Open and Honest Business

Years ago my eye doctor suggested I change the contact brand I was using because it was sure to be discontinued soon. I didn’t follow her advice (I don’t see her anymore either) and today, some 10+ years later, I’m still using the same brand as I was back then. So why would she tell me that? Was it sales motivated? Was it motivated by her belief that mine are of lesser quality? I don’t know, but I often think about that conversation when I get out a new pair and happily put them in.

This week I was checking out the social profile for a charity I follow and they posted that they’d earned a GuideStar Gold Seal of Transparency. What this means is that they share goals and strategies about their work, information about their capabilities and vision and provide meaningful data to help potential investors be reassured that the organization is a great one to invest in. Charity Navigator, another popular non-profit review organization, also has a similar rating system. I understand why non-profits really need organizations like these, so that they can’t steal money that should go to good causes, but I have to wonder why there isn’t a similar system for for-profit businesses? What difference would be made if they had to provide transparent information so they couldn’t provide sub-par services and products?

And then there’s the talk that’s been going on for the past while about removing likes from Instagram. Just so everyone is on the same page, as I learned this week that doesn’t mean the like button is going away, it just means that non-account owners can’t see how many people have liked a post (and yes, the account owner can see numbers like shares and like counts). I understand the idea here, and in some ways I do support it. But the other side of the coin is that this is social media so will this encourage us to be more or less social and interact more or less frequently with each other? If it just ends up being more organic and authentic interactions I’m great with that, but if it ends up destroying engagement as a whole, it’s not very authentic to the vision and purpose of the business (which is connecting people, not making money).

There’s also the marketing email I got this week asking if I had made a purchase and if I was still interested or not. It’s a fine email, except I had made a purchase 2 days earlier. So clearly there’s a breakdown in communication between departments, that the sales department didn’t communicate with the sales development department (or whatever departments they actually are), and as a result I’m probably not the only one getting confusing emails, emails that make me question if my business was really appreciated or not.

So today our question is one of transparency and honesty. Are you clearly and efficiently communicating with your people? Are you making a serious effort to give accurate and helpful advice and insights or just trying to make a sale? People don’t like to have the wool pulled over their eyes, to find out that the deadline they were given wasn’t really that firm or didn’t even exist after all, to find that the sale price is more than the regular price. Honesty and transparency are rewarded, where does your business and your leadership stand?

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