Posts Tagged: Open Book

Full Disclosure

May 23rd, 2012

Guest Blog by Kelly Hocutt, a CBI Group team member

At CBI, we have added four new people to our team in the past few weeks. One of the first things we share with new team members is our Outside-In® culture and we have done so by sharing stories about one tenet each week. This week is Open Book. I first learned about what it meant to be Open Book from Chris’ father, Alan Burkhard.

When I met with Alan to learn about his life as an entrepreneur, I wondered, “What is it that Alan understands about this world that the rest of us are too blind to see? What makes him so successful, so content and so relaxed?” It’s that he has nothing to hide.

“I am fully open and honest with everyone,” he told me. He teams up with people that have the same values as him and commits to full disclosure. He will discuss anything his partners, coworkers or employees want to know. He shares his philosophy with anyone who is interested. It’s simple, common sense but the difference lies in making what you believe, what you actually do. To live and be what you believe. He teaches his philosophy to his employees and the Outside-In® philosophy has been successful in every business he has established or turned around, in seven different industries; Payroll, transfer stations, real estate, trash, horse racing, food service and staffing services… Just like it has worked for his son.

“I don’t care what the product is in my business. Great service is unbeatable because it’s free,” he says with a smile. Letting his customers call all the shots has made Alan Burkhard the successful entrepreneur he is today. “What’s the value to you? That’s the value to me.” The beauty of the Outside-In® philosophy is its minimalism. He teaches it in the classroom, he can diagram it or explain it through one of his many analogies. He could shout it from the mountaintops. But that doesn’t mean people grasp it enough to fully embrace and live it.

Thus, to put his philosophy to work in his companies, Alan leads by example. “My business philosophy is the same as my personal philosophy,” he explained. He teaches people to have their own cultures, to learn and understand themselves. He then encourages them to be who they say they are. Culture is defined by “what we do and how we act. You must live it. Be it.” Everyone has cultural traits that they rank higher than others, whether they know it or not. The big one for Alan are being direct, sharing, and leadership. With a defined culture, Alan empowers people to make decisions.

Alan believes that he and his employees are equally important and he makes sure they know that. “I give full trust in employees. There is no need not to tell them anything.” And that is exactly what those of us at CBI Group have been talking about this week. Our new team members are learning from the veterans what full disclosure, sharing and collaboration are all about. This Outside-In® approach is so simple and so human that it can be confusing. But it’s up to each and every employee to put being Open Book in to action. When one of us passes it along, it’s a beautiful thing to watch the power of full disclosure.

Being an Open Book

July 20th, 2011

The definition of being Open Book can be interpreted in many ways. To CBI Group, being open book means that we have no secrets. We believe that being open book is about more than trust; it’s about sharing information with the team to enable them to make educated business decisions.
Contemporary leadership theorizes that employees should simply know and understand their job requirements and have measurements on the activities that drive productivity within their roles. They believe that sharing the bigger picture will confuse people and complicates things. Besides, how could the average employee see a correlation between their role and the big picture?
Another theory goes that if you provide access to all financial and operational information, employees can act like entrepreneurs in how they go about their work. This open book knowledge helps employees understand how the organization makes money and how long it takes to get a spent dollar back into the organization after an investment is made. So, what’s my theory?

    Tell your employees everything. If your employees sense even a small discrepancy, it shows up like a Grand Canyon chasm. In a small business, trust is everything. Tell the truth. Employees will respect it and embrace it. And once they have it, they notice it when it is gone. Lack of information creates a void — and that void negatively affects trust, engagement and the business.
    Have consistent training sessions and explain the “why”. Trust that employees will appreciate and figure out the connection to their job and the organization’s profitability. This will take time and it will be hard but training time should be a part of every role.
    Treat everyone the same, manage everyone differently. Being flat works because everyone wants to feel equal. Employees do different work and have different skills and experiences. Understand these differences instead of trusting a title or a label — titles are for customers and their understanding. Having a class system creates animosity, loss in productivity, lack of trust, poor working relationships and silos between departments.

That is what being open book means to me. When employees care, free flowing information sharing can have a profound impact on a business. Everyone starts to spend the organization’s funds more like they are their own. Do we really need office supplies? Is the travel really necessary? Are there ways we can improve cash flow by making improvements in how we sell or invoice? These questions will come naturally with the knowledge.
This is difficult to achieve if you typically share information on an as-needed basis. It requires a huge cultural shift and some change adaption but there is tremendous value you in starting to think about being open book and how it can help your company. It also means you might have to hire the right people that care to ask questions, value information sharing and can take action based on what they learn.

Are you Ready for Open Book?

November 21st, 2009

Open book companies see value in sharing the results of the business with everyone. The “financials” are reviewed, KPI’s discussed. Generally speaking everything about the business and its performance is shared with everyone. The first time I tried this I think I expected an explosion of energy and enthusiasm. Frankly, I found that most were intimidated and had little exposure to finance. I even had my administrative assistant close my door and ask when she was being let go. She figured that I was telling everyone about the results of the business to setup some sort of management plan of action. So much for instant success with this plan.
I had worked in the family business Placers, and helped role out this concept across the business. I feel that it was one of the more important elements of our culture. It was wonderful to see people in control of their own destiny like that. Why had my organization not embraced it? I went looking for answers. First off I found that people needed knowledge. Knowledge in numbers yes. But they also needed the knowledge to trust the correlation between what they did each day and the numbers. Staff did not believe that they could impact the business. That there jobs did not have the influence on the bottom line. That there job had less of an impact than I wanted! This had to change.
Why bother with all of this? Culturally led business’s rock- they outperform other companies!  And for my business “intrapreneurship” was a key way to give my staff the knowledge, confidence and information to really serve and wow their customers and help their peers. Never heard of intrapreneurial? I have a simple goal really; I want employees to have an ownership mindset in the business without the financial risk.
I have had mixed success with the concept. Yet I always stick with it. It is something I will never stop believing in. And nothing makes me more disappointed in a leader who won’t share. The reasons? I think I have heard them all. The staff will be afraid. The staff can’t handle it. The team can’t do anything about the results. Their role has no influence! Hogwash. Only if you want it that way.
Here is what I know:

  1. Staff needs to know the truth. They deserve it. If you create this environment know that if you stop sharing it can reduce trust.
  2. Some will count paperclips rather than spend. This creates an ownership mentality. All will look to spend a dollr effectively.
  3. It is confusing at first. Do we focus on top line or bottom line? You need to lead through it.
  4. Consistency is key.
  5. This gives people some say. It gives them a voice. Remember to listen.
  6. Employees want you to make money. It is ok if your business is a success.
  7. Cash flow is the hardest to grasp.
  8. Accounts receivable is a great place to begin.
  9. Knowledge is empowering. The implications on customer pricing, on resolving customer disputes, on the business are powerful.
  10. Force to staff to collaborate. A Key customer say, “don’t drill below the water line.” In business this means a little knowledge is dangerous. We still need to know the impact of our decisions.  That we are accountable for the decisions we make. Ask for help!

Thinking of rolling out open book concepts? Have your own stories to share? I have heard from so many people by email or by phone. Please feel free to post or attach your ideas!
Until the next blog, Happy Thanksgiving to all! Count your blessings. And teach others to do the same.


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