How to develop your business’ values quickly

September 23, 2016 | Roger and Susie Engelau

The notion of creating your values can get pretty conceptual for the practical-minded, time-harried business owner. I’d like to offer this step-by-step process

First, if you’re wondering whether your business should operate by a set of values or not, read my earlier post where I discuss this:  Businesses that have well-thought-out, meaningful values that truly guide the company’s actions are more profitable. 

I first want to say that this shouldn’t take long. Over coffee or on a long drive with a significant other, take an hour and think through your own values:  What gets you riled up? How do you want people to be treated? What are you often heard saying to your employees, friends, spouse or kids?

Or get your thinking started by looking at a comprehensive a list of values. Rank them high-medium-low, then rank your high’s 1-2-3. We have a good comprehensive list of values on our website in the Free Resources tab and here’s another list of 500 values.

How many values and who should have input?

You might have a list of 3 to 5 values; shoot for 5 as a maximum.

In the end, values should come from you as the owner or leader. If you have a trusted advisor or a second in command, it can’t hurt to get his or her input.  Or if you have a senior group of managers who are a strong-performing, synergized team, get their input if you’d like. The danger with input is that the list will grow so big you’ll try to be all things to all people and wind up with a list so broad and watered-down, no one in the company can derive direction from it. In the end, you’re the one who should select the final ones.

Considerations and examples

As you work through your values, remember that:

Core values are principles that guide the internal conduct and external relationships of organizations and the individuals within those organizations.

Internally, an organization’s core values form the foundation that guides decisions and behaviors.  Externally, core values expand thinking, from gaining the market leader position in your industry to becoming a major contributor to a better society.

Core values are often related to issues such as quality, service, accountability, and integrity.  Here are a few examples:

  • Community: “As contributing members to society, we will demonstrate corporate social responsibility.”
  • Accountability: “We are accountable to our customers, our partners and our community and we acknowledge and assume responsibility for our actions, products and policies.”
  • Integrity: “We serve the best interests of our customers, partners, and community through honesty, full disclosure, and respect.

Core values set the direction and expectations for employee behavior and for interactions with customers, partners, and the community. When a company is led by core values, people feel connected to and more passionate about what they’re doing. Decisions are easier. You attract people that fit within the value system.

Define your company’s culture by defining your values

Remember the Kohler commercial where the couple hands a bold, creative kitchen faucet to their architect and asks, “Can you design a house around this?”  Kohler sells toilets yet their ads say, “We believe in beautiful design.”  Kohler attracts customers that believe in beauty and bold design and they continue to be a leader in the kitchen and bath industry.

A list of words or a sentence

Your company’s values can be a list of words, a list of sentences, or summed up in a single sentence, “We believe that beautiful surroundings foster high performance,” if you’re an architectural firm, for example.

We found some good sample values statements in an article published in Inc. Magazine. We listed some favorites:

  • A company is a community, not a machine.
  • Management is service, not control.
  • Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.
  • Change equals growth, not pain.
  • Work should be fun, not toil.

Whether you have 3-5 1-word values or a values statement, as Jim Collins and Jerry Porras , co-authors of Built to Last said, “The key is not what core values an organization has but that it has core values at all.”

If you’d like a little help defining your core values, you’re invited to attend our quarterly business plan workshop. Its 1 day in a casual setting where I walk business owners and leaders through the completion of their values and other components of a business strategic and operating plan.  The workshop details…

Thur., Sept. 29, 2016, 9 – 4 pm, Hilton Garden Inn, Indianapolis Airport, 8910 Hatfield Dr  46231

($497 at the door, $347 in advance, or register before Sept 26 for $197).  You can register here.

Once you know your values, you’re on your way to being that inspiring leader who people want to follow. By leading with those principles, you inspire passion in those that follow you.