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posted on 09.14.2011 posted by David Fout

How Do Your Stakeholders Affect Your Decision Making?

You’ll often hear me say that employees are our most valuable assets. Clearly, as a services-based solutions provider, we cannot do what we do without our employees. I often talk about the importance of customer service and how critical it is to be focused on our customers’ needs and goals. After all, our purpose is to solve problems for our customers. Partners and vendors allow us to solve those problems with a comprehensive solution and those solutions need to benefit their end users. We wouldn’t exist without stockholders whose entrepreneurial spirit brought about our existence…and we can’t forget about our community; this is where we live, work, and play and have the opportunity to make a positive difference. 

As you can see, companies have many stakeholders to consider—and stated more directly—to answer to! So, which is the most important? How do you prioritize? Over the years I’ve heard varied opinions on this topic from managers and owners of many companies. Most conventional business books will tell you it’s all about the customer. Certainly, this is a reasonable conclusion for a services-oriented company. I went to Amazon.com and searched the book section for “customer” and got more than 38,000 results. A refined search of “customer service” reduced the results to a mere 11,000+. I saw 92 are “coming soon.” Clearly, the consensus is that customers are very important! Before I left the site, I thought I’d do a quick search on “employees.” The result – more than 70,000 entries. OK, they must be the most important. If you read Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s, book Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed, Eisner will tell you that partnerships based on trust and ethics can be a launch pad for great success.

Again, so who is most important? The real answer is everybody. You cannot consistently sacrifice the good of one stakeholder over another and expect that stakeholder to remain loyal or continue to appreciate your value. Whether developing long term strategy or making operational day-to-day decisions, you must take into consideration all of your stakeholders. And this has to be a conscious act, because it’s easy to focus on the one most obviously affected. 

Let’s take a look at the old adage, “the customer is always right.” While it is an effective way to dialogue about the importance of keeping the customers’ interests in the forefront of your mind, customers are not necessarily making decisions with your stakeholders in mind – that is your job…but hopefully they are considering each of their stakeholders such as their constituents, their agency and the Administration. 

Any single decision can positively or negatively impact any of your stakeholders. In the government, this ever present competition for attention becomes extremely obvious each year during budgeting exercises. Cutting or shifting the budget from one program to another must be done with careful consideration. In the private sector, the challenges are the same. 

At the end of the day, each stakeholder plays a key, but distinctly different role in your company or agency. You need to recognize and value the importance of each role, define what each stakeholder can expect from any member of your organization and ensure those expectations are consistently met through shared vision and accountability. At Aquilent, we call this the Aquilent Way.

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