Spilling Secrets

Over the years I’ve found myself defaulting to complete transparency. It’s helped me develop a feeling of authenticity and a deeper sense of generosity. If I have a perspective, experience, or behavior someone else might benefit, it feels selfish to stay quiet.

This openness and vulnerability intensified around the 5 year mark in our business. Following a near catastrophic financial issue for the business, I found myself scrambling. It was a desperate attempt at survival that led me to reach out to mentors, friends, and even strangers. The support and encouragement was humbling and invaluable. In turn, I’ve sought to do likewise. Rather than limiting it to those bold enough to ask, I began writing more and sharing it with those who might not feel comfortable reaching out.

Throughout this season, I also felt a prompt to express gratitude to those who had helped us along the way. Our business has been built on the support and generosity of friends, families, and clients. At first, it was about giving me something positive to focus my attention but evolved into being more about the recipient and cheering them on in their journey. Either way, it aided me through the troubling time.

What about competition?

Naturally, this sparks conversations about trade secrets and giving away our competitive advantage. I’ve heard dozens of solid arguments that keep me questioning the merits of my approach. To date, I am undecided. Until I receive compelling evidence to the contrary, I’ll continue default to unbridled transparency. We have become more articulate with our clients, move to transparent salaries internally for team members, and even began passing along helpful strategies to competition.

Aren’t you worried about companies copying you?
What if you share too much?
Could someone beat you at your own game?

Bring it on. Personally, I love the accountability that surrounds transparency. It forces us to have our own house in order and continually improve. As we invite peers and competitors to compete at our level, high tide raises all ships. Plus, if you’re the overly competitive type, it’s actually advantageous to put yourself in a position where competitors are following you. Copying you means they are focused on you, while you’re free to focus on serving your customers or clients. You have them right where you want them.

It’s also worth noting that what works for me and my businesses will not work for everyone. For instance, transparency without accompanying integrity will end poorly. Also, following our process without the deep conviction in it’s value will result in unsavory outcomes. Doing the same thing, with different intentions, will not produce the same results.

No Secret Sauces

Think about your favorite dining experience. It’s unlikely the restaurant only has good food. They need more than great atmosphere. Attentive serving staff is not enough. My favorite restaurant has a great vibe, knowledgeable waitstaff, impeccable hospitality, delectable food, and delivers that experience every time. It’s the full experience. There is no special ingredient or a secret sauce, it’s about the full package.

In the same manner, I want to be a person where unrelenting generosity and unending gratitude are my differentiators. Not as a secret, but to be enjoyed by all.

Keeping it Practical

There is also a level of practicality to the process. Given the dozens of meetings I have each week, it’s exhausting to decide who I’m willing to share information with. Is there a conflict? Will they steal the idea? Can I trust them? No one knows. Rather than fixating on which version of the narrative to preserve, I’m freed up to share openly.

In parting, I’ll pass along a quote from Zig Ziglar what echos in my mind, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Living this way, I’m amazed by how fulfilling the work becomes when I stop making it about myself. Instead, choosing to focus more on adding value to others.