Transparency has a lot of currency as a term because it’s usually used in the world of GRC-governance, risk, and compliance. But that’s not what I mean. Transparency when it comes to the world of customers is their ability to get the kinds of information they need to make intelligent decisions. It also means that as a company, you’re willing to own up to mistakes and let the customer know honestly what they can expect, whether or not they are going to like the answer. It means that as a company you are willing to provide continuous avenues of communication from your customers to your decision makers or at least to the appropriate parties to meet the specific customer needs. Since that’s normally on the fly, you have to provide the pipelines and the spigots and just make sure the customers have a means to turn them on.
That transparency can be of enormous value or its lack can be quite damaging. Sandvik, a 47,000-employee-strong Swedish engineering and tool provider, has operations in 130 countries and a revenue of 86 billion Swedish kroner (roughly $14.25 billion U.S.). They also have an operating profit that ranges between 15 and 17 percent year after year. All in all, a very successful B2B company and one of the world’s best companies, period.
One of the core reasons for their continued success is the corporate value statement they call “The Power of Sandvik, ”a three-pronged program that promotes openness, fair play, and social responsibility. As a company, they demand the participation of all 47,000 employees in the program-and make it a part of their relationships with suppliers and partners-and almost all the company activities are transparent, offering deep visibility into operations. For example, they not only expose the corporate senior management bonuses, they also show how they accrued them. These kinds of actions make them among the most profitable and trusted companies in the world.
Once transparency is added to the mixture, we need to look at the systems that make that mixture as delicious to customers and companies as we think it can be.
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