The power of invisible links

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Kalk Bay Harbour (Copyright: Chesney Bradshaw)

When I was growing up in Kalk Bay a seal clubbing trawler called the Malgas worked out of the harbour. It would go down to Seal Island where the crew would club seals to death, load them onto the trawler, bring them back to Kalk Bay harbour and send them away for further processing.

As a little boy, I once saw a baby seal pup stuck in one of the big rubber tractor tyres that was used as a ballard to stop the wooden fishing boats bashing against the side of the key. A crew member from the Malgas took out a long gaff, gaffed the pup in its throat, pulled it aboard and skinned the baby seal alive.

The era of seal clubbing has long passed and nowdays seals gaily roam right up to the quayside, swimming around looking for scraps of fish from the snoek fishermen. On a rainy summer day I was stuck under the awning with my daughter and we had plenty of time to watch the seals at play. One big bull seal had climbed the stairs at the corner of the harbour and was lying in the rain on the quayside. Two seals climbed up the stairs looking for fish. Another quickly crawled up the tire in front of the fish market and looked around for the fish sellers to throw him some fish scraps.

It’s something I’ve noticed that seems to be happening more frequently in our more environmentally friendly and animal-friendly communities these days. Seals seem to be less afraid of human beings. Birds sometimes don’t seem to bother about human beings at all and don’t fly up from their perches in trees if you walk towards their tree. This might seem a bit far-fetched but could it be that animals are losing their fear of human beings as they recognise that human beings are a source of food with their growing of trees and leaving out seeds or scraps?

The amazing thing about watching the seals is the cycle of ecology around them. The fishermen throw out scraps of fish leftovers into the harbour and the seals rush to get underwater to fetch them and then flick them onto the surface of the water to break them into smaller pieces. The seagulls, ever watchful, swoop down and see the scraps before the seals surface again to pick them up. This is just one part of the cycle. The fishermen themselves go out to sea and watch the seagulls and see turns looking for smaller fish which point to where the larger fish are feeding below the water. The fishing boats on their return to the harbour feed the seals and other birds with scraps as fish are cleaned aboard. Such is the sustaining characteristic of a small eco-system at the harbour.

It’s not such a far stretch of the imagination to think about the ecosystem that supports small business owners and solopreneurs. Instead of relying on command-and-control structures to support them, small businesses owners and entrepreneurs build personal networks between themselves where they are able to gain from one another. These personal networks are flexible and dynamic. Ever-changing, they draw in resources as needed to support entrepreneurs whether it be for recruitment of new employees, training, marketing, financial management or even capital.

How strong is your personal network? Is it ever-expanding? Do you need to build your own personal network? How could your personal network support and help your business grow in 2014?

In this economy and with regulations forcing businesses to go to the wall, it pays to grow your personal network to share resources, skills, ideas, insights and even in some cases lobby against injustice.

But my main point is that by building your own business ecosystem you will most likely be less vulnerable and instead more empowered to survive as an entrepreneur, small business owner or even would be start-up at a time when not only big business but also small business and livelihoods are under attack.

Working together problems shared can be solved more rapidly, opportunities can be identified and greater abundance enjoyed.

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