The concept of stakeholders is familiar to the nonprofit arena. However, commercial businesses also have stakeholders, many of whom are crucial to the operation and success of a company. Critical stakeholders vary for different industries and individual companies. Identifying critical stakeholders can mean the difference between remaining in business or being forced to close your doors.

Stakeholder Definition

A stakeholder is any individual, group or organization that has a stake in the operations of your business because of the possible effect your business may have on them. Employees, shareholders, customers and clients are obvious stakeholders. Stakeholders also often include creditors, government agencies and the community in which your business operates and is located. Critical stakeholders often emerge under specific circumstances -- for instance, when you propose plans to expand your facilities, with possible increases in foot and car traffic in the neighborhood along with hiring additional employees.

Stakeholders and Corporate Governance

Corporate governance refers to the standards set in place by your company's officers and board of directors in dealing with stakeholders. One aspect of corporate governance determines which stakeholders have priority status, especially in resolving conflicting demands on your company's resources and efforts. In cases where conflicting demands make it impossible to meet the demands of all stakeholders, transparency in developing and presenting company practices often allow for a successful defense against charges of dismissing legitimate stakeholder concerns or unfairly favoring the interests of one stakeholder over another.

Stakeholder Analysis

Companies and organizations often use stakeholder analysis to determine possible areas of protest or opposition to proposed reforms or changes in their operations. Stakeholder analysis uses numerical data, anecdotes and other information to identify and account for the needs and interests of critical stakeholders, according to the World Bank. Four major aspects determine the direction of stakeholder analysis: the positions of various stakeholders on the issue in question, the relative influence of each stakeholder or stakeholder group, how interested each individual or group is in the issue at hand and whether individuals and groups are associated with larger coalitions.

Identifying Critical Stakeholders

Identifying critical stakeholders often involves determining who has the most to gain or lose from a particular policy or strategy. Other critical stakeholders include influential leaders within a larger community of stakeholders. Individuals or groups within a larger collection of stakeholders who are positioned to offer solutions for particular problems or issues are also critical stakeholders, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Critical stakeholders may be internal, that is, actively involved in the development and implementation of a strategy, procedure or proposal. However, media, non-governmental organizations and individuals frequently emerge as critical stakeholders, the Government Finance Officers Association states.