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Beyond Honesty
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By Darryl Ohrt

Welcome to the transparent marketplace.

There's been a lot of blog flutter from former employees of organizations like Verizon and Cingular, and even Geek Squad about what goes on behind the scenes. Posts of this nature spread like wildfire, and can tarnish a brand's image overnight.

What an excellent example of the importance of honesty. That word is taken for granted, today. We've all read about transparency, and it's importance in the marketplace. Transparency today goes so much deeper than the financials shared in an annual report. Whether you realize it or not, your business is completely transparent.

Ten years ago, we started an open book policy in our firm. Countless executives laughed, and couldn't believe we'd share such information. But we've got nothing to hide from our employees. If we're having a bad month, they know about it. If we're having a great one, they know it too. Ten years later, we've kept employees longer than the majority of firms in our industry. Our employees act and think more like entrepreneurs, and make business decisions like they're invested. Because they are.

And for us, honesty doesn't stop with employees. A lot of firms in our business work hard to mystify the creative process, and hide things behind a black box. We prefer sharing and collaborating. We even invite clients to participate in every aspect of their projects, through a shared web-based project management system.

Think about every aspect of your business. Your policies, your best practices, your documentation. Outside of proprietary "product recipe" information - what would you be embarrassed about, if people from the outside looked in?

The right answer should be nothing. Look hard. The marketplace is now an open marketplace. You're not going to keep your secrets forever. So why keep them at all? Employees will move on, customers will leave - and there's a worldwide audience waiting to hear their stories. Keep it honest and open, and you'll eliminate any surprises, and ensure all of your stories are from fans.

Even in branding, honesty really is the best policy.

Darryl Ohrt is the founder of VIA and the chief contributor to BrandFlakesForBreakfast.com.

Darryl Ohrt is the founder of Plaid.
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