The term transparency gets thrown around a lot. Governments are claiming to be transparent in their dealings. There are calls for more transparency all the time. Its another catch phrase, it seems. Transparency means you're not hiding anything, which means your being totally honest. Because hiding something is a lie, right. So if someone says they are transparent, they are really telling you they are honest, so you should believe them. Well, one lie all liars have in common is that they claim to speak the truth. Transparency, if you really think about it is not completely interchangable with honesty...not completely. Really looking at what it takes TO BE transparent you realize that transparency must be shown and proven, not just spoken. We at Guilds of Requiem have decided to take this plunge of transparency, and we cannot see anyone else who has done it. After really being honest with ourselves on what 100% transparency means, it seems so radical that, honestly, we feel crazy. We think that it could have a world changing effect though. It could ripple throughout all businesses everywhere. First, lets go into what a completely transparent business would theoretically be and then talk about how we think it will affect everything now that we are committed to doing it.
There are three kinds of transparency in business. The most commonly practiced one is what I call transparency of method. This would be showing customers and end users how you produce your products or perform your service. This has been trending for years now. Companies make showing how they do it as part of their marketing. They want to show off their skills and add value to their product and service. Often its a legal requirement that a business show that they are following laws like health codes and labor laws as a "forced" transparency. How silly it is that some companies boast that they are being transparent when they required to do so. When I did some searching on transparency in business, this is the kind of transparency that is presented.
The second kind of transparency is what I would call transparency of source. This has become increasingly important to everyone. Where do you get the materials to make your product. Is it bought from a place that has #childlabor? Is it destroying an #ecology or #endangered species? Is it possibly #toxic? Is it #cruel? There are certifications that consumers look for that require you reveal not just methods, but source as well. Organic labeling is a good example. UL listings is another. Sourcing scandals make for big news. Sometimes source and method cross over each other. Your source used methods, so you can only be transparent as your source is. Some try to pass the buck and say, "we didnt know". Well, you didnt ask them. Thats what we say.
Transparency seems to end there most of the time. Businesses will put that out there and say they are running a transparent business. There is a third kind of #transparency, however, that seems rather crucial to facilitating conscientious #consumption. It may the hardest secret for most to let go of: transparency of price. Show your customers what you paid out for what raw material and where every penny goes. Show how much you make from them paying you. Beyond person to person transactions, almost no one does this. Receipts, if they are even fully itemized, only show the charge. You don't know why things cost what they do. Most of us understand the theory of markup-overhead costs, payroll, taxes, etc. Why not be open about it? What would happen if we all were?
In exploring all this, we began with one reason why complete transparency is not practiced and have discovered another. The first one is simple: straight dishonesty. The driving for profits at all costs distorts many things in our collective societies. A cheaper source or method of #manufacture that produces a similiar end product, but has many outside costs on the larger world, is definantly a way to raise profits. An unjustified upcharge, like a "shelf fee", that would anger a customer is another reason to not be transparent in pricing. An example of a "shelf fee" would be if I came to your house to fix a squeaky door and replaced the hinge which cost me $1.00 but I charged you $5.00 plus my labor and trip costs. The "shelf fee" is justified by rent the item had to pay for it sitting on my shelf. Often, these markups are ridiculous. They don't show real costs. If I were to pro-rate my entire storage cost of materials I maintain for the convenience of quick, on-site repair, the bill would probably come down. Oftentimes, these costs get double charged. Overhead, like storage, might get figured into hourly rates as well. No one knows, because the bill is not transparent! I believe that non-transparency is not done purely as an evil act most of the time. I believe it is out of fear and desperation to basically stay in business and continue to feed one's family. If everyone would just let go and trust one another, things could equalize.
The other barrier we have discovered to block complete transparency have to do with the "how do you do it effectively". It must be, for one, comprehensive to the customer. This barrier is what often happens to government transparency. Records that are made public are not user friendly. If some parts of this blog is confusing to most except me, it's my failure in communication not yours. How to present your company's transparency is definantly a tall hurdle to jump. It has to be easy to understand and interesting enough to hold attention. We are currently working on this, and, trust me, there are few worthy examples out there to follow.
Now, what will this do, if you can effectively be transparent? I believe it will totally revolutionize all money transactions. If you had a choice between two shirts that looked the same and were the same price, wouldn't you pick the one that showed you every aspect of it's production and cost? This transparency practice will FORCE a change, just through consumer purchasing power.
This will also destroy "the haggle'". In a haggling exchange, you inflate your price for the pure purpose of having some cushion to come down in price so that your haggle partner can feel they are getting a deal. There are often losers in the haggle market. It's a needless waste of effort as well. A transparent vendor won't haggle because their price is already the lowest it can be, and they can prove it.
Yet another effect this level of transparency will have is when it comes to the bidding process. If you lose a bid, it would be clearly evident why you lost. You would immediately have a recipe for improvement. All competitors would actually turn into cooperators as a latent effect. Progression of all human knowledge and methods would accelerate as consumer choices drive a completely open market. That in itself would be a monumental development.
Here's another possibility. Using the example of shirts, suppose they were both equally transparent. One shirt shows that a portion of it's price was for job training for out of work veterans to make the shirt. The other shirt instead had to pay investor dividends, which raised the overall price of the shirt. Really, which shirt would you choose if they were nearly the same, being aware of the story behind them?
To make an omelet, eggs must be broken. To live in this world, everyone must pay for the cost of living. Any customer that doesn't understand this cannot expect to pay less than the REAL costs of a product or service. Moreover, if you believe you are conducting yourself in a reputable manner, there is no reason you should fear or feel any animosity towards this philosophy. To the contrary, you would probably embrace it.
I've seen it said that with every purchase we make, we vote on what world we live in. Complete transparency is needed for all of us to make an informed vote. We feel that alone is worth the extra effort. We as humans cannot wait for others to implement this, every individual who agrees with this has to start the ball rolling. If you do any sort of #business of any kind, just start practicing transparency as best you can. It is just that simple.