Big Picture

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Become More Open and Honest with Stakeholders

Rhett Power

Transparency isn’t just something you need to prove to investors or similar stakeholders. It’s also critical for your business’s overall success, whether that’s regarding employee productivity or customer loyalty. Here are a few ways to turn transparency up a notch at your own business.

Entrepreneurs have long been held to high standards. Upon entering the market, you make a commitment to investors, employees, and customers to provide a solution for a distinct pain point no one else can solve. But when you make the decision to keep your cards close to your vest (as some entrepreneurs do), questions quickly begin to circulate whether you are truly making good on your promises.

With instantaneous fact-checking made possible thanks to the internet, transparency has become essential to business success. From sourcing and pricing to organizational values and revenue, nothing should be hidden from public view if you want to build a loyal following. In fact, 94% of customers would be loyal to a transparent brand — and understandably so. Transparency builds trust. And trust, as you know, builds loyalty.

Customers want to know who they’re entering into a relationship with. The same can be said for investors, lenders, and employees. As a business leader, you must get back into the day-to-day operations to uncover potential issues and foster greater transparency with both external and internal stakeholders. Here are some steps you can take now to do just that:

  1. Share your company vision to better align the team’s goals.
    A company’s vision and values don’t often get much discussion beyond onboarding or companywide meetings. And even then, the mention might be in passing. The further away you get from the C-suite, the more likely it is for team members to lose sight of how their contributions tie into the company’s vision.

    Consistency in your messaging around the vision can certainly help, as it gives employees more opportunities to understand your vision and reinforces where the company is headed in the future. However, don’t just throw words on the wall. Deliver this message through a variety of forms. Be clear about the company’s vision; share it through video and put it in writing to solidify how the vision guides upper management’s decision-making and their expectations of employees. Provide specific examples of how exactly the vision is and will continue to be practiced. Such transparency can do more than align team members around organizational goals. It can build trust within your ranks, which increases employee commitment, engagement, and loyalty.

  2. Use artificial intelligence to optimize decisions around inventory flow.
    Ask almost any retailer, and they’ll likely tell you that omnichannel fulfillment is a top priority of theirs. The problem is that inventory management has grown in complexity — with most businesses now sourcing goods from around the globe. Traditional inventory management systems simply can’t track supply and demand at such a large scale. “Instead, accurate forecasts will come from AI-driven demand sensing algorithms that can learn from other items and stores,” explains Ali Hasan Raza, co-founder and CEO of ThroughPut Inc.

    AI can sync inventory data between physical locations and e-commerce sites. It also helps to connect the broader supply chain, where multiple parties must monitor available-to-promise inventory to meet customer expectations on numerous fronts. “Use these tools to exact detailed information from parallel marketing events, and you’ll have a wealth of information about how a new product or service will react to a variation in price, demand trends, and more,” he continues. “Pull transactional data from your CRM, internal SC systems data (e.g., point-of-sale and inventory data), and data on demand events regressors (e.g., holidays, promotions, store schedules, etc.) and sales/margin price changes.” When combined, the information should offer greater transparency into your company’s inventory flow.

  3. Leverage CRM technology to monitor customer interactions.
    Salesforce found that 80% of business leaders use their CRM as a single source of truth when it comes to customers. Modern CRM systems allow companies to feed all sorts of information into a single platform and then use that data to inform more transparent decisions on everything from marketing and prospecting to referral, cross-selling, and upselling opportunities.

    Let’s say, for example, a lead has been regularly interacting with your business. Each interaction can paint a picture on more than just product or service interest level. When tracked and filtered through a CRM, the data can divulge insights into a company’s key decision-makers, the operational value of your product or service, and even that prospect’s budget. The software also can track and issue reports on quotes sent, calls made, emails opened, opportunities missed, appointments scheduled, and so on. All of this offers greater transparency into the customer interactions happening within your company.

  4. Host skip-level meetings with employees.
    Skip-level meetings provide a unique opportunity to gain unfiltered and unbiased insights about your operations from the people closest to your business. Culture, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and leadership performance all come into clearer focus and can highlight where potential improvements can be made. The exercise also allows you to correct problems before they become insurmountable issues.

    Technology can help capture and compile this feedback, but it’s often important to sit across from individuals — either in-person or via video chat — to read nonverbal cues (such as body language, facial expressions, and so on). Keep in the back of your mind that employees will avoid sharing their opinions as soon as they feel like they’re being shut down or judged for what they’re saying about their managers. Truly listen, ask follow-up questions, and never chime in unless a comment is truly warranted to foster an environment of transparency.

  5. Review and respond to Glassdoor ratings.
    Company websites and social media profiles can tell people only so much about your operations. Potential customers, business partners, investors, and employees will seek out additional information before deciding to establish any sort of relationship with you. One of the most common informational sources will be review sites such as Glassdoor, as past and current employees can anonymously provide candid opinions about their experience with your company.

    Reviewing and responding to such ratings, however, is about more than controlling your brand narrative. “When employees see you responding to reviews, it sends an important signal about the type of open workplace you’re looking to foster that improves your perceived culture and employer brand,” says Kaitlyn Holbein, founder and principal consultant at The Employer Brand Shop. Collect and act on this feedback to improve your culture, policies, benefits, leadership, and more.

With the exception of proprietary information, of course, transparency is always a good idea. It will serve as a building block for trust and loyalty, becoming the foundation for true business growth.


Written by Rhett Power.

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Rhett Power
Rhett Power is responsible for helping corporate leadership take the actions needed to drive impact and courage in their teams that will improve organizational performance. He is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill Education) and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. After a successful exit from the toy company, Rhett was named the best Small Business Coach in the United States. In 2019 he joined the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches and was named the #1 Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship by Thinkers360. He is a Fellow at The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship and management alongside the likes of former Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and AOL Founder Steve Case. Rhett Power is an acclaimed author, leader, entrepreneur and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.