The Small Business Guide to Privacy & Transparency

“As a small-business person, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” – John Whittier

Transparency is vital to the success of small businesses, both with customers and employees. Defined by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as information that’s accessible, concise, and easy to understand, it’s become a key factor in just about every sector.

When there’s transparency, staff members trust their supervising executives more, feel like part of a team, and put extra effort into the work they do. They’ll be empowered to deliver their best, which is recognized as an important concept in an enterprise success. In turn, customers are more likely to respect a brand that’s honest and will stay loyal and give them continued business.

Employees will also be more open with companies that are transparent, as honesty breeds honesty. Any mistakes or failures in the workplace will be admitted to rather than concealed, which means you can deal with problems swiftly and efficiently.

Moreover, beyond making sound business sense, privacy and transparency are ethical courses of action. When used correctly, data is a force for good – improving corporate culture and customer experiences. Used incorrectly, it can lead to identity theft, fraud, and other cybercrimes, and infringe on the basic human right to privacy of personal information.

At the same time, however, it’s important to decide how much company information to share and how much to keep private. In addition, the General Data Protection Regulation functions to protect customer data privacy in an era when it is processed and analyzed to help improve business profits and performance. If companies demonstrate that they are doing this, they’ll foster customer trust and keep the flow of information free and easy.

The details must be clear and easy to understand, without overwhelming or confusing employees or clients. As a small business owner, how do you achieve this balance between transparency and privacy in a way that is beneficial to everyone involved? Some practical suggestions are listed below.

Decide on the Type and Volume of Shared Information

Small businesses often fear sharing too much information, and so withhold details that could be useful. For example, keeping all financial results private can prevent companies from sharing meaningful sales objectives.

Knowing these objectives would give employees concrete goals to work towards, make them feel like valued members of the team, and boost their morale and loyalty. Ultimately, this is better both for staff wellbeing and your organization’s bottom line.

In terms of how much detail to share it’s important to remember that transparency is not the same as clarity – and that both principles must be applied. Overly complex cookie and data privacy notices, for example, can alienate online customers so much that they stop visiting sites and making purchases.

Formulate Your Own Company Policies

Once the volume and type of shared information is established, organizations should formulate their own policies. One of the key issues with proper privacy and transparency in the digital era is that official regulations are not able to keep pace with technological developments. For this reason, it’s important for business owners to know exactly what is expected from them while also considering the particulars of their situation.

In addition, executives need to look at ethical framework guidelines given by reputable sources such as the Data Marketing Association (DMA) of the United Kingdom. Embedding privacy into the core values of a company facilitates so-called privacy by design, helping to keep virtual and physical workspaces and marketplaces safer for employees and customers.

Be Open About Your Wins and Losses

Clients and employees appreciate honesty. Small businesses don’t necessarily have the same resources to devote to staying on top of legal and other matters as large corporations do, so they’re more likely to make mistakes.

If you invest resources in a product or advertising campaign that fails to generate sales, or you make an error in the way you are implementing the GDPR in your company, resist the urge to sweep the failure under the rug. Be honest about what happened and explain how you are using the experience to learn so that you’ll manage similar situations better in the future.

Since it’s so easy for customers to create a dialogue with retailers and service providers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, this interpretation of failure as a positive opportunity for improvement has become almost mandatory. Personal responses to both negative and positive client comments also make individuals feel validated and acknowledged.

By being open about your shortcomings, whether you know about them already or discover them on your business journey, your successes will also seem more credible and laudable. Essentially, all wins and losses can foster positive feelings in staff and customers – from respect for your honesty to shared happiness when you do well.

Blog Posts Should Address Employees and Clients

Your company blog is an important way to connect with customers and expand more on issues than is possible on social media platforms, but it shouldn’t be public-facing only. Employee-oriented content that provides updates and guidance from the Chief Executive Officer and other high-ranking employees is important too. With the current physical restrictions forcing most people to work from home, this online contact is even more imperative than usual.

Blogs have replaced supervisory memos in the modern workspace. Now, they fulfill the same function that printed and physically distributed fliers used to. By addressing both your workers and the customers they serve, you’ll also increase the feeling of familiarity and goodwill between them all, which will ultimately convert into more sales and employee dedication.

Stay Transparent as You Grow

As businesses grow and develop from small to medium-sized enterprises and even large corporations, they may need to review their privacy and transparency policies. More players are involved in the decision-making processes, and this can have a direct effect on how information is disseminated.

Maintaining a sense of trust and respect with low and upper-level workers and with clients is essential, so frequent reviews of data sharing and protection are important. With more resources at your disposal, your expanding enterprise can stay on the cutting-edge of transparency.