C3MD’s latest Coffee & Collaboration on Stakeholder Orientation was a hit! We had a solid turn-out and a robust discussion about stakeholders in a business.
What is stakeholder orientation?
There were several good definitions, but essentially, stakeholder orientation describes a pattern of socially responsible values, decision making or behavior where businesses decide and act by including the interests of a variety of groups affected by the business’ decisions… not just shareholders
Our group’s conversation was full of stories, mindsets, strategies, and more relating to our relationships with our various stakeholders. Danielle Marshall, founder of Culture Principles, a racial equity, diversity, and inclusion consulting firm, eloquently shared her views of the stakeholder as a partner: “Whether any money is exchanging hands or otherwise, what I’m leading with lately is the idea of the value proposition. Why would you want to work with me? Why would you want to advance whatever our goals are? And is there something collective, or is it a one-way street? That feels really important to me because the other stakeholder group is the greater society. Whether it be my local community or the world at large, I’m working on behalf of something greater than any one entity, including myself.”
A rising tide lift all boats
Competitors came up as an interesting and important stakeholder. Competitors don’t necessarily have to be opponents. In fact, when they work together they can often find ways to make each business stronger and their market richer. They can work together, and sometimes they’re even good friends. Jules Shepard, CEO of gfJules, the #1 gluten free flour and baking mixes company in the US, shared a story about her competitor who is also a close friend of hers. Since the gluten free market is a niche with a very specialized customer, Shepard knows most of her competitors. She and this particular competitor help each other all the time, she said. When her business was going through a crisis, “she stepped up and volunteered to fulfill orders for me from her warehouse. They fulfilled all of her orders and all of my orders. You’d never think your closest competitor would do that. But we both have the vision of getting the best products to the most people in our food-allergic community. We’ve both subscribed to ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ kind of theory. That’s the way that we operate, which not everyone does. But for us, it works.”
Thinking of competitors as stakeholders brought up some great discussion about why conscious capitalism exists. Small businesses need to thrive in order to create a diverse, exciting, and fulfilling marketplace for society. C3MD President Liz Richardson, co-owner of Indigo Ink Digital Printing, put it best: “the idea of big business taking over the world and losing the business diversity that has existed is terrifying to me. It’s not a world I want to live in. It’s hard to describe and talk to people about it, saying, ‘Imagine where all you have is Amazon and Walmart and Starbucks Coffee. That’s it. There’s nothing else because there’s no other small business that can thrive in this economy.’ What does that look like? Isn’t that very stale and sad? There’s just no life. I want to preserve and increase business diversity.”
If you missed this meeting check out the video for the full replay.
Interested in attending our next Coffee & Collaboration?
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