In a recent post (The Startup Struggle: You’re Missing Your Goals. Now What?
), we discussed that we were pretty confident we were going to miss our numbers for February. The month has come and gone and, just as we thought, that was exactly the case (we’ll post updated numbers soon).
We knew right away that we wanted to share our struggle, with numbers and all— a move that, for some, would be pretty counterintuitive. As a growing startup, why would we want to share all of our failures? Isn't marketing about putting your best face forward for prospects, clients and the world?
Our reasoning was simple. First, as a member of the startup community with a challenging goal ($40M by 2018), we wanted to truly loop everyone into our journey… the good, the bad and the four-letter word inducing. Second, as a FLAT organization, we felt that transparency was a natural extension for our culture, business model, and who we wanted to be as a company. We felt like taking steps towards greater transparency would not only help us to build and grow more solid relationships, it would also give us the opportunity to start a dialog.
We get it. Airing out your dirty laundry can be tough, and each company has to decide for themselves what level of transparency is right for them. But even when it comes to things as touchy as internal issues and revenue, sharing the details of your company can end up transforming your business in some incredible ways.
Like any relationship, your connection with your employees, clients and prospects is based on trust. People already know that your day-to-day isn't always sunshine and rainbows. But think about your closest relationships— typically, they’re far from one-sided, include honest discussions, and have a two-way stream of feedback and opinions. By increasing the transparency that your business offers, you’re essentially allowing yourself to be more open to criticism along with the kudos and compliments. If you’re willing to talk about the whole package, including failures, you’re sending the message that you’re willing to hear out the criticism as much as the praise, are open to conversation, and will be just as upfront when it comes to communicating directly with clients.
The conversation starting ability that transparency brings alone is one of the greatest factors for contributing to a more innovative company. By not shying away from discussing problems, challenges and struggles, you create a forum for both your employees and clients to speak more openly. This can allow for brainstorming, new ideas for overcoming problems, the realization that there are issues you haven’t even considered, and more!
When clients and employees know you’re being forthcoming about status updates, losses and company details (as well as wins), they know that you’re giving them the information they need to make well-rounded decisions— even if those decisions may not always benefit you. Everyone wants to work with someone that they trust, so naturally, openly sharing information with your clients and staff can increase the likelihood of them doing business with you. Transparency can help fuel true partnerships and to further bonds— all things that can eventually translate to increased revenue dollars. Even more, it’s a small world. And boy, does word get around. Who doesn't want a reputation for being open and honest to precede them?
In the end, an April 2014 article from Fortune
seems to summarize the benefits of transparency perfectly:
“By becoming vulnerable, opening up what companies traditionally hide from customers, partners and investors, and talking about the issues they have struggled with and haven’t been able to solve, companies can develop deeper relationships with those often kept at arm’s length, even other groups within the same company. Through this exposure, the company can learn about problems they don’t know they have and get help solving those issues.”
So chime in! Do you foresee a more transparent future for your company? What kind of information do you feel comfortable sharing (and what is off limits)? Tell us what you think below.