You are not an island. Entrepreneurs must rely on their ecosystems. Your survival depends on your interactions with those around you, for better or for worse. And those interactions depend on the quirkiness of human beings -- our passions, intuitions and foibles.
Entrepreneurs can learn valuable business management lessons from biology itself. Here are four:
1. Diversity can take you farther than expertise. Biological systems, like rainforests, thrive on diversity. The richness of the interactions between different species of flora and fauna determine the ultimate robustness of the system. What scientists have discovered is that the same thing applies to human problem solving.
The more diverse the skillsets, insights and perspectives of a group of people, the better the group tends to perform at solving problems. A random selection of diverse people can often outperform a team of specialized experts, according to research published in the National Academy of Sciences. Humans are the species with the most complex division of labor on Earth. Leverage that power to organize diverse talents together and solve common problems.
2. Build a strong tribe. Human beings are tribal creatures. We love to belong to groups, whether they are sports teams, professional organizations or neighborhood gatherings.
You can think about your employees, customers and suppliers in the same way. They are your business tribe, with their own customs, lingo and shared understandings. Foster that connectedness and sense of loyalty because the strength of your tribe is like entrepreneurial gold.
3. Trust is essential for business growth. Humans are wired to survive. Thus, we tend to avoid pain more than we seek pleasure. The fear of punishment is more powerful than the possibility of reward. However, the antidote to fear is trust. Trust is how we overcome threats. Trust can be lost in seconds, whereas it takes a lifetime to earn.
The more you build trust with employees, customers and suppliers, the more you lower the fear-based barriers that get in the way of business. This is what makes the difference between, say, a long-term relationship with a supplier that operates on a handshake versus striking a deal with a stranger that requires negotiating a 30-page contract. It’s the difference between a customer who takes six days to pay, versus six months.
4. Emotions are a big part of the equation. Although we like to think we are highly rational, science shows that first and foremost, we are emotional creatures. We feel before we think. Respect the power of emotions in business. You can create value by fostering stronger emotional bonds with your customers, partners and employees. Build social ties that go beyond business. Make it personal. Have fun.
On a purely rational level, the entrepreneurial process often does not make much sense. Many entrepreneurs could simply work a "normal," more stable job instead. That's why it's important for you and those around you to enjoy the journey. There is usually something motivating successful entrepreneurs beyond the money.
Acknowledge and honor that motivation because it's what will drive you and your colleagues when all the odds are stacked against you.
Victor Hwang is CEO and co-founder of T2 Venture Capital, a Silicon Valley firm that builds startups and the ecosystems that grow them. He is also the author of The Rainforest Blueprint: How to Design Your Own Silicon Valley (Regenwald, 2013).