IMPACT Stories | Agency Growth | Leadership

How We Create a Culture of True Transparency at IMPACT (& Why)

Chris Duprey

Chief Operating Officer, 10+ Years in Business Development & Leadership, Former Infantry Officer

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How We Create a Culture of True Transparency at IMPACT (& Why) Blog Feature

Published on January 12th, 2018

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IMPACT is known for its transparency within the inbound marketing community. We tell it like it is.

If HubSpot does something that doesn’t make sense, we talk about it. And after IMPACT went through a rough period back in 2015, Bob didn’t hide behind a veil of secrecy.

He started writing about it and talking about it. A lot.

We wear this level of external transparency as a badge of honor at IMPACT and when we asked folks what made us different, honesty and transparency were what we heard from you, our friends.

Our commitment to transparency, however, goes beyond how we communicate and position ourselves to the public and our partners. It's also at the core of how we function internally and how leadership communicates with the rest of our team.

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Transparency is Part of Our DNA.

When I joined the IMPACT team back in August, I was amazed at the depth of information Bob shared with the team on a daily basis, as well as how he much he sought feedback from others.

Now, to be fair, I don’t have a ton of experience with numerous organizations. After my time in the Army, I’ve worked for two incredibly different companies. One was a large international corporation and the other was a privately held company with a sole proprietor.

With that said, what Bob and the leadership team were sharing with the rest of the company was a new level of transparency for me. The fact that IMPACT was sharing their monthly revenue and discussing total costs with the entire team went far beyond what I had ever seen. .

Since I joined IMPACT, we, as a leadership team, have made a point to be even more transparent, as our organization has continued to grow and evolve.

But how do we create a culture of transparency that is productive and positive at IMPACT? And why do we do it?

That’s what I’m going to dive into now…

Personally, I’m a huge fan of starting with “why,” so that’s what I’m going to do.

Why We Are Transparent

“People need to see their future at IMPACT.” We say that a lot around here.

What that means for each person can range from compensation potential, career path diversity, and growth, to where the company is heading in the future, our overall financial health, and everything in between.

But it still goes further than that.

We not only want our team to see its futures at IMPACT, we want them to be a huge part of IMPACT’s future.

We want (and have) a team of truly incredible people who are committed to our purpose and are aligned with our core values. A team that is working to make an impact (see what I did there?) on the world, not simply get a paycheck.

One of the levers we pull to foster this type of environment is how we define transparency.

It’s not simply sharing the fun stuff or overwhelming the team with documents and meeting minutes. We share almost everything with the team, even if we are still in the idea stage. This allows us to get feedback and input, which is great for our leadership and allows our team to have a say in what we’re doing.

The only things we don’t share with the team are personal and individual salary information.

Transparency means allowing the team to fully participate in the running of the business; To have a say in decisions that are being made; To have actual context to why decisions are being made.

By arming our team with this candid information, we are bringing everyone into the decisions we make, showing them they have a future at IMPACT, and they have a say in what that future looks like.

How We Create a Culture of Transparency

So much of how we create transparency at IMPACT has to do with what we share and how.

As I wrote about a few months ago, we created position tiers and an evaluation system to help our team understand their compensation, how to increase it, and what areas of professional development we want them to focus on based on their role at IMPACT.

Simply developing the tiers isn’t that earth shattering, as I’m rather certain many companies do this. What I am proud of is what we did after we finished the beta version of the tiers.

We held a focus group made up of individuals across the organization. We educated them on what we had come up with, so we could collect their feedback and flush out any issues prior to launching the new system to the entire company.

After the focus group, we could have easily launched our new position tiers in an email -- or, more likely, Slack.

We didn’t.

Instead, Natalie, our Director of Talent, and I went to each department and pod to educate the team on this new tool. We took questions from everyone -- not just managers. We probably spent an hour or so with each team to ensure they understood not only what we rolled out, but why we did it.

Afterward, we still weren’t finished. We worked with our leaders to help them understand how to use the tool to help our folks develop.

Education vs. Notification

The next logical step for our leadership team was some form of open-book management, so everyone could have a better understanding of how the business is run from a financial standpoint.

We were really good at showing our team our revenue and our total expenses, but we hadn’t taken the plunge into pulling back the curtain… until last week.

At our last leadership team meeting, Bob and I shared our Q1 2018 plan and went deep into how the two of us manage the business, from a financial perspective. After doing this, we realized we needed to share it with the whole company.

In standard IMPACT fashion, we couldn’t simply send out our Q1 plan with an email or Slack that said something like, “Hey! Here is our financial plan. And now you know how we run the business -- have a nice day!” 

We took the time to educate our team on the plan.

Every team at IMPACT scheduled time over the last few weeks for me to come in and explain our Q1 plan.

We dove into each expense category and each revenue stream. We discussed what each person (and team) could do to help IMPACT exceed the expectations laid out in our plan. Then, I took questions from everyone and answered all of them.

Following the education portion of the rollout, we sent our plan to the team (in view-only mode), so they can track our progress throughout the quarter.

Our team now sees the same data that Bob and I use to make decisions. They know how the business is doing and they are now better equipped to understand decisions that are being made. They have a context that many who have spent their whole lives with a company never have.

Having been educated on this data and having access to it at all times, our leaders and their teams can make decisions within their decision space / department without having to seek approvals.

Leaders have ownership over their departments and how money is spent, giving them the freedom they need try new things and create internal breakthroughs.

Was This Easy? No.

A lot of time was put into ensuring our team understood and continues to understand what they are looking at. We could have simply sent them the information and called ourselves transparent, but we wouldn’t have been, at least not by IMPACT standards.

That’s because overloading your team with information isn’t being transparent; it’s a way to claim you are, without really doing the work. .

In order to achieve genuine transparency, you need to dedicate the time and resources to educating your people, so they not only understand the information, but they understand the context in which how organizational decisions are made -- and how they can be a part of it.

With true transparency, you empower your people and build trust. You’re giving them even more tools to take their career into their own hands and help make an impact not only on their future, but the organization as a whole.

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