In a recent piece in this column entitled “Someone is Always Watching,”1 the communications risks businesses face from outsiders listening to and watching their online activities was discussed along with some suggestions on how to mitigate against those risks.
In this piece, that prior topic is flipped on its head by way of discussing the equally important and opposite risks a business can incur from not listening to its diverse stakeholders. I argue that a business should become and remain a skilled listener in light of that diversity, and it should do so carefully. Intentionally. Proactively.
The modern business is indeed a diverse venture. Its employees, vendors, distributors, contractors, customers and local communities where it goes to market constitute intertwined groupings of internal and external stakeholders, each of which themselves are diverse within and without. Diverse as to external identifiers, generational interests, internal mental perspectives and self-identifications.
And from an economic perspective diverse as to their strengths, weaknesses, assets and needs.2
Companies wishing to survive and thrive must pay careful heed to the voices around them. That is, in reality, an ongoing proactive risk-management exercise. What are customers saying about goods and services niches to be filled? What are internal and external stakeholders telling about current and impending advances in science, technology, techniques and distribution? What are financial markets informing about pricing, interest rate and transactional timing and pricing? Some of those matters are quite rubber meets the road and others more esoteric, but all are essential to propelling their enterprises into the future.
So, what is a company to do to with the ever-flowing data emerging from always-on listening? It should evaluate that raw, unfiltered and often granular input and then compartmentalize it into useful categories, such as goods/services to pursue or jettison, technologies to adopt or adapt, methods to promote cross-market, price-points and best practices.
This is not necessarily the stuff of a 30,000 foot view. Enterprises which intend to stand the test-of-time will attend to both those near-and-far viewpoints simultaneously.3
It all sounds very “Dilberty” to identify data sources. But in a real-world sense, how do business leaders access that information so they can then do something useful with it? This is actually not particularly difficult. One should create as many opportunities as possible to meet new stakeholders and then be a good listener. As opposed to a talker.
Those opportunities can be informal just as occurs in one’s personal life with new friends, they can be formal by participation in Chambers of Commerce, educational institutions, or social and professional organizations, or they can be highly structured as in focus groups. True, it may take creativity and energy to identify or create those opportunities – particularly if one is naturally introverted – but that specific social interaction is a learned skill-set which eventually becomes second nature. And should never end.4 & 5
Once a company has found opportunities to access information from its stakeholders, and has collected that input, it must be open-minded, in an institutional sense to the stories being told through the data, and agile regarding the use of the lessons embedded in those stories. Flexibility in interpretation and application is a mind-set which should be adopted for the benefit of a company in an evolving marketplace.6
This permanently proactive approach to listening must run through a business’ corporate culture, both top-down and bottom-up, and both simultaneously. 7 Doing that permits a business to make the best of the diversity at its core and in its midst. Which, as suggested from the outset of this piece mitigates against the risk of missed signals and positions a business to make the best and highest use of the variegated knowledge, skills and abilities which are out there anyway.
So hear them, actually hear them, to keeping our businesses in front of the curve. By training ourselves to listen attentively and always.
Companies wishing to survive and thrive must pay careful heed to the voices around them. That is, in reality, an ongoing proactive risk-management exercise.
For more information, call Philip N. Kabler, Esq. of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. at (352) 332-7688, www.boginmunns.com/gainesvillelawoffice, where he practices in the areas of real estate, business, banking, and equine law.
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.
* 1: https://www.businessmagazinegainesville.com/someone-is-always-watching/
6: https://www.businessmagazinegainesville.com/the-road-to-success-is-fraught-with-risk-and-failure/ 7: https://www.businessmagazinegainesville.com/leadership-in-business/
About the Writer:
Philip N. Kabler is an Incubator Resource for the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), and has taught various courses at the UF Levin College of Law and at the UF Warrington College of Business (undergraduate and graduate). He is also the current president of the North Florida Association of Real Estate Attorneys, and a member of The Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee.