“The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.” ~E.W. Howe
Secrecy Is a Bad Policy
Abamath is the only tutoring center that uses computers instead of worksheets (yes, it is 2014 and that was a real sentence). Math worksheets are boring for students, and computer games are awesome. It is a significant competitive advantage and I spent the first month running my business scared that someone would steal the idea.
We stuttered whenever people asked what math tutoring software we were using. This hesitation to share our methods with customers was scaring them away. It took a month, but we finally figured it out: When you’re small, your competition doesn’t care about your secrets. They have their own way of doing things, and until you start taking students from them, they don’t want to change.
Honesty Empowers Your Employees
Being honest with customers is crucial, but honesty should really be your default policy. Your employees will always know what to tell customers (the truth). When your customers ask about your pricing, your employees can tell them the truth: paying rent, paying employees and providing a high quality service costs this much.
Don’t forget to be honest with your employees. The whole truth. Not just, “We’re doing this…” but “We’re doing this because…” One silver lining to losing money for the first few months is your employees can see you working your butt off and getting paid a lot less than they are. Sharing the cash flow with my employees has also empowered them to cut costs and improve the business, because they can see the problems. As the business grows, you may want to reevaluate whether to share your multi-billion dollar salary (because obviously you’ll get there in a few years). For now, show them you’re in this together, and your company will benefit.
Luke Schlangen is the founder and president of Abamath: A Better Approach to Math