Communicating to New Stakeholders
“90% of our board has been serving on it for over 30 years.”
“Large companies can afford to take a principled stance. I can’t—losing one of my larger clients could mean closing my doors.”
For companies that have already begun to establish themselves in their community, making a more public shift to LGBT inclusion can, in a lot of ways, mirror the issues that larger companies have when they do the same. These small companies need to convince a wide array of stakeholders (employees, leadership, community, and consumers) that their inclusionary efforts, LGBT or otherwise, are authentic.
The biggest concern about this that we heard from small businesses was the fact that, especially for B2B companies, only a few contracts kept their business vital. Customer satisfaction meant a lot more than just performing a job effectively—it meant keeping those customers happy, and sometimes that may have meant staying quieter about their inclusionary efforts than they would prefer.
For a small minority of smaller companies, a different set of stakeholders—either a small number of less inclusive employees, or less tolerant board members—created internal strife.
Other times, the opposite would happen, and we heard from small companies who had a large customer base help drive them to be more inclusive. While helpful as a reason to continue to push for inclusivity, this situation created some consternation because the smaller companies were not ready to “prove” they were inclusive in a way that translated well to some sort of report. They dealt with this by working with that large corporate customer, or by working with a local consultant or LGBT leader in their community to frame their existing efforts.
Particularly for B2C companies, customers and communities were in many ways the most important group that small companies needed to communicate their inclusivity to. This is where we heard the similar refrains that we heard from larger companies on the importance of authenticity in these efforts. What was different about the small companies was their obviously greater concentration on their local and state communities. The context where they operated had a great effect on how they shaped their efforts and leads us to the next finding.