The Stakeholder Business RoadmapJan 19, 2023
By Meghan French Dunbar
With the emergence of stakeholder capitalism into the mainstream, many company leaders are looking for a simple business roadmap to help orient themselves within the stakeholder business landscape. What’s mission-critical and what’s not? How do you know you’re doing it “right?” And what should you focus your valuable attention and resources on? It can be... a lot.
Fortunately, through our work with myriad stakeholder business leaders we’ve been able to create an easy-to-follow business roadmap that identifies the four most critical components of a thriving stakeholder business.
Develop a World-Class Company Purpose
When anyone asks us where to begin on their stakeholder business roadmap, we always tell them “purpose.” Why? Your company purpose is your organization’s North Star, providing guidance for all subsequent company decisions.
At best, your company purpose can inspire and engage your entire team, attract world-class talent, enhance your brand’s reputation, inspire innovation, and make progress on a major societal issue. At worst, your company purpose can be nonexistent. The range between these two ends of the spectrum is vast.
So, how do you get closer to the “best” or what we call a world-class purpose? One of the key elements we’ve identified is having a purpose that is bigger than the company itself, one that focuses on addressing a “worthy cause,” which means making tangible progress on a major societal issue. Some examples from companies we’ve worked with include reducing recidivism, protecting the environment, or helping employ refugees.
Other elements to a world-class purpose include a time-bound deadline, having a clear metric for success and regularly measuring progress toward your purpose, and clearly communicating with your team what the company purpose is and how you plan to achieve it. It can be a daunting process to undertake, but once established, crafting a world-class company purpose drives growth in ways you can’t imagine. Tip: If you’re just beginning this process, we always tell companies to try to incorporate as many, if not all, of your team members as possible in the development of the company purpose.
Create a Stakeholder Analysis & Engagement Plan
Once your world-class purpose is clearly defined, the second step on the stakeholder business roadmap is performing a stakeholder analysis. As with developing a world-class purpose, we also recommend incorporating as many team members in this process as possible.
In short, a stakeholder analysis is a mapping process that helps your company identify all of the individuals and entities that are impacted by your business’s decisions. Your goal with the analysis is to be comprehensive about who is included as a company stakeholder, identify the respective needs of each of these groups, and then assess your relationship with each group and whether or not their needs are being met.
Once your stakeholder analysis is complete, you can begin to think through your stakeholder engagement plan. As a stakeholder business, your long-term goal is to provide as much value to all of your stakeholders as possible. Your stakeholder engagement plan should focus on how to prioritize and provide value to each of your stakeholder groups, while using your purpose as a constant guide. Remember, it’s a long-term strategy, so don’t worry if not all of your stakeholder groups are addressed immediately.
Cultivate Team Alignment and Buy-in
After your purpose and stakeholder engagement plans are set, it’s time to focus on cultivating team alignment and buy-in. Without it, your business roadmap will surely hit a dead end. As mentioned in the previous steps, including as many of your team members in the creation of your company purpose and stakeholder engagement plan as possible will help you achieve team buy-in better than anything else.
That said, if it’s not feasible to include them in the first two steps, there are ways to cultivate team alignment around your stakeholder business plans. The most important components center on providing clear communication, consistently valuing and measuring the progress of the company's purpose and stakeholder engagement plan, and demonstrating that the progress made on these initiatives is valued as highly if not higher than financial performance.
See also: 3 Keys to Team Buy-In
Continually Measure and Improve
The final step in your business roadmap is ensuring that you are consistently measuring your progress on your company purpose and stakeholder engagement goals, and striving for improvement. After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The goal here is not to strive for perfection and punish yourself or your team for not hitting company goals. Rather, the intention is to have means for continually benchmarking your progress to discuss with your team and striving to be better when possible. Tip: The best way to find inspiration on how to improve is to find other stakeholder business leaders and learn from each other. Who you surround yourself with matters.