Business core values: developing your corporate DNA
What are your business core values?
Developing business core values is essential, regardless of whether your company is a startup or an enterprise.
And when decided upon, they should be shared with customers, clients and employees. In fact, organizations like Zappos actually paste the values on every wall, so that they are always on everyone’s mind. And so far, this has worked wonderfully well for them.
Defining business core values unifies teams, keeping them on the same page, affect hiring decisions, ensuring that you bring on the best and the most suitable talent on board, and ensure that everyone collaborates more effectively, contributing to business goals.
But business values are different for every company out there, depending on the industry, brand personality, targeted audience and business vision and mission statement.
Let’s take a detailed look at what exactly are business core values, why should you develop them and how can you do so.
What are business core values?
Core values form organizational identity and culture, differentiating the company from competition. They can be treated as a set of business standards, using which the client handling, problem solving and decision making process can be determined.
But the core business values must be inspiring and be something that everyone involved can relate to.
Moreover, they must be reflected in every action and followed by everyone on board. After all, business core values are what the customers expect of your brand and you.
As an example, Starbucks business core values include the following.
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
- We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.
Keeping the above values in mind, we can always expect the staff to be warm, friendly and cooperative at every Starbucks restaurant.
Why develop your business core values?
Business core values serve as guiding principles – the foundation, in other words – that is of significant help on the journey ahead.
Whether it’s drafting a competitive strategy for the business, hiring new talent or making key business decisions, core values come in useful when determining the best approach or the way forward for your business.
The key decisions should always be based on your business core values, so as to ensure that short term and long term organizational goals are met. Whenever you take the next step ahead, pause and see if your actions reflect the core business value.
Considering Apple, one of their core values is to believe in the simple, not the complex. This is reflected in every design decision that they have ever made for all their products, be it the iPhone or Mac.
Distinction between competitors
Core values distinguish you from the competition, helping you stay ahead in the race. What’s important to you may not be important for your rivals, and the same will be reflected in the products or services that you offer.
So for instance, if you value quality, other businesses in your industry may value speed. For them, closing the sales process quickly is more important even if rushing the order means comprising on the quality.
But for you, it would be vice versa. You’d ensure that the quality is topnotch even it means a delay. Thus, you set yourself apart from competition, which is automatically reflected in your customer service and other business domains.
Core values help in branding your business. Whatever you value will affect what people think of your business and how they align yourself to the brand.
Clearly defined business core values that are adopted top to bottom throughout your business attract your target audience, compelling them to associate themselves with your brand and follow the same rules.
Think about the perception that you want your target audience to have of your business, the kind of people that you want to work with, and accordingly, define the most relevant core business values.
Core values don’t only attract your potential customers, but also potential employees.
If your values and their values are similar, they are likely to deliver greater performance, have higher motivation levels and easier to retain.
When bringing talent on board, the values would probably not be mentioned on the resumes, but you can still figure them out by asking specific questions during the interviews.
Creating Core Values
Determining your business core values isn’t an overnight process. Your values form the culture and the shape your company’s future, so think over them carefully before finalizing them.
What is important for you? What is important for your business? How do you want your brand to be perceived?
What makes you different? How do you offer greater value than competitors and set yourself apart?
Gather all these answers, and then determine your business core values.
Determining the ‘business core value drafting’ team
What is the size of your business? Accordingly, you would be determining the team that would sit down and define your business core values. So for instance, if your team is small and you have limited employees, you would want to involve all of them.
But if you’re a bigger company with a larger footprint, you’d only be reaching out to top line managers for drafting core values. Whatever the team you choose to work with, they should be committed to determining, drafting and implementing the business core values.
In the process, they’ll have to brainstorm ideas, demonstrate the traits themselves and develop consensus on the fact that the chosen values will ensure business success in the years to come.
Great, so you have the team together now. Time to sit down, think and think really hard about what matters the most. Obviously, the values won’t start coming right away until you spend some time over them and gather ideas.
When enough of these have been collected, everyone in the team can discuss them together beginning with what’s important to you as an individual.
For instance, you would want to trust other employees, and expect each of them to represent the company appropriately when dealing with clients. For both these cases, the set of business core values should include trust and responsibility.
You can them pitch in ideas for what would make a great team and ensure higher productivity and collaboration levels. For instance, clear communication is a vital characteristic of every successful team.
So think together as a team, and let the ideas flow, identifying concurrent themes and whatever is most important as an individual, as a team and for the company.
Understanding what sets you apart
Business core values guide how your team and company think and behave. In fact, they are basis of your business decisions and relationships.
Even when you haven’t defined them, they would still be reflected in every aspect of your business, whether its sales, marketing or operations. So identify and delineate any values that you may already have unknowingly defined and hold onto.
Reviewing the business plan
If you have already created a business plan, you should go through this before you begin finalizing the core values.
What roadmap or path have you developed for your business for the next 3, 5 or 10 years?
When defining business core values, be sure to incorporate the goals that you have already laid out.
Consolidating the ideas and defining the values
This step would probably take longer than other steps of the process. Once you have everyone’s ideas on paper, combine the similar ones and narrow the list down. For every idea that you choose, select a resulting value that embodies the same message.
Assume your team and employees feel that they can and should make quick decisions without being supervised, but act in the best interests of the company when doing.
They also understand their individual actions and the manner in which they handle clients vastly impacts the success of your business. In such a case, ownership mentality could be an appropriate value, which you can then define through a meaningful phrase or sentence.
Framing the values according to organizational culture
What is the culture of your company? Is it formal, relaxed or targeted towards having some fun at work?
Whatever you perceive of your business isn’t the answer to this question. Instead, you should thoroughly assess the current position of your company and the impression that it has on your targeted audience, clients and customers.
Evaluate whatever people think of your company internally and externally. It is extremely vital to frame a leader's personal values to a successful brand.
You can figure out your cultural identity by identifying and interviewing clients, employees and leadership team through online surveys or focus groups. The team that you created as part of an earlier step can help you with conducting these sessions.
Once you figure out, you would have to use a suitable language that reflects your business culture for framing the values. Business core values should be relatable and inspiring, something that your potential and current employees want to be associated with and can easily adapt to.
Assume that your organizational culture is fun and relaxed, and your employees desire flexibility and agility.
In such a case, instead of imply using these two words, you can phrase the business core value as Going along with the flowor Rolling with the on-goings.
Both these phrases are informal, and so aren’t intimidating, which makes it easier for the team to incorporate them during their daily tasks and jobs.
As example, your values can also be stated in a simple and clear language such as SalesForce.
Their core values include trust, growth, innovation, customer success and transparency among others.
When finalizing the values there are a couple of things that you should know.
- Values are associated with cost, which you should be aware of before you formulate and formalize them into a statement.
- Values are based on a purpose, and must be meaningful for the employees, the customers and the company.
- Values must be followed by an action, which you must plan carefully to avoid potential problems.
Evaluating the business core values as a set
By now, you should have framed and drafted your chosen set of business core values. Consider them together, and evaluate them as a group.
Do they encompass the vision and mission statement of your business? Will they easily and willingly be adapted by your employees?
And most importantly, will they push and inspire your team to deliver their very best and ensure that your company emerges as successful in the long run?
So review whatever you’ve written down, before you share them with the rest of your employees.
Incorporating the business core values
Your newly defined business core values are meaningless unless you integrate them into all your processes through a proper strategy.
When recruiting and hiring new employees, discuss the applicants’ values during the interviews and see if they are alongside with your business core values.
For employees whom you already have on board, you must have already communicated some of these values when working with them even if they weren’t formally written anywhere. Reinstate and reiterate these until each and every team member knows them by heart.
What to keep in mind
- Examine your mission statement as part of the brainstorming step, and derive values from company’s basic purpose. Even if they aren’t actionable, it doesn’t matter – in essence, values are sentiments and feelings, and so are subjective.
- Involve business owners, the c-level suite and key decision makers when drafting core values.
- Avoid generic terms such as commitment and quality. The best core values don’t just encompass four to five words, but also explain what each of them means to the business. They must be detailed enough and feature headings so that they are rememberable.
- Ensure visibility and keep all values at a place where they be viewed and reviewed on a daily basis. Post them on the walls, share them on social media and emphasize upon them during team meetings. Don’t just keep them buried in the employee handbook so that they lay forgotten.
- Enforcing core values can be tricky, so you’ll have to lead and set an example. Ensure that the all leaders and managers adhere to the values, and follow them throughout. This will encourage employees to do the same.
- Note down team members that actualize your core values, and reward them in some way. Share this with others as well to encourage a greater number of employees to follow your business values.
- Revisit the values regularly, and see if they need to be redefined.
Which business core values are worth considering?
While you can simple choose any business value that you like, here are some of our favorite ones.
- Passion:Passion ensures a more productive workplace where quality is focused upon and conflicts are rare. Companies that include passion as a core value are Coca Cola, Zappos and Rackspace.
- Creativity or Innovation: Innovation will always be the biggest competitive advantage that your business can ever have. Add this to your value as well to encourage employees to share new and creative ideas that are powerful enough to create a spur in the industry.
- Transparency: Transparency is a valuable attribute for employees and customers, and some companies have taken drastic steps to show that they are completely transparent in whatever they do. For instance, Buffer, a popular social media platform is so transparent that they publish salaries of all employees. Similarly, Chipotlesets itself apart by providing detailed information on all the ingredients.
- Excellent customer service: Customer service makes or breaks businesses, and so should always be a priority. Whole Foods, Zappos and American Express have all defined customer service among their values.
- Integrity: Integrity is a valuable trait, and must be emphasized upon. Encourage your employees to always act honestly and never deviate away or comprise the truth.
- Accountability: Assuming responsibility for anything, be it products, actions or policies delivers improved results. Individuals are accountable, but then so are the teams and the company as a whole.
- Commitment: Commitment to something like a great product or service strengthens relationships internally and externally within the business.
Should you revisit the defined business core values regularly ?
Business core values aren’t static and evolve with time as your business goals and strategies change.
So even after they have been incorporated, you should review them continuously, and redefine them whenever the need arises. For instance, you may want to combine two values together, break down a single value into two values or even add/remove other values.
Even when redefining your list of core values, think abbot the company culture once again, and then come to a decision.
What values are the most important for your business?
Let us know in the comments below!