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Transparency in Entrepreneurship

“Transparency in entrepreneurship” … it’s a fucking bitch isn’t it? It is one of those things that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You would think that it would be an easy thing and that everyone would be honest and transparent, especially in the professional world. However, I think many people group honesty and transparency together when they are two totally different concepts- at least in my opinion. Let’s break it down…

Definitions per Merriam Webster’s Dictionary:

Honesty: fairness and straightforwardness of conduct.
Transparency: the quality or state of being transparent.
Transparent: is free from pretense or deceit(for later on, Authentic: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character)

Just going off those definitions, honesty does not imply that you are telling 100% everything, it just means you are being straightforward and answering the question asked, right? Whereas transparent means that everything is becoming known. Here is another example, in case you don’t know me, I work in the health insurance realm, so I’ll use a real-life example.Pregnant woman

A pregnant woman wants to sign up for short term disability, a policy in which the policy holder cannot be pregnant for the first 9 months of the policy to use it for maternal leave. If I were signing someone up and they asked if it would pay out for maternity leave the honest answer is “yes.” By saying that, I’m not lying, the information is in the policy right in front of her, but I’m not 100% forthcoming with it. The transparent answer is “yes HOWEVER not for the first 9 months”.

The Vital Role of Transparency in Business

(Make sure to listen to my podcast episode on Naaman Creative Show, where I share more about my career and personal life)

Before I continue, here is my little disclaimer…

1. These thoughts are purely my own and do not reflect any companies I work with- both clients or insurance carriers I represent.
2. When I am speaking of transparency or lack thereof, it’s not that I mean that folks are being dishonest or hiding things from folks. There is a difference between being intentional in telling a client everything about something vs just the bare minimum required.

Transparency is so extraordinarily important in business/ entrepreneurship and just in general life. Why? Multiple reasons… It builds trust, enhances reputation, helps mitigate risk, encourages feedback because people see you as more easily approachable, increases credibility/accountability so on and so forth. Building trust and being seen as approachable with clientele of whatever capacity is crucial, but being transparent is not enough on its own. Authenticity is what turns transparency into trust. When you are authentic, you’re not just being open about yourself, but also being genuine and true to who you are.

Self-Reflection on Transparency and Authenticity

If you aren’t authentic or transparent in your day to day operations, I would encourage you to ask yourself why? When working with a client, are you scared that being transparent will cause you to lose the deal? Are you afraid of being seen as imperfect or vulnerable? Is it just a defensive or competitive mindset? Seriously, sit down and think back to the last time you were asked a question, professionally or personally, and you gave the bare minimum response. Being self-aware of the reasons behind our actions is so beneficial as THAT is one of the best internal motivators for becoming a better human.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to start your reflection off… Keep in mind some may work for you, and some may not; the whole point is just to get the ball rolling.

1. Do I value transparency and authenticity? Why? Why not?
2. How do I want to be remembered by others, and is being authentic and transparent a key part of that? (Personally, I would take it a step further and ask yourself if it is not, why? Why are you not concerned with people viewing you as honest, transparent, and authentic?)
3. Are there any areas where I feel like I need to pretend to be someone I’m not to fit in or advance in my career?
4. Have I ever been judged or rejected for being myself? If so, how did it affect me?
5. What am I afraid of if I’m truly myself around others? Personally? Professionally? Why?
6. What are the benefits of being authentic and transparent, and how can I focus on those more often?
7. How can I prioritize building trust and rapport with others by being more authentic and transparent?

If some of the questions you can answer in a short sentence or even just a word, then you aren’t sitting long enough to truly think about who you are, what your values are, and how you want to be seen (personally and professionally).

Consequences of Transparency: Real-World Examples

Now don’t get me wrong, being transparent has definitely a downside to it too. I have been open and honest about things and have ended up losing the deal or the client. But here is the thing, if I had gotten that client, I would have had to work with them knowing that I wasn’t the right fit/person, and it would be a disservice to them and honestly create more work for me.

I have had this exact thing happen to me in the start of my career. I had a large health care company (250+ which is huge especially being a baby health insurance agent and baby entrepreneur) that wanted both health and supplemental health insurances. At the time I relied heavily on my district manager, again as I was fairly new to the field. The client was VERY concerned about 3 things- he asked those 3 things, and the district manager at the time since he had been on the discovery call with me, told him yeah we can do that no problem.

Well I got the client, I enrolled all 250+ employees and then when it came to histransparent entrepreneur concerns he had in the discovery meeting and them not being met, who would he go to? Me. I didn’t have the correct answers, I had the answers that my manager had given me, which later down the line, I found out were the answers he was giving just to secure the client. The result? I lost the client, I lost the opportunity to rectify and find a better solution after I had made more connections that could have been better solutions for the client, and I lost a lot of money. And who did it effect most? The client, the employees of the company and me. The district manager came out unharmed. If only he had said the TRANSPARENT answers the whole situation could have been avoided.

In another instance, I had a potential client ask me why my name on the paperwork was not Liam as he had come to know me as. I was transparent with him telling him why. I could have just said something along the lines that Liam was a nickname, yet instead I told him 100% the truth.. Ended up not landing the client because he had a problem with it. Guess what.. Yes it stung at first, but if someone has a problem with authenticity and transparency, that’s THEIR problem. That does not mean you need to squash, change, or diminish who you are to satisfy someone else.

Building Trust Through Transparency

Transparency has such an important benefit though and I wish more people would see it. I am a self-proclaimed “honest to fault” man. I tell my clients everything that involves them. The result of that? They know that I will treat them with the utmost respect, they know that I am reachable when they need something. I have gained their trust quicker and more organically, thus creating such an amazing relationship.

They feel confident referring to their friends and family, they don’t have a single doubt that them, their friends, family, colleagues, their employees, etc. are going to be treated right. I would prefer to have a smaller amount of clients that have their trust in me 100% then a larger client base that don’t know if they can go to me and if they do they aren’t sure if I am giving them the correct answer. Why? More clients leads to more money right? Yeah it does, until one of them finds someone else they trust better and leaves me or my company for someone else.

The Long-Term Benefits of Transparency and Authenticityhealthy balance

The old saying “nice guys finish last” seems to occur in more than just romantic relationships. But what the saying does not portray is that a lot of the time, us nice guys may be last, but we sure as hell will be taller too. As my dad always told me growing up, “if you take care of people right, they will take care of you.” I’ve not found a person or story (from mine own bank of memories or of someone else’s) where that doesn’t prove to be true. When you treat people right, they learn to trust and respect you. A lot of people, whether they realize it or not, base their decisions on respect- maybe not the surface level reason but if you keep pulling apart why someone did what they did/didn’t do, you’ll find it eventually leads to respect of a person.

Being your own authentic, transparent self may create a slower start if you are a baby entrepreneur like myself, but I promise you this from personal experience, when you get those “wins,” when you get those clients, it feels better, it lasts longer, and you feel more accomplished and prouder of yourself. When you hide behind masks and pretenses, you’re not only suffocating your own true potential, but you’re also erasing the possibility of genuine connections with others, leaving only a trail of broken trust and unfulfilled relationships in your wake.

“Fake it till you make it” doesn’t have the same meaning as it once did. When we choose to hide our true selves, we are not only hiding from others, but also from our own potential, purpose, and happiness. I could keep going on and on, but instead I will leave you with this… be yourself because as you shed the layers of ‘faking it till you make it’ and reveal your true self, you’ll discover that the only thing you’re hiding is the greatest version of yourself.

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