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You should use an open-book management style at your startup

Open-book management is a controversial style, but done properly, can be a tremendous tool at your startup or small business.

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open book management

A firm endorsement of the open-book management style

Earlier this year on AGBeat, Destiny Bennett penned an overview of a subject that I am very passionate about: the open-book management style. Bennett provided a solid overview with some basic pros and cons, but I believe the subject deserves a deeper examination, and a firm endorsement.

Open-book management is as much a philosophy as it is a strategy. There are tactical, strategic and emotional components to evaluating its impact on an organization. I’ll touch on each below.

Private vs. Public

First off, there are very strict rules and regulations for public companies about what information they can share, with whom they can share it, and when they share it (when they can’t, when they can, and when they have to). This article is only about private companies, and is especially relevant for start-ups.

Tactical Implications

Bennett discusses the issue of making salary information known. While this is an issue that is important to every employee, any negative blowback from opening this information up to employees will be short-lived. Entrepreneurs will find that there will be immediate activity in the ranks when salaries are published, and some discussions will be required and perhaps adjustments will need to be made.

Very quickly, though, the issue is put to rest. If anything, the information frees employees from guessing and gossiping about compensation and allows them to focus on their work.

Even more tactically important – opening up finance, strategy, and other information to all employees gives them the information they need to make smarter decisions, measure their performance, and think bigger picture. Empowering individuals with information also frees supervisors from a lot of micromanagement. This allows for increased time and attention for coaching, and focus on higher level issues, strategy, morale, and motivation.

Strategic Implications

Most entrepreneurs who do not employ an open-book style make this choice because they fear proprietary information will get into the hands of the competition.

Two comments here: 1) If your competition really wants to find out information about your operations, they’ll probably find a way to get at least some of the data they seek no matter what you do, and 2) Even if your competition gets confidential data, if you, management, and your employees are working well, it won’t really matter much at all.

There is tremendous strategic value to opening up information to all employees. Everyone is on the exact same page. Each member of the organization, top to bottom, understands the key performance metrics, where the company is measuring them, and what effect efforts are having towards meeting KPIs. Employees will not guess, gossip or speculate about risks or scenarios. Instead, they know the situation, the plan, and the actions upcoming, thus they can focus on the performance of their team and themselves. Knowledge powers people to work their best and frees them to focus on what is important.

Emotional Implications

The emotional impact of implementing an open book philosophy is likely where you will see the greatest gains. The guiding principle here is to trust and empower your workforce to make them feel like owners. This is the most powerful motivational tool that an entrepreneur has. Eliminate a haves verses have nots culture at the company. Emphasize teamwork, individual effort and spirit for the good of the team, and shared responsibility and rewards for all.

Employees who take ownership at their job will work harder, longer, and better, and you will retain them at a much higher rate. They will be motivated to continue to earn this trust and the responsibility that comes with it. It is also important to provide options, profit sharing, bonuses, or some other “ownership” type compensation to your employees so that your open-book style is enforced in a financially tangible way too. Your employees will be self-motivated, and they will inspire each other.

Final Words

You have to believe in your employees. Every person you employ trusts you with his or her livelihood – financially and emotionally – and you owe it to each to trust in return. My advice is to hire well and then trust, share, and empower… and grow with your team.

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

Business Entrepreneur

Google makes it easier to identify veteran-owned businesses

(BUSINESS) Finding veteran-owned businesses just got easier thanks to a new feature from Google (one that veteran business owners can easily take advantage of).

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Google My Business (GMB) is the main database for search engines. It’s a powerful tool used by consumers and businesses. To help customers and business-owners, GMB added a very important category last fall. Businesses can now be identified as veteran owned.

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that there are 2.5 million businesses majority-owned by veterans in the United States. In one report, these veteran-owned businesses employ over 5 million people and have an annual payroll of $195 billion. Texas ranks #2 in having the most veteran-owned businesses, following California.

The support that Americans give vets is inspiring. The cool thing about this feature from GMB is that it helps consumers find businesses to support. The men and women who gave service to our country deserve support once they’re civilians. Look for veteran-led businesses when you use Google.

Customers aren’t the only ones who will take advantage of knowing whether a business is owned by a former service member not. Fellow vets often go out of their way to support each other. Who better to provide information about resources and opportunities than someone whose been there?

If you’re a business using GMB, it’s easy to add this attribute to your listing. It’s under the About category. The instructions for mobile and desktop can be found here. The only other attributes currently available are family-led and woman-owned.

It’s unknown how many people actually seek this information out or will actually use it. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of small businesses in the U.S. are veteran-led. These businesses aren’t just providing an economic impact on communities. Veteran-owned businesses hire fellow vets in higher volume than non-veteran-owned companies. USA Today reported that vets thrive in the small business world, attributing success to their core values, such as discipline and organization that make vets able to commit to a business and serve customers.

We applaud Google for adding this attribute to their database of information.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to know when it’s time to go freelance full time

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Teach kids music and they’ll learn entrepreneurship

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sowing the seed of music education and appreciation in your child when they’re young is a great way to produce the fruit of entrepreneurship when they’re older.

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With all the focus sports gets as the petri dish for producing driven adults, I’d like to offer up a different extracurricular activity for your consideration: music. Supporting your child as they learn how to harmonize with others will help set them up for success later in life, as music cultivates many of the characteristics that entrepreneurs rely on every day.

Iteration

Anybody who’s played an instrument or been a part of a choir can tell you that the number one thing you’ll learn in a musical group is that you won’t make it unless you practice, practice, practice. Although in the moment it’s not that great to hear little Timmy or Ginny run through their C-scale a hundred times, a few years down the line when all those hours of iterating result in the lilt of Beethoven through your household, you can be sure that your kid has learned that repeating the little steps helps them achieve large goals.

Showmanship

A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your markets, or your audience, and able to keep their attention so that they come back to you when they need your business. Being a part of an ensemble not only teaches children to be comfortable in the spotlight but to crave putting on a show.

Teamwork

When young musicians come together to play in a band or raise their voices in a choir, they’re learning a lot about how to collaborate with others in order to achieve a goal. When a young alto sings alone, her notes may sound strange without the soprano tones filling out the melody. The duet that comes from them learning to work together and complement each other builds a strong foundation for any team venture your child will encounter later in their careers.

Competiveness

Although music provides a solid foundation in harmony, it also contains just as much grit and competition as the football field. Music groups compete in regional and national championships just as athletes do, and solos offer opportunities to self-select and advocate. Hell hath no fire like a second seat musician who dreams of being first chair.

Self Confidence

Unlike sports, music is accessible to those who might struggle with finding confidence. There are no “best” requirements to play—regardless of height, weight, and other characteristics that nobody has any control over—nearly anyone can pick up an instrument or find their voice. This perhaps may be the greatest gift that you can give your child, the confidence that no matter what they look like they can excel.

As your child begins to consider the different activities that will help them build toward their future, don’t discourage them from pursuing a musical path. When they have to stand in front of an audience of their peers and deliver a presentation with an unwavering voice, they’ll thank you for the years they spent getting comfortable in the spotlight. Especially if they pursue entrepreneurship!

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