Keeping up good relationships with stakeholders is one of the toughest jobs a business manager has to do. Different stakeholders will have different concerns and priorities, and addressing all of this while keeping the business in good standing is a balancing act, to say the least. In the end, though, a manager can best uphold responsibilities to shareholders by taking a task-by-task approach to addressing needs and pre-empting concerns.
Create a Comprehensive Managing Plan
We won’t delve too deeply into the specifics of this particular tip, because it’s more of a general idea. But in the simplest sense, the better prepared you are to handle your business, the better you’ll be able to communicate with and satisfy stakeholders. Creating a comprehensive management plan — one that lays out day-to-day strategies, includes long-term plans, and addresses potential problems — gives you the best handle on the business overall. It is primarily a means of staying prepared for anything that might come up in the course of your management efforts. But that same preparation also helps you to uphold your responsibilities to stakeholders.
Use Effective Communications
No matter how a business may be performing, one thing that is sure to irritate stakeholders (and potentially drive them away) is poor communication. Whether they’re checking in, raising concerns, or simply expecting to hear an update from you now and then, it’s of the utmost importance for you to maintain effective communication.
Much of this just comes down to your own diligence and organization. It is wise, generally, to maintain a schedule or general guide concerning when and how you contact stakeholders, and what you discuss with them when you do. But it’s also worth giving some thought to what methods of communication you rely on, and perhaps how you can use technology to your advantage. But here, we aren’t talking about anything particularly complex or advanced. Rather, we’re referring to the subject of our past blog post ‘Stakeholder Engagement with SMS’. In that post, we pointed out that text messaging is an effective way to engage with stakeholders, as well as one that saves time. It’s not the only option, but making a habit of sending text updates — either individually or in groups — will make your stakeholders feel engaged and cared for.
Maintain a Firm Grip on Finances
Maintaining a firm grip on business finances is vital when it comes to stakeholder relationships because it enables you as a manager to have related answers and information ready when needed. The trouble is that most managers don’t have time to get into the intricacies of financial standing on a regular basis. This can be addressed, however, by taking advantage of the growing wave of trained accountants entering the modern workforce.
Largely because of (relatively) new online courses and degree programs that train students for professional roles, we are in fact seeing an uptick in accounting-related fields of study. Currently, Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in accounting overview project notable growth in a range of accounting fields, and as long as this continues to be the case, the students will likely keep coming. This means that plenty of educated graduates are, in theory, available for hire. To maintain a firm grip on finances and have related information at the ready — as well as just to help the business generally manage its accounting — you might consider hiring in this space. That act in and of itself may please stakeholders, but regardless it will help you to be better prepared when finances come up in meetings.
Ensuring profitability is a fundamental goal of any manager, naturally. Particularly if you’re able to maintain a firm grip on finances though, it’s something you can turn into more of a regular, conscious effort. If you (or an in-house accountant) have a clear understanding of the business’s financial performance at any given time, you can dig into the data to understand what adjustments might be needed to maintain or increase profits. Thus, at all times you can either be prepared to report profits to stakeholders or clearly explain how you plan to bring profits about. This alone will ease a lot of typical anxieties among the stakeholders, whether we’re talking about investors, major partners or clients, or even suppliers.
It can sometimes be hard to get to the bottom of what exactly people mean when they talk about business ethics. Though a definition from a Carnegie Mellon University professor included in a Houston Chronicle article may have done the best job. The said professor suggests that business ethics revolves around the question, “How can one do good by doing well?” In other words, how can one’s strong business performance — doing well — double as a beneficial, ethical practice for all involved — doing good.
Answers to that question would require another article entirely. But considering it in the first place is another step toward keeping up responsibilities to stakeholders. As is stated in a piece on business ethics by The Street, “being an ethical business is… highly appealing to investors and shareholders.” People are simply more likely to be comfortable investing in and/or working with you if you’re a manager who demonstrates consideration of ethics.
It’s a constant effort, but by keeping these tips in mind you can ensure that you’re prioritizing your responsibilities to stakeholders, and establishing strong relationships with them in the meantime.