Not even the most dynamic entrepreneurs, CEOs, or business leaders can succeed on their own — they need the help of key stakeholders to achieve their goals. Stakeholders include a company’s customers, employees, investors, suppliers, partners, and even community members. Forming and fostering strong relationships with them are vital to a thriving business.
Over the past several years, Shiela Mie Legaspi, President of Cyberbacker, watched her company grow from a small business to the world’s leading provider of high-quality administrative and virtual assistant services with franchises across all of North America. She says the secret to this rapid growth is unusually strong bonds between the company and its stakeholders.
“Stakeholders are the people with an interest in or impact on your organization,” Legaspi explains. “You need to make internal stakeholders like employees and managers feel valued if you want them to be engaged in their work and productive. It’s just as important that external stakeholders like customers, community members, investors, suppliers, and contractors feel valued as well. Ultimately, everyone wins when a strong relationship develops between the parties involved in a long-term endeavor.”
Here, Legaspi shares five tips that enable her organization to create and maintain strong relationships with stakeholders.
1. Build a personal connection with stakeholders
Legaspi says the first step in any stakeholder relationship is a personal connection, which requires authenticity from business leaders. “It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget about the importance of being genuine,” she observes, “but if you want people around you to trust and respect you, then it’s important for them to know who you are as well as what you do. Take time to let them know the person behind emails and meetings and ask questions about things unrelated to business. That’s how you turn stakeholders into friends.”
In 2012, Craig Goodliffe, Cyberbacker’s founder and CEO, hired his company’s first key stakeholder. At that time, though, there was no company — just an overworked realtor looking for a virtual assistant to help him with online ads.
Goodliffe sold homes in Utah but selected a candidate from the Philippines. As he got to know his assistant professionally and personally, he learned she was a single mother who used her salary to provide a home for her child and add on to her parents’ house. As their connection deepened, he took time to learn more about her homeland and the people who lived there, realizing his work with Cyberbacker could make a genuine impact on them.
2. Always think about stakeholder relationships
Legaspi says the next tip is to put relationships with key stakeholders first. Getting caught up in a new business is easy, but relationships suffer if founders are not intentional. When stakeholders feel overlooked or ignored by a company, they lose interest in the relationship; if relationships dry up, so does the business.
“Every time you meet with stakeholders, make sure it’s an opportunity for both parties to interact and build rapport,” Legaspi advises. “This allows them to see what kind of person and company they’re dealing with.”
The successful relationship between Goodliffe and his first Cyberbacker inspired friend after friend to ask him for help finding their own virtual assistants. By 2018, Goodliffe placed over 100 assistants with his real-estate colleagues.
During that time, his commitment to helping the people of the Philippines deepened. On his first visit to the country, he was struck by children making their homes in the streets and rummaging through garbage dumps for items to sell. One seven-year-old girl selling a yellow sampaguita flower made a lasting impression, and Goodliffe started to plan how Cyberbacker could offer hope for this girl’s future.
3. Be empathetic with stakeholders
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person is a key ingredient when building relationships with stakeholders. “You can practice empathy by asking yourself: ‘How would I feel if I were in this person’s situation?’,” says Legaspi. “Just asking the question isn’t enough, though — you have to take action based on your answer.”
As Cyberbacker began to grow exponentially, Goodliffe achieved his goal of providing a brighter future for thousands of children in the Philippines. His CyberCapital loans allow Cyberbackers to build and improve their homes, and after hurricane Bernadette, Cyberbacker met stakeholders’ short-term needs with calamity loans. And since 2020, a profit-sharing program has given Cyberbackers the opportunity to work toward retirement plans. Originally launched with the intent to distribute $50,000, the program was able to reach over $226,000 in profit shares.
4. Listen to stakeholders with intent
Legaspi says listening is one of the key responsibilities of today’s business leaders. “Actively listening enables stakeholders to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas,” she says. “As a business owner or manager, make yourself approachable.”
At Cyberbacker, Goodliffe ensures that every Cyberbacker feels heard. Every week, Cyberbackers meet with their senior managers who prompt team members to discuss their personal and professional goals. They also give Cyberbackers the opportunity to learn while training with a leader in their department.
5. Focus on what matters most to stakeholders
In the business sector, Legaspi sees many leaders caught up in their own needs and wants. However, building relationships with key stakeholders requires these leaders to focus on the needs of others. “Ask questions about what matters most to your stakeholders and find ways to connect on those topics,” she remarks. “Find out their interests and goals and how you can help them achieve those goals.”
When Goodliffe hired his first virtual assistant, he did it with the aim of giving himself the work/life balance to improve his life in four key areas: relationship, growth, fun, and wealth. Today, these are the company’s four core values, and Cyberbacker works to empower its stakeholders to achieve success in each.
Goodliffe offers weekly training sessions on personal development, goal setting, and budgeting. These non-work-related courses are designed to help stakeholders live their most bountiful and fulfilling lives.
Five-star employee reviews show that Cyberbacker’s internal stakeholders feel valued, and customer testimonials demonstrate that their external stakeholders feel the same. The value of a decade’s investment in strong relationships is paying off. With similar compassion and effort, other companies can achieve the same results.