I’m writing this following my recent business retreat in the Artic Circle – I’m warm, snug and hauled up in my office at home. For all business owners and leaders, space and time to just be is critically important. I believe much of our real growth comes from conscious, and sometimes unconscious, introspection. If we bounce from one thing to the next to the next – whether work or pure fun – we don’t actually have time to consolidate what we take from each experience. Do this for long enough and one of two things happen; either you become overwhelmed or you become an adrenaline junkie. Neither are sustainable, but worse, both risk your ability to really connect with what is happening around you and within your business.
Connection is one of the five pillars of a brave business. Without connection you risk extinction – both as a business and as a human being. Put simply: we do not and are not designed to function in isolation. In this context, connection has three layers:
- Being connected with yourself, your purpose, your values. The stuff that is absolutely true to you.
- Being connected with the people that you want to do business with, the people that help you in business, and the people who support you within your friends and family. In short, other human beings you are connected to with your business in mind
- Being connected to the planet, as part of an eco-system, as part of a bigger structure than you. This means how you interact, what impact you have, what you depend on, and what impacts on you from a broader environmental perspective.
It is this third one, being connected to the planet, that has been really brought home to me while I was up in the Arctic Circle. It is one of the few places on the planet that if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings, if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on with the environment around you, you could quite literally find yourself in a position where your actual life is in danger.
We went snowmobiling whilst there. When we set off it was -26c and as we got deeper into the forest and the mountains, the snow closed in making navigation increasingly difficult – thankfully we had Mikko, our fabulous instructor and guide, with us who has been connected to that land for generations ensuring our safe passage.
You know, it’s such a privilege to be in nature, to be awed by its power and to experience that feeling of real connection to the planet; it is hugely important. It reminded me that as a business you don’t exist in isolation. As a business, you have to work with the elements that you find yourself in, the surroundings that you’re in, and with the infrastructure that you have. And, there is always a way of doing that.
Kiruna, the town I was based in, is a great example of this. It is actually very isolated, especially in the winter, both by its terrain and its weather – yet its two main streams of revenue are mining (about 75%) and tourism (about 20%). In simple terms it has developed its own eco system. Despite the mining, the air’s really clean, the water’s really clean and, when they’re not frozen, people drink from the rivers. In the winter they build with ice blocks from the rivers, and all the food is locally sourced – sustainable, organic food. You know, it’s just such a clean, eco infrastructure.
You need to think about this in the context of your business. How do you get to have that kind of a sustainable, repeatable, clean way of running your business? I’m not just talking about being ‘eco’ here. I’m talking about how you streamline your operations, your business, to make sure that you’ve created something that fits with the environment that you are in. By this I mean it’s easy to get the resources that you need, and that you are contributing back with those resources – this might be in terms of sales and service, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be making a charitable or pro-bono contribution. It means you do something that enhances the eco system you are working in. That flow makes business sustainable, fun, easy; all those things that are really important if you’re going to invest such a huge chunk of your life into your business.
In the Braver Business group, this week is all about connection. To help members stay brave about the action they take in their business, we regularly roll through the five pillars of brave business. If you’d like to join in with this week’s connection challenge spend some time thinking about your business’s eco system and answer the following questions:
- What does that system look like?
- What role does your business play in that system?
- What do you rely on to make your contribution?
- What value do you contribute?
Once you have answered these questions you will have an idea of your flow in relation to the system you operate in, what’s great and where you may need to focus more attention or make changes to ensure sustainability.