How Transparent Is Too Transparent?

After losing the company's most important client, a founder explains how he broke the bad news to his team -- and what happened next.

learn more about Joe Keohane

By Joe Keohane


Introducing our new podcast, Problem Solvers with Jason Feifer, which features business owners and CEOs who went through a crippling business problem and came out the other side happy, wealthy, and growing. Feifer, Entrepreneur's editor in chief, spotlights these stories so other business can avoid the same hardships. Listen below or click here to read more shownotes.

Beck Besecker believes in transparency.

In fact, he calls Marxent, the technology company he co-founded with his brother, "aggressively transparent." Everyone can talk to everyone else. Everyone has a voice. Everyone has access to management. Most important, everyone is trusted. There's an assumption that the employees of Marxent are professional, responsible, mature adults and thus they're completely capable of taking bad news and rolling with it.

Related: Why This Entrepreneur Broke Up With His Biggest Client

That is, until the news got really bad. Marxent lost a client. But not just any client. A "massively important" client, Besecker says. "Like, the future of our company important."

And when Besecker got this very bad news, he had to ask himself, how much do I value transparency? How much do I trust my employees to take what could be very, very bad news, without quitting or freaking out?

He had a lot of sleepless nights, and read a lot of books, did a lot of soul searching. He reached out to peers.

"I asked a lot of seasoned managers for advice -- we've got a great network of advisers -- and most of the advice was to delay the conversation," he says. "But this was such an extreme situation where I just didn't have a choice. I was going to have to share. And I truthfully, I was scared to death. I had no idea what the outcome would be."

Related: This Entrepreneur Said Yes Too Many Times. Then He Learned to Say No

So he ignored the people who told him to hold back the truth, or spin, and he leveled with everyone. He told them everything. And what he discovered -- about his staff, about himself and about the nature of business -- shocked him and, perhaps more important, led Marxent to even greater heights.

Hear more about it, on this week's episode of Problem Solvers hosted by executive editor Joe Keohane. Or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Joe Keohane

Entrepreneur Staff

Author of the book "The Power of Strangers"

Joe Keohane is the author of the book The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World. He is a journalist based in New York, and was formerly the executive editor of Entrepreneur magazine.

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