These Austin companies don't just value transparency — they demand it

by Kelly O'Halloran
June 8, 2017

Inside the All Web Leads Austin office, employee key performance indicator scores poster the walls for all to see.

It’s one way, Bill Daniel, president and CEO, says the company creates and upholds an environment of transparency.

And Daniel isn’t alone in making sure transparency is more than just a buzzword.

We talked to tech leaders from Procore and Amherst InsightLabs who strive to maintain an open environment as their business scales, how to avoid common transparency mistakes and how to make sure it’s part of the interview process. Here’s how they do it:

 

Amherst InsightLabs redesigned its office space to feature an open floor plan to foster transparency across teams. CEO Doug Fashenpour, who sits alongside his team, said the open seating concept was a strategic maneuver, but the team’s embracing of it was all natural.

What does being transparent mean at Amherst?

At Amherst InsightLabs (“AIL”) we define “transparent” as knowledge. Knowledge can be a variety of factors such as, company decision-making, process, workflow, policies and ideas. We encourage a collaborative environment that we mindfully maintain. An example of our collaboration is the open platform for technology initiatives.

Practically, this involves inviting all levels of experience to sit at the table as we discuss new initiatives, and continue that process through completion so every team member understands the how and why, and more importantly the impact their work can have on our business. This process fosters the sharing of knowledge from all levels within the company.

When’s a time your team exemplified transparency?

We think of ourselves as a team within a team. One of our affiliates was in the final stages of onboarding a new client. They required an extensive amount of data and demos on our models. AIL successfully worked together as we were made aware of the objective and had regular meetings to discuss workflow.

How do you ensure the culture remains transparent?

We continue to explore innovative ways to ensure our culture remains transparent. Recently, we redesigned our office to create an open-concept workspace. This allows for team members to naturally share knowledge with one another. We also hold Town Hall meetings to provide updates on opportunities and company progress.

Is it something that happens organically?

We think it’s a little of both. We deliberately re-designed our offices to embrace transparency — that was a calculated decision. However, we believe transparency is something that should be naturally appreciated, it isn’t a tactic to attract talent.

 

 

procore all hands june.jpg

The team at Procore has experienced quite a bit of scaling over the past year as they grow out their Austin office, but customer success manager Robin Reidmiller said the company has not sacrificed transparency during that growth. By keeping transparency as a core value among all members of the team, Reidmiller said they've built a level of trust throughout the entire organization.

How has Procore modeled transparency recently?

Each quarter, our CEO and President host an “All Company Update” that every employee is encouraged to attend. In this meeting, they openly discuss what the topics and outcomes were from that quarter’s board meeting and give an update on what’s changed since last quarter. To share this so candidly as a private company shows how much our executives trust and value each individual. In turn, we all leave this meeting excited for what’s to come next and empowered with the most current information, straight from the source.

How do you ensure the culture remains transparent?

Since transparency is synonymous with one of our core values, it’s really about making sure we don’t lose or dull our culture as we scale. Each individual has a responsibility to make sure that no one jeopardizes our culture – we all lead by example, hire to our values, and are constantly striving to exhibit our values in all interactions with others.

Is it something that happens organically?

Since a large part of our hiring is based on our values (not just work experience and/or skills), transparency is pretty organic for us; however, I think leaders need to always be on the lookout for ways to contribute to and guard transparency within their company. I would start by always giving your team members as much information as possible, creating avenues for them to feel comfortable sharing their feedback and ideas, and by encouraging them to communicate with anyone, regardless of a process or company position.

What’s the biggest mistake a company can make that works against transparency?

The biggest mistake leaders can make that works against transparency is not allowing our colleagues to feel like they can speak up and be heard. I think when teams are working on an important project, it is easy for leaders to try to help by inserting their idea of the best solution. This often leaves leadership unchallenged and new ideas unheard.

We need to give each team member the opportunity to think like a leader by hearing ideas from all sides and fully discussing both parties ideas and comparing the two. At Procore, we continually challenge management and leaders to grow their team members; not just complete initiatives or build a product. We bring in experts to learn new best practices for developing individuals and make sure that everyone feels safe to fail as long as they learn from it.

What advice would you offer companies/startups looking to embrace a transparent culture?

Watch David Marquet’s YouTube video titled Inno-Versity Presents: "Greatness" by David Marquet and, if you have time, read his book “Turn the Ship Around.” Our company strives to create an environment similar to what Marquet describes; his ideas on creating leaders in each team member is what empowers them to be transparent. The other advice I have is to start at the top: you can’t expect team members to be transparent information is only moving upwards. 

 

all web leads office.jpg

Inside the All Web Leads office, employee KPIs poster the walls for all to see. Bill Daniel, president and CEO, said this is one way the company upholds transparency. That's in addition to daily updates where the entire team reviews profit and revenue. Daniel said a transparent culture is not something that occurs organically and that leaders must hire appropriately and initiate steps and processes to secure it.

What does being "transparent" mean at All Web Leads and how does that stem into the team culture?

At AWL, transparency means there are no secrets when it comes to how we run our business, how our business is performing, and how each of us, as individuals, are doing versus our team and personal targets.

We hire people who are trusting — meaning they trust others easily and are therefore willing to be transparent with others. And we hire people who are trustworthy — meaning they are able to be trusted by co-workers and have a demonstrable track record of this behavior that we can learn about via our interviewing process.

Is it something that happens organically?

It does NOT happen organically. We interview and hire for trust, we do our annual 360-degree reviews and rate our employees on how well their behaviors are contributing to our “trust” culture, and we work hard to be transparent every day with the information about our business with every employee.

What do you feel is the biggest mistake a company or leadership can make that works against transparency?

Keeping information from employees in the name of confidentiality or competitive risk, especially bad news or information which points to problems in the business. This leads to a culture of mistrust and lack of transparency.

What advice would you offer for growing startups looking to embrace a transparent culture?

It starts at the top – with the CEO and founders – where transparency and trust have to be modeled through words and behaviors. And it has to be constantly reinforced with employees, again from the top.

 

 

 

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