A Lesson In Startup Transparency

I started a new role as Marketing Director of e-learning startup, Administrate this week (more on that here), and yesterday, our CEO, John Peebles took me and my fellow new-starts through a ‘values session’.

All new team members go through this and I have to say, it was a great way of ensuring we understand what the business stands for and how people are expected to work and behave.

Values are core to any any business and none more-so that Administrate. Here’s a quote from John:

“You won’t get sacked for making a mistake at Administrate, but you will if you don’t live up to our values”

That really rams the point home!

Nice and transparent…

Transparency is key

I bet you’ve worked in jobs where people lie to each other on a daily basis. It’s a nasty thing, but us humans can be very guilty of this due to our strong instinct for survival. It rots working relationships and in many cases, the business itself.

Perhaps you’ve had a job where very little openness exists between those in the loftier positions and those ‘below’ them? Never a nice environment to be a part of and it can be very belittling.

Transparency is one of Administrate’s eight key values:

  • Reliability
  • Always improving
  • Team success
  • Sustainable business
  • A frugal approach (but not ‘cheap’)
  • Excellence in all we do
  • We always challenge anything

I’m not going to break each one down in this post, but I’m sure you’ll agree, these are nice values to work by?

I look out on 12th century Edinburgh Castle as I work…

How does transparency manifest itself at Administrate?

Transparency has been a huge buzz-word in business for the past few years (see Buffer’s Transparency Dashboard for an example of how to do it) and it’s likely that many businesses claim to be transparent, but really fail to deliver on it.

At Administrate, transparency starts in a pretty simple way — honesty. If we have a problem, we talk about it, face-to-face. This is enabled by ensuring we spend time talking and not just stuck behind monitors. Every team member has a 1–2–1 with their manager every week. The whole business gets together at 12 every Wednesday to have have pizza and update everyone on activity, issues etc. It’s good to talk.

Personally I want to ensure that my team gets together first-thing Monday morning for a standing meeting in front of a white-board, 30 mins max, with the key things we need to cover that week on post-its. That way we’re all aware of what needs to be done and ensure we can discuss it. I’ll be doing the same at the end of each week as a way of reflecting on what we did and didn’t do and hearing feedback etc from the team.

This week’s kick-off meeting

All of that helps lay the foundation for transparency, but what else is in place? A true open-door policy for a start. There’s nobody that you can’t get in-front of for a chat, at any level of the business. Nothing new there, but it’s rare that these policies ring true — they do at Administrate.

Then, we have Statto

What’s Statto? Statto is a real-time dashboard that all staff can access at any time. It displays current revenue, customer levels, sales leads and a whack of other info that means nobody can ever say they don’t understand what position the business is in, or feel like they’re in the dark. It also happens to have been created internally and is very pretty.

Don’t forget the ban on BCCs…

Think about all of the times you’ve been BCC’d in an email? What proportion of those emails involved negativity about another person? I bet a BIG chunk of them did. You don’t BCC at Administrate. Speak directly whenever possible!

Is there anything that isn’t transparent?

Yes — individual salary figures. The business feels that albeit that that information is company related, it’s also very personal to the individual. I have to agree with that. Salary brackets by position will be published internally this year though.

I’m on my couch right now

I just wanted to throw this in here as another example of Administrate’s commitment to values and its people. We work an official four-day week, yet we get paid for five. Why? Well, it increases productivity. It also aids the ‘work smart’ principle. Don’t waste time, work hard and efficiently and then you can have a day to do what you wish with. Read more about our switch to four days over on Techcrunch.

Think transparency within your business and things will most likely be better. What are you views on corporate transparency?

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