Several months ago I created a “Stakeholder Hierarchy” for my business OnwardUP Sales and Marketing LTD. While I was aware of the stakeholders of my business, I had never gone through the process of ranking them. It was a great exercise and something that I shared with my team at our recent Annual General Meeting in early March. I am grateful to have created and shared it prior to the Covid 19 crisis. I go back to it daily as I navigate the murky waters that the present and future hold.
Here is what it looks like:
- 1. Employees: The quality, growth, and contentment in life and in the job of our staff is the companies #1 priority. The TEAM is why OU is a successful business and is the reason we will continue to be successful. The success of the individual and the team is the most important factor in helping us create success for the rest of our stakeholders.
- 2. Customers: Retail stores and Operators (climbing gyms/Guide outfits etc). These are our main outside stakeholders. Without them we would not exist. Our ability to serve them and help them achieve success is our #1 responsibility.
- 3. Vendors: The brand partners we represent are the best in the industry and it is the responsibility of all OU employees to find opportunity for growth, to market their products and technologies, and to communicate and defend their values and mission(s). It is our job to strengthen their brand(s) in our market and in turn they will provide for the rest of our stakeholders.
- 4. Community: Including end-users, ambassadors, NGO’s. It is a responsibility for every member of the team to engage with and educate our community and add value to them on behalf of, and to the benefit of all stakeholders.
- 5. Owners: The success of all other stakeholders is directly responsible for the success of the business owners as well as the profit margin of the business. We build profit to allow for investment in innovation, employees, infrastructure, and risk management. Profit allows us to grow our level of contribution to the benefit of all stakeholders.
For the majority of companies the top and bottom stakeholders are usually reversed. Shareholders are often by default #1. Employees land somewhere below. This is certainly the crux for most publicly traded companies to overcome. The challenge is that no matter where the stakeholder lies on this hierarchy, the health and success of each one is absolutely critical for the success of the others. As an owner I can say that it is the only stakeholder category that is replaceable. Thankfully what isn’t replaceable is leadership and until I am told otherwise I think that is my job security.
So, the challenge of the times is deciding how to serve each stakeholder when sales are plummeting and liquidity is limited. Knowing who is at the table and addressing each one independently for the greater good of the whole is the path to weave. As the saying goes “life begins at the ends of your comfort zone”. Well, I would say we are all “there” and the same statement is true for making both good and important decisions.