Remember in the days of yore if you quoted your revenue numbers you'd be hushed by your CFO? Or you'd talk about the number of customers you're trying to acquire, and you'd get into trouble. Why was that?
These days it seems almost everyone that is successful is transparent. Companies like my former competitor MailChimp talk about everything from how they built their systems and how their freemium model worked; Basecamp talks about how they run their company in detail; and Buffer talks about...just about everything. It's great to have an insight into the companies you do business with isn't it? When I ran VerticalResponse and was asked about our growth and revenue numbers, I simply gave up what they were.
Because people appreciate and respect it, that's why. Also, because you're going to get found out at some point, so why not just be open about it now?
With the onslaught of social media, transparency runs rampant. l just posted a photo to Instagram about a trade show I returned from, thanking everyone I met, and I'm sitting here watching everyone like my image. Crazy huh?
So here are my thoughts on transparency:
1. Be transparent with your employees.
Employees want to hear about everything these days; how the company is doing, how you're feeling about the competition, what's really going on with things. It's a volatile environment both good and bad, your employees can decide to jump ship easily if they don't feel that they've been given information they want to hear. The flip side? If they feel your authenticity and honesty, they're way more likely to go that extra mile to hit your goals.
2. Be transparent with your customers.
If you really aren't going to offer a product or feature your customers want, tell them and tell them why. They'll appreciate not being strung along for a ride that goes nowhere and might even consider staying because of your honesty. They might not get the same honesty if they leave, and many will deal with a workaround if offered.
3. Be transparent with your owners.
Whether it's your business partner or your spouse, you need to be honest with how the business is doing, good or bad, and how it might affect your relationship. If money is an issue you need to work through how to keep the company afloat, grow it with an investment, cut costs or be acquired. Either way, these are conversations that shouldn't be a surprise.
4. Be transparent with your partners.
If you've got partnerships that rely on your business, and things are changing it's important for you to tell them what's going on. If your business focus or outcomes change, theirs might as well, especially if they rely on what you bring to the table. If you have to give a non-disclosure because you're getting acquired or worse, going out of business, just do it.
You can control your messaging to all of your constituents, but you have to hop on it fast and be honest or you'll lose all control...and ultimately, respect.