name/number/website. 

If you don't let the people in your ecosystem know what you do/for whom you do it, then they can't be of service to the people in their ecosystems! 

They WANT to know how awesome you are at teaching yoga or arranging flowers or booking corporate travel. Because then they get to share you with others. 

And that, friends, is why it's an ecosystem.

Now, one last thing before we go on to Part Three. 

Last night my husband made a comment about a co-worker named Maggie. He said she was one of the most strategic and successful sales people he's ever met. 

Why? He continued to describe that she's about the relationship, the long term, that she goes out of her way to find out who to talk to and who to get on board. 

She's not about placing the product or software (in this case VERY expensive terminals and software for financial companies). 

She's also super nice!

Being strategic doesn't exclude sincerity. 

So, go make your sincere, strategic list! 

FWIW I use google dox spreadsheets for this kind of thing and just started using PipeDrive CRM because 37Signals is no longer supporting HighRise which means it will go byebye at some point. 

Ok that's all for now!