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Who are your business stakeholders?

posted Jan 18, 2012, 6:20 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated May 15, 2013, 6:45 AM ]
There's been a lot of discussion about Wall Street in the news over the past few months.  Some have questioned the 'fairness' of how income is distributed within our economic system.  They look to demonize those that they see as responsible for perpetrating this perceived inequity.  Others defend the system as the American Way, and dismiss those questioning the system as lazy and irresponsible.

As is so often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Maybe we need to look at a potential mis-balance in a system that has been generally extremely effective at providing the support and resources that have allowed our country to progress at an incredible rate?  Maybe instead of condemning the system, we need to re-connect the system?

An effective business system provides value to all stakeholders:  customer, employee, partners, suppliers, communities and ultimately the investor.  In a small business it is easy to see and appreciate the connections between each of the elements of this system.  They are generally cemented with personal relationships, and the impact of providing value to one stakeholder at the expense of another is very easy to predict.  Any small business owner naturally knows he must delicately manage the balance of value between all stakeholders in order to keep the system working for the future.

As a business grows, the connection to key stakeholders can become de-personalized.  It can become too easy too allow the balance of value to shift;  to allow decisions to be made that provide value to the investor, at the expense of another part of the business system.  Results that come at the expense of your supplier's viability, your employee's ability to feel successful or your community's environment, probably are not contributing value to the world as a whole or to the long-term prospects for your business.

A new generation of business will overcome the hurdle of translating these principles, so obvious to the small business owner, to the corporate scale.  It may mean slower short term investment growth... but it will yield real sustainable long-term growth and real value to the world.