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4 Telltale Signs Your Business Has Deep-Rooted Issues That Need Addressed While you can't always prevent conflict or frustration among your stakeholders, you can do a lot to create a driven, focused environment that breeds respect and success.

By Clate Mask Edited by Micah Zimmerman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sometimes, business owners get lucky and can simultaneously please their customers, partners, employees, investors and board members. But other times? You might find this balancing act impossible. This often occurs when there's a can't-win situation at stake. For example, maybe you and your board agree your product needs a price increase while your customers and partners are rigidly against it.

The reality is that, in any given scenario, you're going to struggle to make all stakeholders happy. But what if you're consistently coming up short for them? This is a clear sign of an underlying systemic issue that needs to be addressed. Here are a few of the most common culprits to help you determine if the discord you're experiencing is rooted in something more.

Related: Work-Life Balance is Possible — And It's Not as Hard to Achieve as You Think

1. Unhappy employees

Some business leaders say that happy customers make happy shareholders. While this is true, it's missing something important. One of the best ways to get happy customers is to ensure your employees are happy. So, the better equation is this: happy employees make happy customers, who then make happy shareholders. It all starts with your team members.

There's one important caveat here, though. Managers are not responsible for the satisfaction of their direct reports. Instead, they're responsible for creating the right environment where employees can thrive. This is what a winning culture is made of, and it's arguably the most crucial domino in the lineup that leads to shareholder satisfaction.

Along these lines, business owners can also explore ways to align employee and investor interests. For example, giving team members stock options helps them feel like they aren't separate from shareholders. Another way to achieve this is through profit sharing and bonus programs related to the bottom line. That one tends to make employees and investors both very happy.

Related: Keep Everyone Happy by Making Your Office Extrovert-Friendly

2. Inadequate communication and processes

Even if you've solved the equation above, you risk alienating one stakeholder group while satiating another. Accept that you can't make all parties happy, and devise a plan for handling conflict. If you're butting heads with your board, for example, try working backward.

Maybe the majority of your board is insistent that your team members should return to the office full-time, while you believe giving more flexible options might keep employees happier and more productive. Think back to how you and the board arrived at such opposing ends of the argument. Is it because they're concerned that employees will slack off at home and stop producing the work output they're expected to? If so, consider their feelings in earnest. Sometimes, thorough communication with no agendas or defensiveness can deflate tension and help two clashing groups devise a solution.

If you realize that the communication between you during this decision-making process has been lacking, further investigate that. Do you need better communication channels? More frequent opportunities to meet? Getting to the root of the breakdown might not help the immediate situation, but it could help prevent a future one.

Related: 7 Leadership Communication Blunders That Could Make or Break Your Company

3. Not hiring for your purpose, values and mission

Just as your employee satisfaction is crucial to the success of your business, so is having people around you who believe in your purpose, values and mission. Everyone you hire should know what these are and have a personal, defined reason for buying into them.

In my own company, our purpose is to liberate and empower entrepreneurs to strengthen families, communities and economies. During our hiring process, we ask candidates to think about this purpose and why it matters to them. Maybe they're all in on our purpose because their parents were entrepreneurs, and they admire them for it. Or maybe they're eager to get the economy back on solid ground and passionately believe that small business owners will get it there.

What you're doing has to matter to each employee, or you'll see a host of problems crop up once they're on board. Hiring to your purpose, values and mission will set you up for a strong culture and much more natural alignment between stakeholders.

4. Failing to establish and execute your brand promise

What's your brand promise? If you're unsure, think about what success looks like for your customers. How do you help them achieve it? This has to be the driving force of your business. If it isn't your unequivocal North Star, it's very easy to get lost or confused about where you're heading. It's also easy to lose sight of your strategy and fail to execute it properly, leading to poor product market fit.

No matter what happens in the boardroom or on your next investor call, you must maniacally focus on your brand promise. This is the best way to balance the satisfaction of all your stakeholders.

Business owners and leaders are already stretched thin by all their responsibilities without having to keep everyone from employees to customers, investors and board members happy. But remember that the second part is your job, too. So while you can't always prevent conflict or frustration among your stakeholders, you can do a lot to create a driven, focused environment that breeds respect and success. It's a tall order, but if anyone can do it, entrepreneurs can.

Clate Mask

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Clate Mask is the founder and CEO of Keap, a maker of sales and marketing automation software for small businesses. He also is co-author of "Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy."

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