Secrecy as a business strategy

How good is secrecy as a business strategy?

I noticed that many business owners I know are very secretive.  There are many things they can’t tell me, and other things that they won’t disclose until a later date.  Many people think that if you tell them too much, you will expose your business secrets and lose a lot.  Many people think that when you go for a business lunch or coffee that you should keep the conversation very limited and hide a lot of information. One company refused to give me any information as to how they operated and asked me to read their FAQ page which also had very little information.  So, is it good or bad to conceal information?

The Feng Shui School example

My best example of this topic is of my Feng Shui teacher.  This teacher was one of the world’s foremost experts in his field, but also a good businessman.  By the way, The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui, is a topic I love to write about, and it concerns how your building and natural (or unnatural) environment effect your health, life, and business.  This teacher told us how one of those “other” teachers gave out all of his feng shui secrets in the first two lessons, and nobody came back for the third lesson.  So, my Feng Shui teacher decided to only give out a few secrets per class, and really go into detail about his personal experiences analyzing charts of particular houses and businesses who had particular attributes that corresonded to those particular secrets or shall we say, “rules”. In any case, he devised a system where there was class one weekend per month, and you could keep coming back for two years, and then take the entire seminar series all over again to deepen your knowledge.  His school was booming.  The only flaw in his system was that my questions were not adequately answered, and the solution offered was for me to wait a year and retake the particular class I didn’t understand at great expense.  I said good bye.  This strategy of giving out secrets a little bit at a time is very culturally Chinese — fast enough for some — too slow for many.

Giving secrets as a way of developing trust

The business world revolves around trust — or the lack of it.  People give big money to those they trust, but nobody trusts a stranger or a crook.  Knowledge is hard to find, so people like to associate with those who give them knowledge.  If I want to attract a client, my strategy is to solve their problems, and then I will win them over.  People come to me with a question, and I will try to give them an answer that is much better than they expected.  Then, I invite them to email me if they have any more needs.  People love this, and then are very willing to spend money buying a place on my directory.  So, giving out precious knowledge can get you huge returns and helps build lasting relationships.

Giving out secrets helps — but, how many secrets is the right amount?

If you are too secretive, people might not trust you.  In my experience, companies that have secrets, often are hiding a lot of information. I have never had a good experience with companies or groups that systematically keep me in the dark in regards to critical information.  But, if you give out TOO MUCH valuable information to someone, they could steal your business secrets and use them against you.  In my experience, giving valuable information to others will get YOU ahead as much as it gets the recipient.  Just don’t give them any information which could result in them putting you out of business or directly competing against you.  You always have to keep some of your secrets to yourself no matter how generous you are!

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