It’s true; you’ve probably heard the word “transparent” used more as a buzzword than an actual concept behind running a business. This can make it difficult to figure out just exactly what it means and how important it is. We tend to use the word transparent when we are referring to politicians and the campaigns that they run. However, there is plenty of legitimacy left in the word, and it’s still something important to consider for your company. Rediscovering what transparency means can not only help your business find the purpose of being transparent, but the benefits of doing so.
What is Business Transparency?
Let’s start with what transparency traditionally means: clear. If we modify this definition slightly to be more relatable to business, we find that it means that you’re honest (and clear) with your customers. Rules, regulations, fees and policies—these things should all be abundantly easy to understand. Contracts should be short. There shouldn’t be a bunch of hidden fees or rules that hinder a true relationship with a client. The timing of the honesty is also important. If a breach of data causes stolen credit card information and addresses, this shouldn’t be information that’s divulged weeks later. Part of being transparent is being upfront and honest as soon as possible, even when it’s something that might be embarrassing or difficult to admit.
The same goes for good things, however. When something magical happens—say, an increase in profit or a particularly good hire—your company can celebrate that with those invested, too. Transparency doesn’t mean just talking about all of the bad things, fortunately.
Why Be Transparent?
It can be hard not to immediately push back against the idea of transparency, especially since it means that a lot of the things businesses usually hide would be exposed. There’s a natural tendency to shy away from such a situation. However, if we look at the overall picture and the true purpose of transparency, we can realize how important it is.
An air of transparency discourages people who may not have a long-term investment in a company—such as an employee looking to gain more than just a job—from doing things they should not. When a company is transparent, a poor decision may cause some negative PR and cost an employee their job. If a company isn’t being transparent, long-term embezzlement problems and other schemes can happen more easily.
It’s true that transparency also makes for happy shareholders, more profit and content regulators. Transparency also discourages those challenging issues that occur when there’s just a bit too much secrecy going on. Transparency is assurance, and less information means less certainty for you, for your employees and for your investors, too.
Overall, transparency, while frightening at first, benefits your company in the long run. Once you know a little about it and its purpose, it can be a little easier to understand the importance behind it.