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Business Networks, Ecosystem Building, Stakeholder Management, The Clique Blog

5 Insights For Building Powerful Business Ecosystems

After meeting hundreds of unique ecosystem managers from all over the world, I wanted to share with you the top insights we learned that are making all the difference:

1. Map Your Ecosystem’s Stakeholders

Step one, is to understand your game-field. 

Stakeholders are all the different organizations / businesses / individuals that are affected by, or have interest in your organization’s work. 

Ask yourself “Who are the stakeholders I need to take into consideration and manage, in order to achieve my goals”? — Usually you will have various types of stakeholders you will want to work with and connect between. 

Lets take accelerators for exampleAn accelerator management team needs to build relationships with at least 5 different stakeholders at once: 
1.Portfolio companies (current batch)
2.Investors in their network
3.Service providers 
4.Industry experts 
5. Mentors
6. Alumni companies
7. Corporate connections

With each individual stakeholder you will want to build a strong and meaningful relationship. At the beginning it can be something you manage instinctively, but as you grow and reach big numbers — you should make sure you are managing these relationship in order to not miss out key opportunities. 

2. Learn The Opportunities & Motivations

In order to successfully play your role as the connector of the network, you should get deeper into your understanding of the ecosystem’s stakeholders and members. 

Each person is taking part in your ecosystem for different reasons from the others. Top ecosystem builders thrive from using their emotional intelligence and getting deep with each member individually to truly understand them. Meaning, they ignite meaningful conversations to learn the specific needs, motivations and goals of each stakeholder. 

This knowledge allows them to provide curated value such as: 
– Sharing relevant content
– Directing unique opportunities to the right members
– Suggesting warm introductions to relevant connections 
– Building special, tailored activities 

Basically, what you need to do is to map all the things each member can give /share, and what they are interested to gain from others in your ecosystem. If you centralize all your information to one smart data point , you will immediately visualize these opportunities. 

From here, connecting the dots and people will be easy and super valuable. 

3. Break Down & Clarify Your KPI’s

One thing that is still not clear, even for professional ecosystem builders nor their employers — is how to define the right KPI’s for themselves. 

Why is this important? While it can seem easier working without specific KPIs that will measure your work —  it actually has much more cons than your probably realizing. 

Cons of not having clear KPI’s:
– You don’t get to see or feel your progress, while you are progressing
– You don’t get to showcase your work and “translate” it to the organization
– You don’t get to enjoy the small wins of yourself reaching your goals
– You don’t get the feeling of self / professional evolvement in your job
– You won’t have a clear achievements to show in your future job interviews
– Lastly, You don’t get to optimize your work for similar future efforts

Pros of having clear KPI’s:
– You get to enjoy all of the above…. 🙂 

Now, what should you measure? Obviously, it depends on many things. 

The most common things we saw ecosystem builders track: 
1. Growth of ecosystem (number of members or specific stakeholders)
2. Growth in online engagement or interactions / offline attendance 
3. Number of meaningful connections within the network (introductions)
4. Ecosystem density — number of nodes (relationships) within the ecosystem
5. Successful conversion of business opportunities between members
6. Income stats from members / sponsors / partners etc. 

These are the “basics” you should start with. If you want to reach the next level, reach out and I can give you pro measurements and goal settings for your specific case. 

4. Track Your Efforts

As an ecosystem builder, you probably love meeting people, building relationships, creating value…. or anything but dealing with documentation or technical process operations. 

Yet, if you accept the premise that setting goals and working to reach them is important, don’t forget the most important thing: tracking your progress.

It’s unlikely to understand that you reached your goals, without having a clear way to track your efforts along the way. After deciding on your KPI’s, have a brainstorm process with your colleagues and think creatively on how to measure them. 

In a people-relationship-opportunitiy business based world, it’s hard to measure your work as it is focused on soft emotional wins. Although they are the most valuable, they are far from being easily countable. 

Thus, use your creativity and technology to create indicators. These indicators will allow you to understand the outcomes, or the general direction of progress of your efforts to help you curate yourself and your activities along the way.  

5. Optimize to Evolve

Yael Malatskey, Ecosystem Manager of CityZone, recently said in a podcast episode (that we will soon share with the world):

“ecosystem builders should look at themselves as entrepreneurs”

I agree with this statement. While we can compare the two in many ways to prove this, here I want to focus on the ‘optimization’ part of it. 

At the end of the day, this is a pretty new position. No one taught us how to build ecosystems at any point in life. Yet, a growing number of governments, corporates, cities and organization are counting on their ecosystem as their main business strategy. This puts a lot of emphasis and responsibility on the ecosystem builders. Specially in a growing market of ecosystems, starting to compete on attention— you have to keep growing, learning and evolving your work. 

Having clear KPI’s, and a measurement system for them will help direct you on this matter. Once you know what you want to achieve and can visualize your distance from it — then, you can start productively evolving your efforts.

A few directing questions to ask yourself:
1. Which stage are you in the Ecosystem Life-cycle? —Just like any other living organism, ecosystems too are growing, breathing systems. It’s important you understand your current stage, so you can better structure your work towards the next stage. 

2. What worked best until now? — Sometimes, when working on many things and relationships simultaneously, it’s hard and not intuitive to stop and reflect. What was the most valuable activity for members? What encouraged the ideal actions from members? What lead to meaningful value exchange in the short / long term? What gained the most engagement / demand from relevant members? 

3. What are my biggest challenges to overcome? — I am to often surprised professionals don’t ask themselves this question on a regular basis. What’s preventing members from communicating more? How much do members TRUST one another? How to build a thriving ecosystem online without the ability of offline interaction? Where is the ecosystem positioned in your members mind?

What next?

In the next few posts I’ll drill down into each section and start answering these questions, so hopefully you’ll recognize yourself in some of them and use it. 

Furthermore, as I know motivated ecosystem managers don’t want to wait too much…. I’m inviting anyone who finished reading this, and answered the questions mentioned above — to reach out for a personal consultancy & intro call. Just Reach out via this link & use this code (in the message section): TheNewLeaders.

Talk soon!