Brought up on a farm in Norfolk, Ellis started observing animals from a young age. After a stint as a game keeper and a short time serving with the Royal Marines, Ellis headed to northern Idaho, where he spent seven years studying wolves and living with a tribe of native Americans.
Next, he moved to North Devon and set up Wolf Pack Management at Combe Martin Wildlife Park, where he works with 17 captive wolves and has learnt to communicate with them through scent and sound. Even his young daughter has picked up the family trait: “When a school dinner lady tried to take away her food, my daughter put her arms around her plate and growled!” jokes Ellis.
Ellis believes that humans are more closely connected to wolves than primates – and that entrepreneurs can learn from the way packs are structured.
“There’s a clear social structure within wolf packs,” explains Ellis. “The alpha wolf is the leader, rather like the chief executive or founder of a company. He’s not the kind of animal to pick a fight – he’s far too regal and important to the rest of the pack to risk getting injured. He’s not always the oldest, but he’s the most experienced. Next, there’s the beta wolf – the managing director or henchman. He could out-muscle the alpha, but not out-wit him. His job is to protect the alpha wolf. These two animals must respect each other and work together, otherwise they risk the survival of the rest of the pack.”
When food is scarce, Ellis says that wolf packs work with their enemies – or competitors. “A lack of food is the wolves’ equivalent of a credit crunch,” says Ellis. “Resourceful measures are needed. Four enemy packs will work together to ‘fence in’ their prey and make sure it doesn’t escape to new pastures.
Can Ellis, who has appeared on US prime time chat shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman, teach entrepreneurs a thing or two about running a business.
Or would you rather throw his theories to the wolves?
Let’s hear your views.
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