Anil Stocker, co-founder and CEO of MarketInvoice, makes the case for being open and honest with your employees and external stakeholders
We’ve all had the dream. You know the one: where you’re stood in front of a large audience and find yourself with no clothes on. At MarketInvoice, we’ve kind of deliberately done that with our business but in the real world. A couple of months ago we published our entire loan book, available for live download from our platform whenever anyone wants to access it. For a business in the lending game, that’s a pretty bold step. We’re standing out there in the cold, with no clothes on, in all our glory.
So why have we done this to ourselves? We’ve done it because we believe in transparency as a business strategy. We believe that transparency can help us make better decisions and bring us even closer to our customers.
Transparency also plays a big role in the way our team works at MarketInvoice. If you want everyone in a business to feel motivated and committed around the same objectives, you can’t keep secrets. At MarketInvoice, we take a number of proactive measures to make sure we’re always as transparent as possible.
One example of this is how we engage our whole team in setting the business strategy. Every week our heads of department meet to help set the course of the business – this is something most businesses do, though maybe not so frequently. Where we try and take it further is in allowing open access to these meetings. First off, it’s an open-door session: anyone can come along and share their ideas. Secondly, as our room is only so large, we wanted to make access to these strategy setting sessions even easier, so we now live stream and record the meetings. Anyone on the team can listen in or access previous recordings. This has been greatly beneficial. We’re pretty choosy in who we hire; only the best get in. So we have a big team of super-smart people who are all involved in solving our biggest problems – and we’re getting some fantastic ideas.
Of course, problems arise in any business; there's no point pretending otherwise. Without a doubt, the worst thing you can do when running a business is to cut yourself off and hope problems don’t exist. We make sure that doesn’t happen. Every month my co-founder and I host a 'MarketInvoice town hall' meeting. In the run-up, all staff are encouraged to post questions online and then the whole team votes on which questions they want answered at the town hall. This way we see problems right away. At the meeting itself, we answer the questions and invite the team to live vote on whether our answer is satisfactory, so not only do we see the problem but we know if we’re doing the right things to solve it. It can be a tough audience but they all ultimately want the same thing you do – success for the business – and so the scrutiny is very useful.
This open dialogue helps to promote a better working environment and boosts team spirit. Employees feel more empowered but they also feel more responsible about the company. I’m always surprised how much of an interest our employees take in the long-term future of MarketInvoice – they want to be a part of its strategic direction.
So transparency can achieve a lot for your business. But to really enjoy those benefits, you have to get yourself into a transparent-by-default mode. Don’t think ‘is there a reason to share this information?’, think if there is any reason not to share it. Good teams are hungry to know more and to learn so don’t stifle them. Embrace transparency.