9 business leaders reveal how to prioritize stakeholder needs while pursuing growth

Seven people sit around an office table as 9 business leaders discuss what to prioritize while achieving growth
What's your secret to achieving growth?
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  • Being aware of stakeholder needs is vital for any start-up looking to grow their business.
  • The World Economic Forum's Global Innovators and Technology Pioneers are communities of innovative start-ups.
  • Nine innovative business leaders tell how their company prioritized stakeholder needs while navigating growth.

When pursuing the kind of growth small companies need to win against the competition, start-ups can easily lose sight of important stakeholders, including employees, customers and members of society.

We asked nine leaders of small businesses within our Global Innovators and Technology Pioneers communities how their companies prioritized stakeholder needs while navigating immense growth.

Here’s what we found out.

'Our customers, employees and investors all share the same values'

Ali Niknam, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, bunq

The company is organized around a same set of values – sustainability, transparency, diversity and freedom.

Based around the principle of outside = inside, our customers, employees and investors all share these same values.

'Good work culture and environment promote a healthy and stable workforce'

Carrie Chan, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Avant Meats

Different aspects of our operations have different sets of stakeholders and the respective extents of implications on various stakeholders.

For example, our production plant design has direct and strong implications on the environment and employees; while our supply chain has implications on the environment, suppliers, consumers and so on.

For each aspect, we identify our stakeholders, analyse how our growth may help or impact our stakeholders on the aspects of:

  • Existing policies and the lack of
  • Planning & design, best practices and risks
  • Evaluation of the implementation against initial assumptions

Besides the environment, which we address using our cultivated meat technology, we generally prioritise our employees. Employees are what make up the company and they are the key stakeholders to convert financial resources into what customers need.

Good work culture and environment promote a healthy and stable workforce. Happy employees mean good products and services, which leads to happy customers, which then leads to happy investors.

Great employee education and value alignment also mean the company can derive and implement works that serve the environment and society. Happy and healthy employees also benefit society.

'It's crucial to understand who your stakeholders are'

Chrissa McFarlane, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Patientory

Stakeholders play significant roles in the organization and its growth. Prioritizing stakeholders' needs may help to reach the expectations that any may have of a particular business or institutions. So, it is crucial to understand not only who your stakeholders are, but also the nature of their interest in the effort.

For Patientory, we partnered with subject matter experts who became our ambassadors for our organization as well as with companies and potential customers to understand their needs. This will help to put more ideas on the table and incorporate diverse perspectives from all sectors and aspects of the impacted community, providing a more complete picture of the community's background, as well as potential pitfalls and assets.

'The only way to navigate growth is to bear down and trust your inner compass'

Eynat Guez, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Papaya Global

I learned early on that it's impossible to please everyone at every stage of growth. The more you try to do so, the less you please anyone. The only way to navigate growth is to bear down and trust your inner compass. Growth cannot come at the expense of your values and your culture.

For me, doing the right thing means staying focused on the problem we set out to solve. My company, Papaya Global, is a global payroll company. Our mission is to make global employment a better experience for everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

When companies use the technology tools we create, they enable global employment, manage their workforce seamlessly, and help people around the world feel more connected and engaged in their workplace. It brings direct benefit to society, leads to growth for Papaya, motivation to Papaya's employees, and real benefits to our stakeholders.


What is the Global Innovators Community?

The Global Innovators Community is an invitation-only group of the world’s most promising start-ups and scale-ups that are at the forefront of technological and business model innovation.

Companies who are invited to become Global Innovators will engage with one or more of the Forum’s Platforms, as relevant, to help define the global agenda on key issues.

Think your company would be a great fit? Please get in touch and tells us a bit more about your organization using this form.

'We are still prioritizing stakeholder needs as we scale up the business'

Essa Al Saleh, Chief Executive Officer, Volta Trucks

We are still prioritizing stakeholder needs as we scale up the business with the biggest priority currently being bringing the vehicle and our truck-as-a-service proposition to market as quickly as possible that will satisfy our customers’ needs.

By doing this in conjunction with our customers, at speed, we are enabling them to make the switch to safer, sustainable, electric trucks in their operation more quickly than is currently available, offering a complete turnkey ecosystem solution.

In prioritizing getting a truck to market it has been vital to harbour an agile, entrepreneurial, supportive culture that promotes teamwork and collaboration. Therefore, as we are scaling up, all new employees join the numerous other new starters in a set time period, on an internal programme called Accelerator.

The scheme provides the opportunity to hear directly from our founders and senior managers on their vision and motives behind the business along with what each of their areas of responsibilities are; promoting cohesion and understanding of the value that each member brings to the overall team.

'We try to work with our stakeholders in a way that drives best outcomes'

Rishi Khosla, Co-Founder and Group CEO, OakNorth

As a business, our mission is to empower the ‘missing middle’ – high-growth businesses that are the most significant contributors of economic and employment growth, yet still struggle to access fast, flexible debt finance – and in doing so, improve communities and economies globally.

This mission is ambitious and important. It is core to why we exist and the values that we have built our business on. So, as a business, we don’t engage in stakeholder activism or broader societal issues which may create distraction, division, and / or dilution from our mission. Instead, we try to work with our various stakeholders in a way that drives the best outcomes for our customers and brings us closer to achieving our mission.

By doing this, we have been able to build an immensely fast-growing, highly-profitable business that has delivered outsized impact for customers. This is reflected in the fact where 80% of new business comes via referrals and 40% of our customers are repeat customers.

We’re not a social enterprise, but we’re building our business in a very socially-minded way, providing the capital to support new job creation, new affordable homes being built, GDP growth, productivity and innovation.

'Serving patients is always our top priority'

Michelle Longmire, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Medable

Improving patients' lives by getting effective therapies to them faster has been, and will continue to be, Medable's North Star. Currently, it takes too long to develop medications, costs too much, and excludes too many. That leaves patients behind. Not enough people have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials for drugs that could change their lives.

Solving these problems urgently drives everything we do. As our business evolves, and we're faced with the trade-offs that growth inevitably requires, we stay focused by keeping our mission at the forefront of everything we do. We never compromise on our vision of a healthier world because the life-or-death stakes are so high.

Scaling is important, but not more so than patient safety or data quality. Serving patients is always our top priority, and we believe that we can grow while staying true to our core values.

'We partner with enterprises to reach people beyond their organization'

Bhakti Vithalani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, BigSpring

BigSpring is a work readiness platform that is built for everyone – large to small enterprises and white-collar to blue-collar. Today we have a million users across the globe and we have achieved this by prioritizing solving for ‘everyone’ in absolute terms from the beginning, rather than leaving it to a future, aspirational goal.

Our platform is available as a lightweight 10MB app to function on the most basic smartphones, and is localized with less than 25 words to be accessible across all languages and literacy levels.

We start with people, not specific jobs, because that enables upward mobility and enables a janitor to progress to, say, a data analyst, and a data analyst to become a business leader. We partner with enterprises to reach people beyond their organization and across their ecosystem of channel partners, vendors and customers.

BigSpring focuses on what we believe is the only important question— how do you effectively equip everyone for gainful employment? At the heart of this, we are solving for equity.

'Society and the industrial community are fundamental to our success'

Robert M Lee, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Dragos

Since day one, Dragos has had a clear mission: to safeguard civilization from cyberthreats that disrupt the industrial infrastructure we depend on every day. Society and the industrial community are fundamental to our strategy and business success.

Our growth has resourced us to expand outreach, from sharing insights with non-profit Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), to launching Dragos Academy to close the skills gap, and to our upcoming OT CERT, a resource centre for industrial asset owners and operators.


Who are the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers?

Launched in 2000, the Technology Pioneer community is composed of early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society.

By joining this community, Technology Pioneers begin a two-year journey where they are part of the World Economic Forum’s initiatives, activities and events, bringing their cutting-edge insight and fresh thinking to critical global discussions.

Meet the Technology Pioneers cohort of 2022. This year we're bringing together 100 early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are pioneering new technologies and innovations.

Employees are central to delivering on our mission, and throughout growth our culture remains true to our tenants of transparency, candidness, respect and inclusiveness. We support this culture through innovative practices.

For example, we benchmark salaries at the top end of the market to be competitive, and then apply that to every location. Other companies may increase margins by taking advantage of talent in some geographies at low rates, but we refuse.

Finally, our technology supports the environment through deployment in renewable energy and clean tech projects including wind and solar farms, energy storage facilities, and wastewater treatment. We also protect traditional energy industries against outages, downtime and disruption. By contributing to resilience, less waste and carbon emissions are created.

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