What do “values” have to do with business? Everything!
This isn’t about “touchy-feely.” I see core values as a hard-nosed business practice, just like reducing costs. It’s simply a way to ensure that everyone on the team knows what is important.
As owner, you can – and should – shape your company’s culture. You can let it happen or you can make it happen.
So, what makes up a culture? All sorts of things. Fun versus serious. Honest versus dishonest. Friendly versus confrontational. Lunch with others or eat at your desk. All this and much more is the stuff of company culture.
A big part of a business’ culture centers on its values. You may not care whether your employees eat at the desk or go out, but you darn sure better care whether they are being honest with your customers.
My recommendation: Determine what principles are important to you, and then inject them into the workplace.
If you don't spell out what's important, then the implication is that either nothing is important or everything is important - trouble either way.
Here’s an example: Barry is the new guy in sales. He was put place with no orientation on what’s important to the company. He brought some bad habits, including breaking promises to customers. His manager doesn’t find out until a furious customer calls him.
But George works at a company where breaking promises to customers is unacceptable. The owners and managers “walk the talk”, setting the example for others. It’s discussed in meetings and in new employee orientations. It’s used in performance reviews and job descriptions. Do you think George shares Barry’s cavalier attitude toward commitments to customers?
This is the difference between ignoring what’s important and building a values-based culture on purpose.
Adopting a set of values is not about picking a litany of lofty goals that nobody can live up to. A company must identify those principles that the top people are passionate about and can adopt without hesitation.
What values to pick then? Each company must answer that question for itself. The answer may be found in things like the founder’s personal values and vision for the company.
Whatever values are chosen – and a handful is plenty – the company needs to really work at making them second nature for all employees. This doesn’t happen overnight. About the time you think your staff is getting tired of hearing a message, that’s about the time it’s just starting to soak in.
Here is perhaps the most powerful sign that it’s working: Your employees start enforcing the culture. When you hear one of them tell another, “That’s not how we do things around here”, you’ll know your work is paying off.
Adopting and living up to a set of guiding values can literally transform your business. Don’t assume your people know what’s important. Tell them. It’s hard work and a long process, but it will eventually have a positive impact on your bottom line.