Notebook with text inside Core Values on table with coffee

Most businesses, especially smaller ones, busy themselves with product development, marketing and sales, and operational viability. Questions of ‘How do I reach my target customers,’ ‘In what way can I cut costs,’ and ‘Can I reach budget this quarter’ are at the forefront of the minds of business owners. While these hard facets are vital, one shouldn’t make company culture and core values afterthoughts in building one’s enterprise. They should be defined and communicated from Day 1 and present in marketing collaterals from brochures to calling cards produced with a letterpress printer.

Toward a common goal

Why does your company exist? Which decision is better for growth? How should my employees and I reach our goals? These questions can be answered clearly if a company took time to brainstorm and institutionalized its core values and culture. Values are the set of guiding principles and beliefs helping individuals and teams work together in pursuit of a collective goal. Essential to creating a culture and brand, they articulate what the company considers as important. It also makes decision-making, hiring good fit employees, and communicating with stakeholders faster and easier.

A study made by Barret Values Centre showed a strong link between the financial performance of an organization and the alignment of its cultural values with employees’ values. This means the company’s bottom line would greatly benefit if its workers in all levels understand, share, and care the vision and identity driving the organization. Leaving values unspoken and subject to chance can lead to a road that can potentially derail one’s business.

Unique and simple to remember

It’s tempting to copy the core values of industry giants like Apple, Netflix, and General Motors. After all, their principles and commandments have shaped their companies into multimillion-dollar businesses, well-known to everyone around the globe. Not to mention their use of catchy and iconic phrases such as ‘think different’ and ‘people over process.’ However, a company’s values should be unique to their experience and circumstance to be effective. Putting speed over effectiveness might spell disaster to a healthcare organization than a mobile application start-up.

There’s also no use in creating the comprehensive list of values if nobody, including yourself, can remember and recite them by heart. Make use of simple words or single sentences outlined in bullet-points to make it easy for everyone to remember. Take it up a step and utilize acronyms, storytelling, and mnemonics. It is also helpful if core values are posted in conspicuous areas of the office such as the lobby, pantry and meeting rooms. Give your staff a version they can post on the walls of their cubicles.

Feeding into behavior

team brainstorming

Behavior is the concrete external manifestation of one’s internal beliefs and values. If one values integrity and accountability, these can be seen in one’s actions and decisions. The person will be truthful when mistakes happen and open to feedback. In companies, these can also be seen in their processes from product ideation to rewarding employees and dealing with customers. Organizational change can also be possible through the alignment of values at every level as shown in this 2008 research by the Australian Catholic University.

A company’s values help people identify the right action from the wrong decision, serving as the guidepost in determining if they are on the correct path in achieving goals. It would be in the best interests of businesses to invest time and resources in learning what makes them tick and motivated to get to work.