Some companies feel the concept of transparency refers only to occasionally admitting a mistake or publicly rectifying a difficult situation. However, we’re interested in viewing it on a broader scale. One that encompasses a proactive approach to sharing information with many stakeholders in a measured and appropriate manner to help build trust and business success.
We view transparency similar to business leader Robert Craven. In his article “Let's Be Real: Why Transparency in Business Should Be the Norm”, he writes, “Instead of being scared by transparency, businesses should embrace it as a way to improve service and increase customer loyalty.”
With the wide spread adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices, information is readily available. Customers, prospects, suppliers, employees and others are only a click away from more information and more knowledge. The wide spread use of social media networks has also enabled people to spread the word faster than ever. So from our perspective all this leads to a greater need for transparency to drive loyalty and successful long term relationships. Because, we feel that if we don’t improve transparency there is a greater likelihood that our key business stakeholders will move on to someone who does.
If you are thinking about being more transparent here are a few suggestions we have found valuable.
Remember transparency attracts. Sharing more of the “what/how/why” of business operations builds confidence in its leadership. This is often a key factor when people are deciding whether or not to start (or continue) doing business or working with you.
Strive to be personally transparent. With digital communication methods and social media networks, business leaders have the opportunity to practice transparency for themselves. Email newsletter articles, blog posts and even professional communities such as LinkedIn offer ideal venues to regularly communicate to your various audiences. By actively participating and communicating in outlets such as these you can provide people insights in your perspectives, approaches, values and points of differentiation as to why they should have a business relationship with you.
Promote internal transparency. Just like clients and suppliers, your employees are key stakeholders in the business. To be genuinely transparent, look for opportunities to divulge more information about both your company’s achievements and setbacks. Employees understand that it’s not appropriate to share everything about finances or other sensitive, proprietary data—but they also know when a company’s leadership falls back on vague generalities or other excuses for not detailing how and why decisions get made.
Chuck Cohn, CEO of Varsity Tutors, a national tutoring and test prep company, says his leadership regularly shares the results of company performance measures with employees. “We believe these measures are as essential to a company as a gas gauge or speedometer is to a car. Without those, it’s impossible to know if you’re going too fast or too slow and running low on gas.”
Consider transparency to increase trust. It’s a simple enough principle: Lacking a relationship built on trust and openness, clients, suppliers and employees alike are left wondering about a company’s operations and ways of doing business. But with transparency, different stakeholders can better evaluate how well a company is performing and be more inclined to trust in their decisions and actions. As a general rule, openness generates a greater willingness to follow and execute than an atmosphere of secrecy or the selective release of information.
We know that in the hardwood lumber business relationships count. It is usually the foundation that everything else is built on. We have found that focusing on a culture of transparency improves relationships. Perhaps you will find the same.
Let us know what you think.