The Ins and Outs of Business Transparency: Helpful tips provided by Suneera Madhani, the Founder and CEO of Fattmerchant




What is transparency and how should companies and organizations abide by it?


Transparency is being completely upfront with both your employees and clients by giving them the facts so they can make informed decisions and feel involved throughout any process. Many companies and organizations are manipulative in their messaging, both internally and to clients and don’t inform them of the information they need to know to make informed decisions on what is best for them. Companies and organizations can abide to their commitment to transparency by putting it first in every aspect of their business.


What are the pros and cons?


The pros of being a completely transparent business are that you become a company that is trusted and respected by clients. Clients recognize that transparency and appreciate that they can be comfortable and empowered knowing they are getting all the facts, exactly as they are. Furthermore, transparency within an organization leads to more involved, passionate employees, benefiting every aspect of the business. The con of operating at complete transparency can be that when there is bad news to deliver, there is nothing to hide behind. A company’s commitment to transparency means that there is no sugarcoating bad news or manipulating it into something it’s not, just telling their customer the facts and the next steps available to them.


Who (specific industries or sectors of business) should use the principles and values of openness and complete direct honesty?


The principles and values of openness and complete direct honesty can be used by any industry or sector of business. Of course, there are some examples of industries such as law and medicine where there may be certain times in which being completely transparent is not an option. But when the law allows, any company or organization can benefit from introducing transparency to their business practices both internally and with clients.


When does transparency become challenging?  How should a company deal with sharing the “bad news”?


Sharing bad news while running a company that values transparency can seem extremely daunting. However, many companies underestimate just how much their clients value that very transparency. A customer who receives bad news from a company they know to be completely transparent and honest will often appreciate receiving that information upfront and are more likely to stay with that company in the long run. No company is perfect and clients understand that and appreciate when they’re getting honest information instead of manipulated information that the company wants them to believe.


Some aspects of business are, by their nature, confidential.  For example, employees and the privacy of their HR records.  Is there a rule to live by that will help companies know when transparency is good for the company and when it’s not good for the individual?


There are certain aspects of business where total transparency is not the right option for the company or the individual. For example, many aspects of HR such as individual performance, development plans, salaries, etc., should only be disclosed on a case-to-case basis. When it comes to finances, it can be a fine line on what should be shared with the organization and what should not. Some CEOs will disagree with me that company finances should not be shared with employees; however, at Fattmerchant we are very transparent on this as well. We all collectively strive to achieve certain numbers and it’s important for the different departments to know the revenues and budgets so they can understand what is needed and expected from them.


If a company wants to introduce transparency to their culture and clients, where should they start?


Transparency starts within the company itself. By having open lines of communication within the organization and promoting total transparency internally, transparency will slowly become the norm and not the exception. At Fattmerchant, for example, a recap note is sent every week to the entire organization from top level managers to interns so everyone is in the loop of what is taking place within the company and everyone understands why something is happening and how it impacts other aspects of the business. Clearly stating this pivot in communication to every member of the company will also help to expedite the shift in culture and, in turn, the communication that we have with clients. It’s important to walk the walk, not just talk the talk
Suneera Madhani