Are Core Values Really That Important?

Jack’s* company used to be # 1 in the Atlanta area in his industry.  Unfortunately, that was before Jack took over.  The company founder had a vision for his company – one that he lived by.  With his vision of what could be and core values that guided his thinking, he started and built a thriving business.  Today, the business is sick and unhealthy.  The most tragic thing about the whole situation is how avoidable the current situation is.  At the root of this tragedy is an important lesson that is essential to creating lasting growth in a business.

Core values need to be shared.

The core values that guided the company founder were personally held convictions about the way business should be done.  Unfortunately, those core business values were never put on paper.  They stayed in his head and guided his actions, but they weren’t recorded and transmitted to others.  That they weren’t spelled out on paper wasn’t a problem during the early years of the business. However, as his business prospered and the number of employees grew larger, this became a handicap. Jack confessed recently that he had never really thought about it and as a result, the company has suffered recently from a lack of leadership as employees have become responsible for more and more of the operations and management of the company.

What are Core Business Values?

Businesses, like people the people who run them, are guided by a set of principles and beliefs.  For small companies it is not uncommon for those principles to simply be the extension of the business owner.  As businesses grow in size and the staff increases, the lack of a formal business values list can be a serious handicap.

A business values list is something that can and should guide the people who work with you.  As good as they may be, they aren’t mind readers.  When you have a formalized list it helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page, so to speak.  When your team members make decisions guided by the company value list, those decisions are much more likely to be in harmony with the way you would have done things had you been doing it.  In this way, a list of core business values represents leverage – the ability to transfer your guiding principles to others, efficiently.

Does a Business Values List really make a difference?

Just putting a list of values on paper doesn’t do much good if that is as far as it goes.  In order for any benefit to be realized, that list must be shared, talked about, and acted on.  The power of a core business values list comes from the guiding and shaping of decisions.  Zappos, the online clothing giant, attributes part of their success to their core business values.

For example, during the hiring process, one of the things that should be looked for in a new team member is their compatibility with the company’s core values.  Will this person be a good fit based on both your  value system and theirs?

A list of core business values represents how you do business and treat others.  The culture of your company takes shape from this list.  In order for your values to be adopted by the people you hire, they must be shared and talked about.  What are your core values of business?

*The name has been changed to protect privacy.

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