27 Mar Calling An Audible: Letting The Team Know The Score
I gave a presentation to HUB employees in December where I spoke very candidly about where our company has been and what our goals are for the next few years.
As a privately held company, we have no regulatory obligation to share our financials with anyone, and we have historically kept our cards close to the vest. Only our bankers and our upper management were privy to our sales figures.
We have traditionally had a defensive posture towards sharing information even with our own staff. Once you have shared too much, you can’t unshare it, so we have always erred on the side of caution.
As we continue to grow and expand, I have revised my thinking on that. With so many high-octane personalities in our company, it became increasingly clear to me that I needed to be more transparent about our goals and
aspirations if I expected the entire team to work in harmony to achieve them.
In the days before the presentation, I went around the office and casually asked associates to guess what our sales volume was. The typical responses ranged from 50% too high or 50% low of our actual figures. At the presentation, I gave our current figures, our sales history, and where I expected us to be in the next three years.
The reaction from the staff was worth the risk. Even though most of our staff can do their jobs without knowing our financial situation, it is reassuring to them to know it. If the business is doing well, there is a confidence that comes from knowing that; and if a business is in trouble, it’s even more important to be transparent so we can work together to fix what’s wrong.
My biggest reservation in doing this has always been that workers would get the notion that they deserved to be paid more. So much of politics nowadays is playing “evil corporations” against the little guy. Some would argue that a percentage of the staff aren’t going to be able to understand enough about business to realize that those sales figures aren’t pure profit and will become embittered because they are getting such a small piece of the pie.
My answer to that is this: If you treat your associates with respect, they will generally respect you back. We balanced our discussion of sales figures with a discussion about profit margins and overhead, and nobody since then has argued for a raise on the basis of all the money we must have “laying around.” We even went so far as to say that we would pay $1,000 to any staffer who didn’t share our vision and wanted to go find a job somewhere else. So far, there have been no takers.
I’d be interested in hearing from you managers and owners how much you share with your workers. Have you ever regretted sharing too much? Have you seen any benefits from being candid about sales figures? Drop me a line—I’m always interested in learning from others’ experiences.