The Transparent Entrepreneur

There’s a priceless element to an entrepreneur’s success when it comes to his or her customers, employees and investors. This element can be broken. It can be elusive. And it can be very difficult to regain when lost. Of course, I’m talking about “trust.” But this isn’t so much a blog about trust as it is one of the foundational components to building trust. Let’s explore the concept of transparency.

Transparency is a word that is used a lot these days – sometimes it becomes a bit trite as well as overused. Don’t you just love print advertising and television commercials that implore us to “trust” the company peddling the product? My guard goes up when I hear this sort of naked appeal – I probably am much more cynical about companies that resort to this messaging. If we start with the premise that “trust” is the given baseline, why then, is there a need to say, “Trust me?”

If I do a poor job of delivering what I promise to my customers, I’d much rather admit in an open and honest manner that I screwed up. Too many times we see companies stonewall, deny and otherwise obfuscate when the train goes off the track. This results in mistrust rather than accomplishing whatever we had hoped for by not being transparent. The old saying that the cover-up is worse than the crime certainly applies here!

Transparency begins with the basic core value of integrity. Either we have it or we don’t. We use this core value to guide us in the actions we take to fulfill transparency. I know that there are those who will say, “I’d like to be more transparent but in today’s litigious society I can’t say what I really want to say – I’ll be sued if I do!” However, there are ways to be open and honest without creating legal jeopardy.

We must also remember that most people don’t like surprises – at least not the negative kind. This is especially true when we’re working with our team members and investors. A number of years ago we acquired some land and launched a residential subdivision which turned out to be a bad idea. Shortly after we completed the purchase, installed the streets and sold our first three lots, the financial world came to an end (2008 – 2009). Our lot sales came to a screeching halt and remained very anemic for several years thereafter. We had raised substantial investor equity for this project and needless to say, the lack of sales was a difficult thing to report. Nevertheless, we dutifully wrote and sent investor reports every year laying out the facts. There was no sugarcoating, nor did we try to sound overly hopeful. Eventually there was good news to report and we were naturally pleased to do so. I’ve been told by several of our investors that they never lost confidence or trust in us because we were totally transparent throughout the process. It also helped that we explained in detail what we were doing to try and solve the problem.

Transparency means getting in front of the message rather than being behind the curve. Here’s an example. We learned that a major employer was about to close its doors in a market where we had an apartment property. Immediately, we contacted the investor and let him know that this was happening and apprised him of how we thought this closure might impact the property. We also laid out our plan of action for minimizing the negative impact to the investment. He was also an investor in another property in the same market that was handled by one of our competitors. He told us he never heard from the competitor and appreciated the fact that we delivered bad news as soon as we knew it. Our transparent approach built trust and enabled us to do more business with this investor.

Transparency is one of the cornerstones of trust. By operating with integrity, we are never afraid to deliver good news or bad, and share all that is relevant with our customers, team and investors.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Question: Every time I watch the news on TV or on the Internet all I see is negativity and bad stuff. This is so demoralizing and just sickening to see. I need to know what’s happening in the world but this is too much.

Answer: Bad things have been happening since humans inhabited the earth. And I don’t believe that more bad things are happening now than in the past – just different things. But one fact is significantly different than in the past. Everything – and I mean everything – can be reported at the speed of light. Unfortunately the media believes that no one wants to see or read happy news. This may or may not be true but it’s the hand we’re dealt. The net effect is that all the negativity is magnified because that’s all that’s reported.

Too many people ignore the news. I have talked to countless 20 and 30-somethings who tell me that they don’t pay attention to the news, primarily because it’s so negative. But that’s not the solution. We can’t afford to have a nation of low information citizens. Some sort of coping mechanism is needed to filter out the bad and the negative enabling us to understand what is happening in the world around us.

Here are two ideas that can work hand-in-hand to help us with this issue. Both involve perspective. First, when we read a newspaper, watch television news or surf the Internet, we must remember that we’re seeing what others want us to see. And what others want us to see typically imparts an element of their own bias – and often that bias is substantial. Remember in school how we were taught to abstract articles? Now is the time to put that into action. We can’t change the circumstances that may be negative, but we can focus only on the facts. A plane crashed and people lost their lives. Do we really need to digest all the gory details? If we stick to the facts we can lessen the negative assault on our psyche.

The second idea involves intentional awareness. Each day should start with our resolving to look for good things that are happening around us. Rather than allowing what we read and hear in the media to beat us down, we can notice the acts of kindness, friendly greetings, big and little wins, and other positive things that will never get the attention of a “journalist.” We have no need to filter what we see with our own eyes.

Intentionally looking for the good in our lives helps to cancel out the drumbeat of bad news and negativity that others are trying to serve up to us. And then the choice is ours for how we interpret what we hear and see in our world.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.