I try to be as transparent as humanly possible on this blog. I feel like my advice is that much more authentic if I’m talking about specific and real experiences from my life and business rather than hypothetical. The most I usually do is change some personal details so customers don’t recognize themselves if they should happen to read my blog.
But, as much as I try to share, I’ve noticed that there is stuff I don’t talk about. Sometimes it’s a really good idea that’s working for us that maybe I’m not willing to share. Sometimes it’s a particularly good deal I’m getting or a really clever thing I’ve set up that I don’t want everyone using. Sometimes, plain and simple, it’s because I don’t want anyone stealing my idea.
There’s always been the idea of “trade secrets.” My husband loves the show How It’s Made but nearly every episode has a part when the factory won’t let them film part of the manufacturing process because it’s their special ingredient or twist on it and they don’t want their competitors to steal it. There are very literal trade secrets, your wholesale Nike shoe supplier, for instance, where it would be a major crisis if your competitor discovered it. But when we’re talking about ideas, especially about how to sell, how to treat customers, blogging and social networking tips, can those really be stolen?
Put another way, am I your competitor just because I’m also selling things? If I teach you my strategies for doing x, couldn’t you, in theory, turn around and use to to steal some of my business? Is there a limit on how transparent we should be with our blog posts and tweets?
My gut reaction is no. You may not sell something even remotely similar to what I sell. Even if we are in the same niche, at part of me feels that there’s room for everyone. But, no matter how I try to stop myself, I still hold some things back. Is this just paranoia or good business practice?
What do you think? Do you appreciate when others are transparent about running their business? Do you do the same?