Why It’s Important to Determine What Core Values Will Define Your Business Now & Into the Future

As business owners and individuals, we all have core values that define us and shape what we believe, what we decide to do, and the actions we take. As individuals. As persons. In other words, it’s often easy to determine and follow the core values we believe in and can consistently engage in, as a singular human being. And while good leaders undoubtedly blend our own personal core values into the way we set up and run our business, is that enough? Does a business or organization need its own core values too?

Yes! Yes, that is, if our business is truly to be a business that lives, breathes, and thrives on its own and isn’t just a hobby or money-making venture. 

If that’s the case, then our business or organization does indeed also need its individual identity, its individual personality, and thus, its own core values.

Business core values are defined as, “Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what the company values.  They are the essence of the company’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many companies focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their companies run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the company.” (7geese.com[1])

Some of the advantages of setting and following strong, clear, and consistent core values for your business or organization include:

  • They can help guide your company’s decisions both internally and with your customers
  • They enable your clients, customers, and potential ones to know what to expect from your company or organization
  • The identify of your company – what it cares about, believes in, and stands behind – is easy for customers to identify
  • Recruiting new team members that support and exhibit your core values is easier because candidates will be clearer on what you stand for and whether those things are attractive to them
  • Likewise, retaining “strong” team members that make valued contributions also becomes simpler because you will be “on the same page” from the beginning

However, despite the importance and vitality of having solid core values for your business — and the advantages that parlays into overall company or organizational success — determining core values that truly mean something tangible, shaping the organizational culture and behavior, and that can stand the test of time, can be challenging.

Perhaps one of the most important things we as business owners can remember or keep in mind when setting core values, is that “good” core values can sometimes be rather uncomfortable to uphold.

According to Harvard Business Review, “An organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.” (hbr.org[2])

Here are some of the things they suggest should be considered when crafting “successful” core values or value statements:

  • Consider core values the company’s “cultural cornerstones”
  • Understand that they should reflect the values of the company’s founders but should also incorporate the personality and distinctiveness of the company itself
  • Be aware that the best core values will have influence from all managers, employees, and even customers
  • Know that core values chosen should be aggressively authentic
  • Decide that they should be woven into every bit of the company’s policies and practices
  • Keep in mind that they can and even should be fluid—changing over time as the company or organization breathes and grows into its unique being
  • Realize they can never, ever, be compromised for any reason—either for convenience or short-term gain

[1] https://7geese.com/benefits-of-having-core-values-and-how-to-set-them-in-your-organization/#:~:text=Core%20values%20are%20what%20support,beliefs%20or%20philosophy%20of%20values.&text=Core%20values%20educate%20clients%20and,the%20identity%20of%20the%20company.

[2]  https://hbr.org/2002/07/make-your-values-mean-something