Core values - the face of your business by Dale Adamson
15 Sep 2016
Earlier this year, our firm undertook a review of our core values to ensure that they were still relevant to our business and resonated with our team.
Core values - What a lot of “fluffy waffle” you may say. We disagree and believe in ensuring that we have core values at the foundation of our business. They are the guiding principles that dictate behaviour and action within the company. Many companies focus mainly on technical competencies and often forget the underlying values which make their company run smoothly. Imagine a car salesyard where your top performer every month achieves their sales by promising the undeliverable, being downright dishonest about the vehicles and hijacking fellow team members’ sales. Although the company has a profitable bottom line, what is the effect on the company’s reputation, morale of team members and overall health and sustainability of the company?
The core values are the principles that guide an organisation’s internal and external behaviour – the glue that holds an organisation together.
Core values can not just be found as a list on the internet and adopted by your organisation as “our” core values. They need to be developed from within your organisation through consultation involving the owners, the team and considering client expectations. For example, one of the values in our accountancy practice is teamwork. – “We work in partnership with our clients towards common goals. We support each other and combine individual strengths and create a positive environment. We respond on time, we charge fairly and we respect one another’s relationships.” Here we have covered the client, the staff and the owners. Another of our values is passion, with emphasis on client relationships, by striving to exceed their expectations whilst embracing our team development.
A test as to whether a value is a true core value is whether it would still apply if you started a new business tomorrow in a different line of work. If it wouldn’t, it is just a strategy not a core value. A further test is whether it would still apply even if at some time it produced a competitive disadvantage. Core values are timeless and do not change, though they should be reviewed annually for fine tuning purposes and to ensure they still resonate with everyone This will further enforce their importance and value.
Normally an organisation would develop a maximum of 5 core values. Each value would have a one or two word heading, with a description to explain what is covered by that heading. Once you have developed them don’t just tick it off as done. A core value is only a true core value if it has an active influence and if the organisation/team manage to live by it, at least most of the time. No one is perfect.
To make this happen, we need to:
- illustrate them. Have a graphical representation of the values. Put them up on the wall or use them as screen savers on computers
- communicate them. Include on your website, terms of trade/proposals, client newsletters
- teach them. Ensure the team understand them, and use them to guide behaviour and decision making.
- integrate them. Use when recruiting new staff, in annual performance reviews, use to resolve disputes between team members and be willing to hire or fire based on core values. Align the business goals with the core values.
Core values are important as:
- they give guidelines for behaviour, which can be particularly applicable in stressful times.
- it is not hard to make decisions when you know what your core values (your non-negotiables) are.
- they show clients and potential staff in this highly competitive world that this organisation is different. “This is what we value here.”
- they are the basis for activating culture change.
Remember we leave the fingerprint of our values on everything we do. As stated by Mahatma Gandhi:
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.