Stakeholders

There are many groups of people who have an interest, financial or otherwise, in the performance of a business - these different groups are known as stakeholders. The main stakeholders are considered to be:

Shareholders

These people have a clear financial interest in the performance of the business. They have invested money into the company through purchasing shares and they expect the company to grow and prosper so that they receive a healthy return on their investment. The return that they receive can come in two forms. Firstly, by a rise in the share price, so that they can sell their shares at a higher price than the purchase price (this is known as making a capital gain). Secondly, based on the level of profits for the year, the company issues a portion of this to each shareholder for every share that they hold (this is known as a dividend). The shareholders are also entitled to vote each year at the A.G.M. to elect the Board of Directors, who will run the company on their behalf.

Employees

This group also has an obvious financial interest in the company, since their pay levels and their job security will depend on the performance and the profitability of the business. It is employees who perform the basic functions and tasks of the business (producing output, meeting deadlines and delivery dates, etc.) and over recent years their traditional role has started to change. They are often now encouraged to become involved in multi-skilled teamworking, problem solving and decision making - thus having a significant input to the workings of the business.

Customers

Customers are vital to the survival of any business, since they purchase the goods and services which provides the business with the majority of its revenue. It is therefore vital for a business to find out exactly what the needs of the consumers are, and to produce their output to directly satisfy these needs - this is done through market research. The goods and services must then be promoted in such a way as to appeal to the target market and to inform them of the availability, price, etc. Once the goods and services have been purchased by the customer, it is essential that after-sales service is offered and that the customer is happy with his/her purchase. The business must try to keep the customer loyal so that they return in the future and become a repeat-purchaser.

Suppliers

Without flexible and reliable suppliers, the business could not guarantee that it will always have sufficient high quality raw materials which they require to produce their output. It is important for a business to maintain good relationships with their suppliers, so that raw materials and components can be ordered and delivered at short notice, and also so that the business can negotiate good credit terms from the suppliers (i.e. buy now, pay at a later date).

The Government

The government affects the workings of businesses in many ways:

1. Businesses have to pay a variety of taxes to central and local government, including Corporation tax on their profits, Value-Added Tax (V.A.T) on their sales, and Business Rates to the local council for the provision of local services.

2. Businesses also have to adhere to a wide-ranging amount of legislation, which is aimed at protecting the consumers, the employees and the local environment from business activity.

3. Businesses will be affected by different economic policies, (for example, if interest rates are increased, then this will discourage businesses from borrowing money since the repayments will now be significantly higher). However, businesses can also benefit from government incentives and initiatives, such as new infrastructure, job creation schemes and business relocation packages, offering cheap rent, rates and low-interest loans.

The Local Community

Businesses are likely to provide significant amounts of employment for the local community and often will produce and sell much of their output to the local residents. The sponsorship of local events and good causes (such as local charity work) can also help the business to establish itself in the community as a caring, socially responsible organisation. Many businesses develop links with local schools and colleges, offering sponsorships and resources to these under-funded institutions. However, businesses can also cause many problems in local communities, such as congestion, pollution and noise, and these negative externalities may often outweigh the benefits that the businesses bring to the community.

Due to the demands placed on businesses by so many different stakeholders, it is no surprise that there are often disagreements and conflict between the different groups. Some of the more common areas of conflict are:

Shareholders and management

Profit maximisation is often the over-riding objective of shareholders - resulting in large dividend payments for them. However, it is far more likely that the managers of the business will aim to profit satisfy rather than profit maximise (that is, they will aim to earn a satisfactory level of profits, and then use the remaining resources to pursue other objectives such as diversification and growth). This conflict between these two groups is often referred to as divorce of ownership (the shareholders) and control (the management).

Customers and the business

Customers are unlikely to remain loyal and repeat purchase from the business if the product that the have purchased is of poor quality and/or is poor value for money. More customers are prepared to complain about the quality of products and after-sales service than ever before, and the business must ensure that it has in place a number of strategies designed to satisfy the disgruntled customer, reimburse any financial loss that they may have incurred and persuade them to remain loyal to the business.

Suppliers and the business

Suppliers are often quoted as complaining about the lack of prompt payments from businesses for deliveries of raw materials, and if this became a regular problem then the suppliers may well refuse credit to the businesses or may even cease all dealings with them. On the other hand, many businesses have been known to complain about the late deliveries of raw materials and components from suppliers, and the dubious quality of the parts once they have been inspected.

The community and the business

As outlined previously, the local community can often suffer at the hands of a large company through the negative externalities of pollution, noise, congestion and the building of new factories in areas of outstanding beauty. However, if the business faces strong protests from residents and from pressure groups concerned about its actions, then it may decide to relocate to another area, causing much unemployment and a fall in investment in the community it leaves behind.

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