Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, is doing something counterintuitive to combat the calls to break up his company, and his response is genius.
Big tech companies such as Apple are getting shredded by Washington regulators. Federal investigators are probing into the big four--Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple-- and politicians from Elizabeth Warren, on the left, to Josh Hawley, on the right, are sounding the alarm that these firms are simply too big. If tech has a friend in Washington right now, that friend is too scared to speak up.
Regular people are even starting to say they don't trust the big four. By putting personal information and privacy at risk, tech companies are losing the average American consumer's confidence, along with incurring the unwanted interest of the government.
When Norah O'Donnell of CBS News asked Cook if Apple had gotten too big, he replied, "No, I don't think so. But with size, I think scrutiny is fair. I think we should be scrutinized."
"I think we should be scrutinized."
With that one sentence, Cook set his response apart from every other tech CEO. Mark Zuckerberg had said breaking up Facebook wouldn't help. Jeff Bezos had rejected any idea of splitting up Amazon. And Sundar Pichai claimed subjecting Google to antitrust action wasn't the answer.
In the middle of all that denial, Cook's answer stood alone. He basically threw open the door, invited regulators in, and said he had nothing to hide. Who do you think the public and the regulatory agencies trust most? The three CEOs who rejected any proposal to check out their activities, or the one who welcomed scrutiny from the outside?
Why you should embrace accountability.
Decades ago, business people and politicians could get away with a lot more than they can now. If nobody but your hometown newspaper was checking in on you, then you could keep your bad habits out of sight. Today, however, other people are discussing your problems on Twitter before you even know they exist.
The more you push back against oversight, the more suspicious the public becomes that you have something to conceal. But when you don't appear to be hiding anything, people will generally leave you alone. If you work in a highly regulated industry such as finance or healthcare, you may be accustomed to a lot of oversight. For the rest of us, it can be hard to open up, but giving people a sense that you're authentic is the safest course of action.
Why there's safety in authenticity.
Regulators and public overseers are just another audience, and like all audiences, they crave authenticity. If regulators and journalists believe your company will ring true wherever and however they test it, they probably won't test it.
Authenticity presents a paradox, though. Sometimes you feel fake when you're actually showing your most sincere side. At other times you might worry about oversharing. Everyone, after all, doesn't need all the insider details about your business. Sometimes the idea of authenticity is used as an excuse not to grow, as in "I'm just being authentic" when we're actually against changing our ways.
But real authenticity just means coherence between your values and actions. If you are who you say you are, then you'll be OK with other people taking a closer look. Inviting an external review signals to those watching you that you are authentic and accountable. Your actions invite them to trust you.
And trust is the cornerstone of any successful entrepreneurial venture. You must earn the trust of every stakeholder. So practice being authentic with your customers, own your problems, and let interested outsiders scrutinize you. Transparency builds trust. And trust builds a business.