Image: Wikimedia Image: Wikimedia

On a recent LinkedIn discussion, I mentioned about my “Five Stars of d&t” model, which garnered some interest. So, here is the long awaited blog post about my ‘Five Stars’ and how they guide what we do, every day.

Anyone who has studied business theory will understand what I mean when I refer to stakeholders. Simply put, stakeholders are those who have a vested interest in any entity. This could be the staff, the customers, the suppliers, the local community… it is any person or group that the business ‘touches’. It’s important to be conscious of all of them, but for me it is even more important to know who are the key stakeholders so that you can ensure that your vision, your strategy, and your day to day operations fulfil their needs.

So, who or what are your five stars?

The five stars represent each of our key stakeholders:

Top of the star: Our staff

We are a people business. Business is “human to human”, not B2B or B2C. We all know that people buy from people, not from corporations. So it is vital that we ensure our most important asset, our team, is at the forefront of everything we do.

Next layer: Our customers, and our markets

Let’s start with our customers. It might seem obvious, but it is important for every business to recognise that their customers are ultimately the ones who pay the bills and the wages. Without delivering an excellent service to them, we won’t be paying the bills. It’s that simple. So, we need to make sure that we deliver value, rather than looking to make profit. If we get that right, the profit will follow. If instead we look to maximise profit, the value will suffer, and the clients will walk. Goes against everything that traditional bean counting rules might suggest, but really, we aren’t traditional bean counters.

Secondly, our markets. I’ve long been an advocate of focussing on a narrow niche rather than adopting a wide scattergun approach. You simply cannot be all things to all people. Once your markets are defined, you need to live and breath those markets. Attend the events. Learn the lingo. Understand market trends. And most importantly, share what you learn and help others reach their goals.

(And top tip: SME’s aren’t a “niche”.)

And the last two: Our industry, and our community

I believe that we have an obligation to stretch our own industry to serve the nations customers as best as possible. We simply cannot sit back and let our fellow service providers continue to charge what they want, when they want. We cannot let the industry continue to offer expensive human-intervened solutions that technology can automate for minimal cost. We cannot let them continue to damage the reputation of our industry, and in turn us. So to do my bit, I regularly contribute to the trade press with a blog, providing disruption ideas to those who may not see another way of doing things. It might anger them, it might scare them, but hopefully they will learn at least one thing that will improve what their stakeholders receive from them.

Finally, we have our community. I am a very strong advocate of a low tax, high charity culture. I guess its my underlying capitalist views, alongside my good nature, that believes that we shouldn’t be dictated to with respect to how we help those in need, but everyone deep down should contribute to those that need. A political debate is not the purpose of this blog, but sharing my view on who the important stakeholders are in our organisation is. So, we make sure that we give back where we can make impact to those in need.

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Guide and The Franchise Handbook