In God We Trust. Everyone Else, Bring Data
Trust; hard to get and easy to lose. For most situations in business and life, we require evidence to back up words and create trust. We expect statements to be confirmed and supported by hard data. When data is not supplied, we wonder why? Don’t they have any? Where is the proof to back up their words?
We want to believe people, but need (and expect) confirmation provided by facts. Businesses need to anticipate what information customers require and be ready to support it with verifiable data. When this is done proactively, trust grows and loyalty is created.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where trust is often misplaced and abused. In the U.S., this has happened way too often. Camouflage is used to hide numbers that reveal a picture other than the one being presented by executives. It was this type of misplaced trust that lead to the housing bubble that affected over half the U.S. states. In 2008 alone, the United States government allocated over $900 billion to special loans and rescues related to the U.S. housing bubble.
This year a sales-practice scandal lead to Wells Fargo over estimation of stock value. This was a deception orchestrated by the highest levels of management. Per Fortune Magazine, Wells Fargo stated it would pay $185 million in penalties and $5 million back to customers for opening roughly 2 million deposit and credit-card accounts in customers’ names without their permission. The company fired 5,300 workers for improper sales practices over a period of five years.
These deceptions cost more than just money. They cost our trust. We begin to assume the worst. In the absence of “Glass Wall Management,” and full disclosure of facts and figures, we can expect greed to win out and the general population to suffer.
Communities grow by successful businesses and weaken by unsuccessful ones. All businesses are in a symbiotic relationship that consists of three parts:
- Employees – This is our team and family. These are the people that make us successful.
- Customers – This is whom we serve. Being customer centric means putting them first.
- Suppliers – They represent extended family. We rely on our suppliers as an integral part of the business.
Smart executives are extremely liberal with information that impacts employees, customers and suppliers. They understand that trust is more important than profit margin. Loyal customers will stick with you through tough times. The Gallup organization has conducted surveys on customer loyalty and found that consumers are less likely to bargain hunt or purchase elsewhere to save money when they feel valued as customers. We value those that value us.
Loyal employees engage at work and are endlessly resourceful. Sharing data that impacts their livelihood such as: profit, losses, overhead, etc. shows they are valued as stakeholders. Don’t expect a basketball team to play hard if they can’t see the scoreboard. Don’t expect your employees to work hard if they can’t see the data that reflects their performance.
Share the Data!
Sharing relevant information and data builds trust and loyalty. I have been lucky enough to work for companies that were upfront with important key performance indicators. Glass wall management kept me informed and made me feel valued. I could ask questions and knew I could request more information as needed. This creates a system of “checks and balances.”
When all three parts of the symbiotic relationship (Employees, customers and suppliers.) feel valued and have access to data that impacts them, they place greater value on the relationship. Loyalty is in place as each part works to protect the other parts.
Don’t make stakeholders ask for performance information. Share it openly and often. Use relevant performance numbers to strengthen trust and validate loyalty. Share the good, the bad and the ugly, all information that impacts stakeholders.
This is what Wells Fargo did not do. They withheld information to deceive shareholders and inflate stock value.
In God, we trust. For everybody else…let’s expect and provide data. Why not show we are on the level, and set the example we expect others to follow. We should never expect from others what we won’t provide ourselves.