One of the values we had at Fundera was “Be An Open Book.” I used to tell people during new hire orientation that I loved this value because I am a lazy person. As a company, the spirit of being an open book is giving people access to vital information about how the business is performing. It’s important to do this for a variety of reason: employees want it, it provides context as to how the company is doing, and with that context people can begin to make independent and well-informed decisions about how to help us grow. If more people are making better decisions, then leaders get to make less of them (especially the smaller ones). Hence, I can continue being lazy.
The value manifests in a variety of ways. We would share company financials during Town Halls (our monthly company All Hands). We would circulate sanitized board presentations after every board meeting (sanitized because there are some discretional and personal things that not everyone needs to know). We’d discuss our unit economics in depth. Sharing details was embedded in the culture. Everyone inside the company had access to the nitty gritty as to how the company was doing. And if for some reason they didn’t have it at their fingertips, they could always ask.
I have found that people who join early stage ventures oftentimes do so to learn as much as possible. A great way to accelerate learning is to share information on what’s important to the company so people can track it and see how inputs effect outputs. They also want to have some sense of autonomy and feel like they can contribute beyond being told what to do or the confines of a specific role. Being an open book helps steepen the learning curve while improving the way people can contribute.
Being an open book also helps people make critical career decisions. They know when things are good and can get excited about growth trajectory. They also know when things are bad and they can either buckle down and dig through the muck (this is why it’s important to hire people who believe in your mission) or they can jump ship and find a more stable environment. Shitty surprises suck for employees. It’s a huge disappointment to wake up one morning and be told your company burned through all its cash and now has to shut down. It’s an even bigger disappointment to be caught totally off guard by this, or to learn about it from the press. Don’t create environments where this can happen to the people that bet a chunk of their career on you.
I will never understand early to mid-stage companies that don’t share pertinent financial information with their employees. Pending certain situations where it’s legally impossible or inadvisable, leaders shoot themselves in the foot by hiding this information. It’s not good for the company, it inhibits people from making great decisions because they don’t have appropriate context, and it’s not fair to employees.
Make life easy, treat people like adults, be an open book.