In today’s dynamic and interconnected business landscape, the role of stakeholders goes far beyond mere shareholders. Stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, communities, government, regulators and the environment, have become crucial drivers of business success. Their involvement and engagement can significantly impact a company’s reputation, profitability, and long-term sustainability. In this post, we will explore the surprising role of stakeholders in business success, highlighting why stakeholder engagement should be a top priority for every business, how collaboration drives innovation, the hidden benefits of a stakeholder-centric business model, and the art of balancing stakeholder interests.

  1. The Surprising Role of Stakeholders in Business Success

Milton Friedman said in the 1970s, “The business of business is business!” Today, this statement could not be so far from the existential truth. It is accepted that traditionally, businesses primarily focused on maximising profits for their shareholders. However, this narrow view is evolving rapidly. Today, stakeholders play a vital role in shaping a company’s trajectory. Employees, for instance, contribute their skills, knowledge, and passion, directly impacting productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction.

Similarly, customers provide invaluable feedback, driving product improvements and brand loyalty. Suppliers ensure the timely delivery of quality resources, while communities offer support and contribute to a company’s social license to operate. Recognising the influence and value of stakeholders is crucial for sustained success.

  • Why Stakeholder Engagement Should Be a Top Priority for Every Business

Stakeholder engagement should be a strategic priority for businesses of all sizes and industries. Companies can build trust, enhance reputation, and improve overall performance by involving stakeholders in decision-making. Engaged stakeholders are more likely to support a company’s mission, advocate for its products or services, and provide valuable insights for innovation. Moreover, stakeholder engagement fosters a sense of shared purpose, increasing employee motivation, customer loyalty, and long-term profitability.

  • Beyond Profits: How Stakeholder Collaboration Drives Innovation

Collaboration with stakeholders is about addressing their concerns and tapping into their collective intelligence to drive innovation. By involving stakeholders in the product development cycle, businesses gain diverse perspectives, identify emerging trends, and anticipate changing customer needs. Engaging customers through surveys, focus groups, and online communities can uncover valuable insights, leading to the creation of products and services that truly resonate with their desires. Collaborating with suppliers, industry partners, and research institutions can spur innovation and open doors to new markets and opportunities.

  • The Hidden Benefits of a Stakeholder-Centric Business Model

Adopting a stakeholder-centric business model offers several hidden benefits contributing to long-term success. Firstly, it strengthens a company’s resilience by diversifying its risk exposure. By considering the interests of various stakeholders, businesses can anticipate potential challenges, manage reputation risks, and enhance operational stability. Secondly, a stakeholder-centric approach fosters strong relationships built on trust, leading to mutually beneficial partnerships and long-term collaborations. This, in turn, can result in preferential treatment, increased access to resources, and a competitive advantage in the market.

  • The Art of Balancing Stakeholder Interests: Lessons from Successful Businesses

Achieving a delicate balance between conflicting stakeholder interests is an art that successful businesses have mastered. Businesses can navigate complex situations effectively by listening actively, understanding the needs and expectations of different stakeholder groups, and transparently communicating decisions. It is crucial to prioritise stakeholder engagement at all levels of the organisation, ensuring that decision-making processes incorporate diverse perspectives. Building strong relationships and establishing mechanisms for ongoing dialogue help maintain trust and address concerns proactively.


Stakeholder engagement has become integral to business success, transcending the conventional focus solely on profits. By recognising the importance of stakeholders, businesses can harness their collective power, drive innovation, and create sustainable value. Adopting a stakeholder-centric approach benefits the company and contributes to the well-being of employees, customers, communities, and the environment. By mastering the art of balancing stakeholder interests, businesses can foster collaboration, enhance their competitive edge, and thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.


Dr Thabang Chiloane is the Chairperson of the Institute for Stakeholder Relations Southern Africa. To follow him on LinkedIn, please click here.