Imagine you’re Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

This whole business is all yours! Run around it, eat all the free snacks, enjoy all of the delicious, owning-your-own-business feelings. And then get into work the next day and realize…

Who actually does all of the stuff here? Who’s actually running this place?

Well you, of course. But not just you. Many people have personal and financial interests in your business, and those people are called stakeholders.

What types of stakeholders do you need in business? In this post you get to learn:

  • The 10 types of stakeholders you meet in business
  • Stakeholder vs. shareholder – have you been referencing the wrong one?

What types of stakeholders are there?

No, that’s not a typo. Each of the types of stakeholders in a business are categorized in 3 ways:

  • Internal or external
  • Primary or secondary
  • Direct or indirect

Internal stakeholders are, as the name suggests, stakeholders that exist inside a business. These are stakeholders who are directly affected by a project, such as employees.

External stakeholders are those who have an interest in the success of a business but do not have a direct affiliation with the projects at an organization. A supplier is an example of an external stakeholder.

Primary stakeholders have the highest level of interest in the outcome of a project because they are directly affected by the outcome. They actively contribute to a project. These types of stakeholders include customers and team leaders.

Secondary stakeholders also help to complete projects, but on a lower, general level. These types of stakeholders help with administrative processes, financial, and legal matters.

Direct stakeholders are involved with the day-to-day activities with a project. Employees can be considered direct stakeholders as their daily tasks revolve around projects at a business.

Indirect stakeholders pay attention to the finished project outcome rather than the process of completing it. Indirect stakeholders concern themselves with things like pricing, packaging, and availability. Customers are a type of indirect stakeholder.

The 10 different types of stakeholders

  1. Suppliers
  2. Owners
  3. Investors
  4. Creditors
  5. Communities
  6. Trade unions
  7. Employees
  8. Government agencies
  9. Customers
  10. Media

1. Suppliers

Suppliers are people or businesses who sell goods to your business and rely on you for revenue from the sale of those goods.

In addition to looking out for their own revenue-generation, suppliers are also often concerned with safety, since their products can directly impact your business’ operations.

Is a supplier…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

2. Owners

Owner stakeholders are the owners of an organization. They supply capital or equity to the business and have a say in how everything runs. There can be multiple owners at a business, and each owner would have equity in the business.

Is an owner…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? Internal.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Primary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Direct.

3. Investors

Investors can include owners but they can also be outside vendors who typically have a right to accurate and timely information such as regular financial statements. Investors may also have the right to approve or reject major decisions like mergers and acquisitions.

An investor does more than just bring you funding to pursue projects that help your business grow. They also can:

  • Contribute ideas and give you advice
  • Bring connections
  • Motivate you
  • Help promote and improve your business image

Is an investor…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Primary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Direct.

4. Creditors

Creditors lend money to businesses, and they couls also have a secured interest in the company’s worth. Creditors get paid back from the sale of products or services at your business. In the event of a business shutdown, creditors get paid before stockholders.

Creditors can include banks, suppliers, and bondholders.

Is a creditor…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

5. Communities

The community in which a business functions can be considered as another set of stakeholders. Good businesses are considered an asset to any community.

Communities are major stakeholders in businesses because each party (your business and the community) are mutually beneficial in different ways than, say, a supplier and your business.

Communities are impacted by things like

  • Job creation
  • Safety
  • Economic development
  • Health (from environmental development)

Is a community…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

6. Trade unions

A trade union (also called labor union) is an organization of workers in a particular industry that exists to secure good improvements in pay, benefits, safe working conditions, or social and political status through collective bargaining.

Every business generally has a relationship with a trade union to keep the interests of other stakeholders, like employees, in mind. Trade unions may be informed and consulted about things like worker safety.

Is a trade union…

  • An Internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

7. Employees

Employees have a direct stake in the company. They interact directly with customers, earn money to support themselves, and give support to the business operations as well.

Employees can carry out managerial, supervisory or other functions. They typically expect benefits like incentives, career growth and job satisfaction.

Is an employee…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? Internal.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Primary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Direct.

8. Government agencies

Government agencies can also be thought of as a major stakeholder in a business. They collect taxes from the company, its employees, and from other spending the company does.

Is a government agency…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

9. Customers

Customers are the people who buy business products. Customers expect to buy the best quality from that business but at a fair price.

A business doesn’t exist without customers. Customers get products from businesses, and because of that, they are interested in how a business performs. In turn, businesses need to make conscious efforts to relate to customers and meet their needs.

Customers expect the business to provide efficient and high-quality products and services. In general, meeting the customers’ needs is an extremely important area of concern for ensuring the success of any business.

Customers are directly impacted by the product quality a business gives.

Are customers…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Primary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Direct.

10. Media

Every business needs media publication relationships to spread the word about their brand. Businesses often need to interact with press to make an important announcement or advertise their product.

Is the media…

  • An internal or external stakeholder? External.
  • A primary or secondary stakeholder? Secondary.
  • A direct or indirect stakeholder? Indirect.

Stakeholders vs shareholders: is there a difference?

You might have heard these terms used interchangeably in the past, and we are here to tell you that you shouldn’t.

Yes. and here’s the difference:

For a shareholder, money talks. Money is the differentiator between a stakeholder and a shareholder.

  • A stakeholder has a vested interest in your business or a project. This type of stakeholder does not typically have a financial stake in your business.
  • A shareholder has a financial interest in a business or project. Often a shareholder is a partial owner.

Does it still sound the same to you? That’s ok, because even though they have differences, they are technically still different types of stakeholders.

Shareholdersare a subcategory of stakeholders because shareholders invest money in the business, and so are automatically stakeholders.

However, since groups like employees and local communities do not necessarily invest in the business, they are stakeholders but not shareholders.

This is an important distinction to make because it tells you how best to prioritize your stakeholders when you make decisions that impact each one.

Conclusion: Who is the most important stakeholder of all?

The customer is the https://www.destination-innovation.com/who-are-a-companys-most-important-stakeholders/most important stakeholder of all.

Why?

What’s a business without customers? Peter Drucker makes this point in his book, The Practice of Management.

Peter Drucker says the purpose of a company is to create customers.

A business can’t survive without customers so in almost all situations the customer needs have to come first. (Source: Amazon)

Without paying customers, each stakeholder in your business is impacted one-by-one, like a trail of falling dominos. A customer can always choose to walk his business over to a competitor. To avoid that, you need to be innovative and offer good products.

“A business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation.
If we want to know what a business is, we have to start with its purpose. And the purpose must lie outside the business itself. In fact, it must lie in society, since a business enterprise is an organ of society. There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.

The customer is a foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. The customer alone gives employment. And it is to supply the customer that society entrusts wealth-producing resources to the business enterprise.

Because it is the purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. These are the entrepreneurial functions. Marketing is the distinguishing, the unique function of the business.

ACTION POINT: Find out what needs your customers want fulfilled today. Determine how well your products are meeting the needs of your customers. That is the purpose of business.” – Peter F. Drucker

You can’t please every single type of stakeholder involved in your business – and you won’t grow your business by trying to. But if there’s one stakeholder who deserves the most attention, it’s your customers.

Every stakeholder’s primary interest in your business should be the customer. After all, they are the source of your success.