Customers, Colleagues or Shareholders?

You might be surprised who matters the most for your company’s success

Many thought leaders say: It’s all about the customer, because they pay the bills. Investment gurus will posit that without shareholders, we don’t have investment and guidance.

Books are endless from those who say colleagues deliver it all.

How are we to decide where to focus our energies, our resources, or our priorities?

In short, we need all three.

We need to identify, listen to and serve our customers. Without customers, we have no business.

Do your research. Change with the changing customer feedback. Be aware of what makes your customer come to you, and stay with you. You cannot innovate without understanding why you are making the changes you are. Your customers are your guides.

Shareholders need to be rewarded. They take the risk. They often are your leaders. And they certainly reflect perceived, if not actual, value of your organizational efforts. They can put their money and leadership anywhere they want. You need to keep them—and keep them happy. Ask. Listen. Engage.

Many would argue that colleagues are at the bottom of this list. They don’t pay the bills or make the profit. They are not the source of the essential investment capital or wise advice from experience. Indeed, colleagues are a cost center, not a profit center.

But I suggest it’s your people, teams, leaders and colleagues who hold the keys to your success. It is your team that listens to your clients. It is your people who do the design and delivery of your services and products. It’s your staff who listen to and solve the problems your customers have. It is your leaders who work with your shareholders. And all the great ideas, customer feedback, shareholder input cannot be acted upon without your colleagues.

Famed motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said words to the effect of: “Show me how your colleagues are being treated; and I will show you how your customers are being treated. Show me how your customers are being treated, and I’ll show you how your colleagues are being treated.”

A great organization sees customers, stakeholders and colleagues as the essential constituents to great success. Indeed, they are all people. Treat all of them with the kind of leadership and respect and care you would treat any of them. Without them, there is no business, at all. ♦

Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or

Stephen Garber
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