Do You Know What Your Clients Want?

  By Michael Neidle  |    Wednesday April 26, 2023

Category: Columns, Expert Advice


Do you know what your clients, prospects, staff, investors, and constituencies want, (defined here as stakeholders) in order to retain them, or winning them over by placing their trust in you? They may say what they want but may actually want something different. Stakeholders may be subjected to  “group-think” due to the power of persuasion and propaganda when they are in an echo chamber, bombarded by a single point of view. This may be  present as “fair and balanced” information but is anything but that. If  they can reflect on what they have heard and can cleanse their mind and reflect on want they often change their mind, based upon their individual  self-interest or being part of their affiliated group.

However, a propositions to stakeholders may be difficult to resolve when:  

       1. One group of stakeholder interests are in conflict with each other.

       2. A single stakeholder in a group can block their group, when unanimity is required.

       3.  One group of stakeholders are in accord, but a at odds with another group off stakeholders 

The above may cause difficulties when: winning an election is at stake, negotiating the sale of a company, settling a contract, obtaining a bank loan, avoiding a lawsuit, ending a war, paying someone to avoid litigation, or any one of a number of situations. 


Let’s  look at a couple of issues in the news these days, and then we can correlate them as usual to situations to business, commerce and running a company.


➢Abortion. Those who are on the “political right” (first party) of this issue, believe that a fetus’s has the equal or even greater right to stay viable in-utero then a pregnant mother (second party) who wants to end her pregnancy for a variety of reasons. As an embryo cannot obviously make its own argument for being born, others have taken up the argument for that embryo and is at odds with that pregnant mother, due to anything from her life being or risk or rape, to financial circumstances or simply personal choice grounds. The first party being the “right to life” group, due to religious, ethical, or other reasons. This is argued against this point of view for those who believe in “freedom of choice” for the second party to have agency over her own body. This argument is typically argued against by these two groups, typically including such adversarial groups, respectively as the  “Hard Right Republicans” vs. “the Hard Left Liberal Democrats”; “Evangelical Christians” vs. “Non-Believers” ; “Senior Citizens” vs. “Gen Z”, “Red vs. Blue” states,  etc. Single-issue “right to life” voters had second thoughts here as Kansas Republican voters,  voted with “freedom of choice” voters by an astounding 20%. And in Texas, where a Republican Governor along with to the Republican controlled Congress, were pushed thru legislation against the use of the emergency contraction, IVF and the “morning after pill”, after an angry electorate (include a large number of Republican) faced buyer’s remorse after encouraging “right to life” issues. Clearly, when personal choice hit home it trumped right to life.


➢Gun Rights. This is the right to not only own a gun, but in many states to carry it in plain sight (open carry), anywhere in public. Although there is room for interpretation as to the right to bear arms in the Constitution, the second amendment stated that “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. was referring to a well-regulated militia. In 1776, we did not have a standing army and a well-armed militia was necessary. Advocates of gun right believed that the unfortunate death of so many people today is regrettable, but a necessary price to pay for their personal liberty to protect the country from the tyranny of government and self-protection. Those against this point of view note that this country is an outlier in world in per capita deaths in homicides, suicides, and mass shooting by a factor of 5:1 vs. the next countries of (Russia at 13:1) and (France at 5:1) and something must be done. Nevertheless, with 465 million guns in circulation as of 2 years ago, it is highly doubtful that that genie could ever be put back in the bottle. This alignment for those for and against gun rights is very much along the same fault line noted above, with neither side willing to give an inch on this issue. Any politician would destroy their career if they voted against the wishes of their constituency these days. But as we say above minds and fungible 60% of the nation want change here, including Republicans who are now split 50/50 in a recent national gun law survey as to supporting tougher gun laws, this after a  spate of recent of mass shootings in rural as well as unban areas .  


Now let’s look at similar issues in business, commerce and running a company:


  • Company Profits and Identity Politics. Most employee would like to have as much paid time off and legal holidays and more company paid benefits like healthcare and paternal leave than is compensates. In the past this issue resounded to mostly Democrats, which was the working man’s party. The highly educated suburban management and investors would normally like to limit anything that reduces productivity, increases costs and reduces profits. This impacts bonuses and EPS. Those people were typically Republicans. But times have changed, and financial factors are slowly being replaced with cultural and identity politics. The country has been divided into two cultural camps and many working-class Republicans are voting against their own welfare to stay aligned with investor class Republicans and investor class Democrats siding against their own financial interests. Funny how politics make strange bedfellows.
  • Company Contributions to Political Parties. Campaign contributions, lobbyists dark money and “gifts” influences not only Congress and the executive branch, but it now seems to have worked it way into the Supreme Court which has been highly politicized. This is no wonder, as the President appoints justices who side with their political party. The approval of the Supreme Court has fallen from 62% at the turn of the 21st century to just 40% today. So, if you want to craft regulations to impact your favorite issues and other vital company’s interests to your company, it would be best to have the higher court on your side. The court swung the Bush v Gore election and was equally polarized on extreme gerrymandering of districts by many states which dilutes one vote concept enshrined by the same Supreme Court in 1964 and reaffirmed in 2016. But more recently the Roberts Count has allowed the states to do what they wish. As noted before, the political leanings of the Court have taken away. And will all your stakeholders feel comfortable with your political contributions. Think about how Elon Musk tried to convince their stakeholders employees at Twitter to see the way he did politically.


  • Environmental Issues Impacting Your Company. Many companies are supporting this cause in public, but not in practice. As we have seen in the recent derailment by Norfolk Southern Railroad, has had a series of derailments in the country this year. The most recent high-profile ones were in Ohio, which has become a reliable red state. Last year there were 1,164 such incident last year. However, the cost benefit ratio of rail freight carriers payout for damaged vs. the cost to fix the problem is a no brainer for these companies. We are talking of $ billions vs. $ millions. Norfolk Southern paid $6.7 million for damages and divided out $7.5 to their shareholders. Here again, we are seeing different stakeholder constituencies, who are not on the same page. The RR industry lobbied Congress to increase the number of cars a locomotive could carry, eliminate the automatic braking system on all cars and cut the crew from 5 to 2 people per train. The injured parties are typically low wage earners, on the proverbial other side of the tracks. One might assume these folks are not voting in the majority for the “freedom of choice” constituency, but who knows? It is likely another cultural vs. economic issue at work here, but again who knows? Certainly, the shareholder portion of the stakeholders. It will take more than time for one financial orientation line-up with their political issues and until swinging voters figure things out.

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