Help me Walk with Transparency
The Power of Transparency
When I joined the team at social-media startup Buffer two years ago, I was excited about how open they were. Both internally and externally, Buffer aims to “default to transparency,” and the founders shy away from hiding information unless they absolutely need to.
Since then, I’ve realized this is more common than I thought. Many other companies are seeking to be transparent about how they run their businesses and what life is “behind the brand.”
Although I’m no longer at Buffer, I learned a lot about transparency in the time I was there, and I’ve been able to implement it at my own startup, Hello Code.
We’ve learned firsthand that, as a smaller company, transparency can help develop relationships with customers and better manage their expectations.
Larger companies also find that transparency works well for connecting with future employees and potential investors.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of transparency and how you can implement it within your own business.
Transparency Within a Team
As transparency becomes more common, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons to determine whether it’s always the best approach.
Joel Gascoigne, CEO at Buffer, says transparency is one of the core values of the company because, “Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.”
Within the company, trust not only affects how employees feel about their managers, but also how confident they feel in making decisions.
Gascoigne notes that when team members are entrusted with all the information available, they can make the same decisions a founder would in their case.Entrepreneur and investor Keith Rabois agrees on this point. As COO of Square, Rabois felt transparency was the way to build a high-functioning company. For employees to make the same decisions you would, but in a scalable way, Rabois says you need to give them access to the same information you have.
Gascoigne says transparency also helps him battle inequalities at Buffer. One example he points to is Buffer’s salary formula, which determines salaries and bonuses for everyone on the team. “As an example, one factor the formula doesn’t have is gender. When you determine salaries in a more ad-hoc way or through negotiation, I think a lot of inequality could creep in.”
Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to run a transparent company.
Jack Dorsey, CEO at Square, told his team early on that he wanted to build a company radical transparency, but that it would work only as long as everyone in the team respected the need for confidentiality. This is a promise he regularly reminds the team to commit to as Square continues sharing information freely within the company.
As investor Mark Suster says, it’s the CEO’s job to decide what to share, and with whom, rather than haphazardly sharing everything possible. Oversharing isn’t necessarily the best approach.
Transparency With Customers
We can see that healthy transparency within a company lends a measure of equality to all who work there. Let’s look at some of the specific ways companies are using transparency to grow trust and openness with their customers.
At Hello Code, we share a post on our company blog every month detailing what we’ve accomplished, how much revenue we’ve made, and how much traffic came to our site and blog. Making this information public shows our customers what our focus is, what stage we’re at, and how much we’re growing. It also encourages us to work hard so we have lots of progress to report each month.
Buffer does a similar thing with their investor updates, which are published to the Open Buffer blog every month. Each update includes how much cash is in the bank, growth stats for user numbers, revenue, team members, and a report on what the focus has been in the company over the past month.
At WP Curve, a WordPress support company, the team shares a monthly blog update that covers people, product, and process, including blog traffic numbers, content-marketing updates, and internal company focus.
Regularly reporting the same numbers so outsiders can see your growth (or lack thereof) makes your company accountable to its customer base and peers.
Another way to share numbers is a continually updated dashboard. SaaS analytics company Baremetrics offers a dashboard for your Stripe metrics, and when the company needed data for the product’s demo, founder Josh Pigford decided using the company’s own data would be the easiest option. As a result, all the financial data for Baremetrics became public for anyone to see.
Soon after, Buffer followed with its own public Baremetrics dashboard. Now Baremetrics promotes 10 different open company dashboards.
More recently, Buffer created a public dashboard of diversity metrics among their team and new job applicants with always up-to-date information about the demographics of Buffer’s team.On the other end of the scale is more informal sharing, which includes anything from sharing information in interviews to giving transparent talks about aspects of the company.
At Hello Code, we recently started a podcast that gives us an informal outlet for sharing the ups and downs of running our company. My co-founder, Josh, and I chat about a relevant topic every two weeks for 20 to 40 minutes.
We share things that are making us worried or bringing us down and things that are going well.
From the feedback we’ve received, it seems sharing the things that aren’t going so well has been particularly beneficial for other startup founders who can relate.
Baremetrics’ Pigford turns all of his blog posts into podcast episodes. While his focus is on sharing lessons so his listeners can improve their own businesses, his approach to podcasting is laid-back. Un his blog posts, which are carefully structured, the podcast versions give the feeling you’re having an intimate fireside chat with him as he shares his knowledge.
At Hello Code, we’ve been developing and using a side-project called Littlelogs to share our day-to-day progress. Littlelogs is designed to let you share short snippets about what you’re working on—things you’re learning, updates to your product, or decisions you’re struggling with.
Sharing our progress this way lets our users see exactly what we’re working on, where our focus is, and how fast we’re moving forward. Compared to our monthly reports, it’s a more relaxed, ongoing way of seeing inside our company.
Blogging platform Ghost recently took a step in a similar direction by making its Slack team public. Ghost users can join the team on Slack to chat with other users and developers who are contributing to the open source platform, and even Ghost’s founders.Far from the tight-lipped, walled-garden of big companies we often deal with, this transparent approach lets users in and promotes trust.
So how can you bring transparency into your own business?
When asked how other companies can follow Buffer’s lead, Gascoigne suggested starting small. “You don’t have to go as far as posting everyone’s salary on the blog,” he says, “Just do a little bit. Experiment with transparency in a small way.”
He suggests sharing information that’s not critical—such as fundraising data or focus updates—to test the waters. Perhaps it’s just sharing meeting minutes or making group email discussions more accessible within the company.
Remember that no matter how you choose to implement transparency, the goal is to build trust and open communication—first within your team, and then with your customers.
The 4 Techniques That Helped Me Walk the Fine Line of Work and Single Motherhood
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
There’s no such thing as an easy path to entrepreneurship, and being a single mom makes that journey even more difficult. As a franchise business owner and single mother myself, I speak from experience when I say that maintaining a business while raising the ones I love most can be challenging.
Related: 10 Single Mom Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice
Yet, despite the challenges, my role as single momtrepreneur is one I wear with pride. When you’re surrounded by the two things that excite you most — your kids and your business — every day is a learning experience.
So, if you too are a single mother looking to pursue your dreams as an entrepreneur, here are a few things I did that helped me get to where I am today.
Be transparent with your priorities.
Being disciplined with your time is one of the most important skills a momtrepreneur needs to learn.
Establishing a natural rhythm in alternating your attention among your children, clients and workforce will help you find your footing on the journey.
Entrepreneurship by no means is a 9-to-5 job, but creating a list of priorities and a road map for your day will help you feel less overwhelmed.
It’s also important to recognize your limits. I used to be an overachiever working eight- to 12-hour days for six days a week, and although my business was growing and we were in one of our busiest seasons, I realized that I wasn’t giving the proper amount of attention to my kids. I needed to make a change.
To adjust, I learned to be transparent with my team about my need (and maybe their need too!) to balance time with my family; and I made sure they understood what times they could and couldn't reach me.
For example, I encourage my team to text and email me any time the need arises, but unless it’s an emergency I may not be able to reply until regular business hours. While it took some time for the team members to adjust, everyone came to understand that life outside of a business is just as important as life inside.
Be crystal clear with your team and lay out some ground rules on when and how you can be reached outside of the office. At the beginning of every week, I bring my team together to identify goals and discuss how we plan to reach them. Creating this outline will help you manage your workload in the office, while also allowing you to plan your day-to-day obligations as a mom.
Don’t suffer alone.
Momtrepreneurs need to understand that there are some instances when things are our hands.
Trying to be perfect at juggling everything around you is the tempting thing to do, but it takes a certain level of bravery to be vulnerable and to ask for help when help is needed.
Whether it’s seeking out assistance from the team you’ve built firsthand or seeking out guidance from your family, understand that it’s the recovery that’s more important than the fall. How you bounce back will shape how you charge ahead further down the road.
Related: This Single Mom Turned Tech Entrepreneur Shares How She Rose Above Self-Doubt
One great way to find help is to form a network of mothers in your neighborhood.Early on as a parent, I organized a playgroup of more than 30 families, allowing us to get together on a regular basis to socialize and discuss the challenges we faced.
Any kind of network, whether a book club or sports group, is a great way to get people together, so find a way to better connect yourself with those around you.
Use online resources, as well. Whether you turn to a site Meetup.com, which helps you find others with similar interests and hobbies, or an app 2Houses, which helps keep track of your children’s schedules, or to a meditation tool Stop Breathe & Think, find — and use — the tools that can assist with your work and personal life.
Team up with your kids.
Children are very inquisitive, and one of the duties of a parent is to foster that curiosity.
As a momtrepreneur, I’ve realized that one of the best places to nurture my children is right there in my office.
They don’t understand every intricacy of my travel business, but showing them around and even letting them «work» is a great way for me to spend time with my kids while getting things done.
Giving my children assignments in the office is more than simple delegation. My kids sometimes sweep up and keep things tidy, put stamps on envelopes or shred papers that I no longer need. I also take them to community events.
Children can be great ambassadors to a brand. I ask them to help with direct marketing at events and to greet potential customers. And all of these activities allow me to harness my children’s curiosity, giving them a leg up on life while also showing them the working world.
Celebrate every victory.
I used to think that my life would be defined by a few key moments, but I’m learning every day that it’s the little moments with both my kids and my team that I cherish.
Yes, birthdays, graduations and record sales deserve their own celebrations, but I have begun to appreciate and prefer the small moments of human connection, too.
Reading a book to my kids before they fall asleep or helping a family find a cruise destination that’s perfect for them brings me an immense sense of joy and satisfaction.Moments these are the ones that make my work as a momtrepreneur meaningful, and keep me motivated to continue on this journey.
Related: 5 Fund-raising Lessons From a Startup Founder and Single Mom
Running a business while raising a family is definitely a challenge, but it’s one I look forward to taking every day. I know that every day is an opportunity to become a better person, both as a successful entrepreneur and a loving mother.