Transparency

April 19th 2016

As a company, we try as hard as possible to be transparent in everything we do, whether it’s the good, the bad, or the ugly. But as a community it seems to be taboo to talk about costs, while bragging about profits and revenues is the norm.

I'm excited to see more companies embracing transparency. Most of us are apprehensive to share internal numbers with the world. This is usually a result of social conditioning telling us that sharing things openly will dull our competitive edge.

But when Unsplash published this transparent breakdown of their costs, the only responses I could find were people offering suggestions on how to save even more money by tweaking their infrastructure or migrating services. That was a wonderful thing to see and speaks to the power of transparency as a tool for discussion and shared learning.

Of course, this is familiar: I used to work at Buffer, a company lauded for their openness and transparency. They recently published their 2016 Pricing Transparency Report that explains where a customer's monthly subscription is being spent (down to the cent). On the more extreme side, Buffer also publishes all employee salaries for the world to scrutinize and compare against.

I've been asked: what was it really like working inside such a transparent company? And the honest answer is that I have not yet seen a major negative drawback from sharing information openly. Buffer's transparency has created a community of people who believe deeply in the company's mission, has sparked meaningful discussions in the startup community on salary, equity, and fundraising, has increased internal trust among employees, and so much more. It was never the easy thing to do – sharing so much information with the world – but looking back, it was certainly the right thing to do.

I believe in the power of transparency. But believing is easy. What's truly meaningful is to act on that belief and share what you've learned with the world.

Props to Unsplash for continuing to share and help all of us learn.

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