Gary Turner at accounting software company Xero has some advice for how businesses can effectively communicate with their “ecosystem” – their investors, customers, partners, and employees. He shared his advice originally on Bdaily and we’ve reposted it here.
We’re often asked at Xero what is the secret of working well with our ecosystem and that includes our investors, not just our customers, partners and employees. The principles are pretty simple and I’d say that they apply to any company that intends to thrive and survive in today’s business world, particularly if based in any kind of service-based industry where much of the communication with that ecosystem is going to take place remotely and online.
This is the critical thing to understand: the world we are operating in is a very different one to ten or even five years ago, thanks to cloud computing, social media, mobile communications and other innovations. Companies can’t launch themselves, get investors or customers, let alone go to IPO, without the whole world knowing some – if not all – of the details. Gone are the days when a start- up could take the investors’ money and disappear into the R&D department for the next two years. Upset a customer and it’s on Twitter within minutes. A misplaced comment from an employee can have major repercussions.
But, this brave new world is a great opportunity and I think that embracing a more transparent approach to business is to any growing business’s advantage.
First, have a very open style of communication, be seen to be visible, responsive and accountable. For instance, we at Xero blog several times a week and get quite a lot of interaction from our community about each post. We also use Twitter to inform and respond to customers. This open approach does mean that someone needs to be able to jump on the case very quickly, but in this day and age, most modern businesses should be in a position to do that: gone are the days of customer service 9-5, 5 days a week, particularly with the growth of mobile apps.
Second, be transparent with your finances. Whoa!, that sounds scary, right? Well, I don’t mean sharing the company books with the whole world, but rather, using online accounting to manage and communicate your financial position in a more consistent, collaborative and controlled way. This means your financial advisors and even your investors having access to that information. Sure, I’d say that because online accounting is what we do, but we also use it within our own ecosystem.
Cloud and mobile technology means that pretty much any information – and that includes invoices, cashflow prediction, quick reports for the bank, snapshots of top debtors – can be made available securely almost anywhere, anytime and to whoever you wish.
Online communication is helping to engender a more honest and open way of working, which in the aftermath of the banking crisis of recent years, has to be applauded. Smart companies of all kinds and sizes are waking up to this and turning it to a positive part of their core brand values and business culture.