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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Do You Publish Your Board Book To Your Entire Company?

Comments (32)

Over and over again people talk about transparency. Many people assert they are transparent, or are being transparent. Few actually are.

I was thinking about this last night while watching the last few episodes of Revenge: Season 2 with Amy. Suddenly the word “transparent” started being thrown around by the Grasons, referring to their new found desire to be transparent. In this case, it was simply disingenuous - they are transparent only when it suits their purposes and usually as a setup of some other nefarious act they were about to perform (or had performed).

Whenever a word makes it into a TV show like Revenge, you know that it’s lost all meaning. And, as I’ve observed in the world of tech and startups I play in, transparency is used all the time to justify something, but rarely actually supported by behavior.

In the “everything that is old is new again” category, the master of transparency, and likely the originator of “open book management“, is Jack Stack. I remember meeting Jack and hearing him talk at the very first Birthing of Giants event created by Verne Harnish in 1991. I read Jack’s book – The Great Game of Business: Unlocking the Power and Profitability of Open-Book Management – about his experience at Springfield ReManufacturing Corp - and was blown away by his thinking. My first company – Feld Technologies – was definitely not run with an open book and Jack’s ideas were very provocative to me.

Over the years, several CEOs I’ve worked with have been incredibly open book, or – if you want to use today’s lingo – transparent. My two favorites are Matt Blumberg of Return Path and Rand Fiskin of Moz. Matt shares his entire board book after the board meeting with everyone at the company (now over 400 people). He’s been doing this since the beginning, and only redacts specific compensation information and occasional legal stuff. Rand shares – well everything – including one of the best, most detailed, and completely transparent posts about a private company financing in the history of private company financings.

When an entrepreneur says he’s transparent, I now ask “do you publish your board book to your entire company?” I view this as a benchmark for transparency. If the answer is “no”, then I ask the entrepreneur what he means by “I’m transparent.” If you can’t be open with your company about the information you report to your board, how can you actually be transparent?

Revenue vs. Income

Comments (76)

Put this in the pet peeve rant category. I’m tired of “Revenue” being referred to as “Income.”

Yes – I know Quickbooks defaults to “Income.” I know it’s technically correct when referring to “Income accounts” in a company’s “Chart of Accounts.” But it’s confusing, and it baffles me.

I spent a few minutes tonight trying to figure out the origin source of this but got bored. I did find a fun explanation in the source of all truth (Wikipedia).

Income is the consumption and savings opportunity gained by an entity within a specified time frame, which is generally expressed in monetary terms.

For households and individuals, income is the sum of all the wages, salaries, profits, interests payments, rents and other forms of earnings received.

For firms, income generally refers to net-profit: what remains of revenue after expenses have been subtracted. 

I’ve decided this is a confusion being promulgated by Quickbooks. Since many first time entrepreneurs use Quickbooks before they learn basic accounting, they end up referring to “income” (instead of revenue) and “net income” as “income minus expenses.” Factually true, but confusing, especially when “net income” is often referred to by many as simply “income,” since those same people will refer to “income” as “revenue.”

Confusing? You bet. Whenever I ask “do you mean your bottom line or your revenue” I’m often surprised by which answer I get, including “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Help stop the madness. Call the thing at the top of the P&L “Revenue,” not “Income.”

Rant off.

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