Your company’s core values are what will guide you in every decision you make. Things like hiring, firing, and the way you conduct performance reviews should all revolve around your core values.
Core values are what will shape the foundation for your company culture, so it’s important to take this process seriously.
There are far too many companies out there that create core values for the sake of creating them. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Not taking your core values seriously diminishes the importance of them and ruins it for the rest of us that are committed.
So be honest with yourself. If you’re creating core values for your company, either fix your culture to reflect your values or come up with a new set of words.
When you run a company based on your core values, you have to be in it for the long run. It’s very important that I emphasize this point, too many companies make this mistake.
There will be many important choices that you’ll have to make that might not be the best thing for you short term. I’ve experienced this in the past before, companies that only think short term will have a hard time living by their core values.
You’ll need to say no to customers, you’ll need to fire people who might be amazing, and you’ll need to stay driven.
Sticking to your core values is much easier said than done, because businesses need money to survive, so it’s hard not to think short term, but trust me it’s worth it.
If you’re able to be patient, and make a few smart sacrifices, the payoffs will be huge. Officevibe’s parent company, GSoft, has been very successful since its inception. They’re a values-based company, and only now, eight years later, are they starting to get the recognition they deserve.
Can Core Values Help Your Company Grow?
There is some evidence that core values are directly related to profits. Without looking at any data or studies, this makes sense.
Since everyone is living by the same values, the decision-making process becomes much clearer, making it easier for everyone to do good work. The Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University is conducting a multi-year long study to look at the relationship between core values and profit.
So far, they have discovered links between values-based leadership and profits, and they release new case studies often.
How To Define Values
First, let’s get a few important questions out of the way.
How many core values do I need?
There is no magic number, you can have two or 20, but it’s important that they become the guiding principles for your employees to live by. As long as you’re honest, and are willing to live by them, that’s all that counts.
Do I have to come up with my core values on day one?
No, you don’t. In fact, it might even be better to wait before defining them, since after a few years you’ll really know what type of people work there, and how the company runs. This might make the process easier for you.
Zappos, which is probably the most referenced company that gets culture right, took them years to define their core values.
Even though our core values guide us in everything we do today, we didn’t actually have any formal core values for the first six or seven years of the company’s history. – Tony Hsieh
This is the actual email that was sent out at Zappos in 2005, when they were starting the process.
Companies have core values, and we’re working on defining them explicitly for Zappos, so everyone is on the same page…
But the purpose of this email is to ask what everyone’s personal values are… please email me 4 or 5 values that you live by (or want to live by) that define who you are or who you want to be… (do not cc everyone)… Each value should be one word or at most a short phrase (but ideally one word)… Please email me the values that are significant and meaningful to you personally, not necessarily having anything to do with the company’s values…
Here are the three steps to defining your core values.
1. Include Everyone
Just like Zappos did, it’s important to ask for everyone’s input. Use an employee survey to find out what really matters to them. From there, you can find common themes that will make your core values authentic.
2. Get Ready To Live By Them
When you hire someone, even if they’re Harvard graduated and invented artificial intelligence, if they don’t fit in with your values, don’t hire them. The same goes for firing someone; you have to be ready to fire an employee if they’re not living up to the values.
3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
This is the most important tip. Every decision you make has to reflect these values, so be ready for that. Constantly repeat them to employees, remind them why they’re doing what they’re doing. At Officevibe, our values are painted on the wall, so we never forget.