About a year ago, the term “transparency” was all the rage. Everything was “transparent”. Companies wanted their information transparent. It was the buzz word. How come you don’t hear companies refer to the “T” word as often these days? Because it’s a pain in the ass.
“One man’s transparency is another’s humiliation.” ~ Gerry Adams
Companies exert a lot of effort to practice transparency. Pizza Hut is a great example of a company that made transparency a component of their rebranding efforts. However, a slip of the tongue or poor word choice can do more harm than good. Businesses, and their executives, are aware of this dilemma. What did they do? They quietly distanced themselves from the “T” word and its associated efforts. That doesn’t mean companies began lying, instead they’re not making the same effort they did in the past. When the stakes are high and the economy isn’t booming, it’s not worth the risk. Right?
For example, the apparel decorating industry is notorious for its lack of transparency regarding the real cost of items. The invoice for your 50 t-shirt order indicates the cost of a blank, white t-shirt is $3 or $4. When you inquire about the cost of the items and a company may say, “that’s what they cost.” It’s a lie.
If our customers ask, we explain that the unit cost of a blank, white t-shirt could be anywhere from $1.20-$2.00, but there is a reason the invoice does not reflect that cost. There are pricing levels and incremental costs (shipping, packaging, unpacking, insurance, energy costs, ink changes, shirt counting, etc, etc, etc.) that affect the price of every product. Rather than see an invoice with 50 items ranging from $0.05 to $0.30 each, our customers understand that we build it into the cost of the garment. Other companies lie tell a different story.
Why go through the effort to be transparent? There is no doubt that it can be a huge a pain. It raises more questions and exposes you to many more opportunities for criticism. In the end, it is easier. When people are telling a lie stretching the truth about their business, it becomes a burden to keep stories consistent and bury negative information. Mother always said, “honesty is the best policy”.
Ask yourself, which is better?
It’s your decision. No big deal. It’s not like your company reputation depends on your decision…
By Downtown Dan
(Want more insider info? Let us know! Tell us what you want to know and we’ll give you all the dirt.)
Update: Apparently we’re not the only ones talking about this. Check out this recent article from The Economist: Academic View: The Myth of Corporate Transparency