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Guide to Creating Company Values & Culture

Guide to Creating Company Values & Culture

Ask any business owner what their cost of goods are, or their comp sales and they can probably rattle off numbers. Ask about their core values and company culture, they might not answer so quickly. Although vitally important to the success of any business, core values are tough to measure in a tangible way. 

That's why some leaders and company executives don't make it a focal point of their day-to-day operations or areas of development. Most don't have training policies or procedures on company values & culture when in reality it should be the foundational training and integrated into every aspect of your company from product sales to vendor acquisition.

Before you write your business plan or do your projections, your core values should be so ingrained in your plans you can easily explain it without notes. Core values are the lifeblood, fuel and heart of company culture, says Brad Rencher, CEO of BambooHR. Without them, it's virtually impossible to maintain a consistent, healthy culture, especially as the organization or company scales and brings on new people. 

What Are Core Values?
A core value is what is most important to you both personally and in your business. It defines the very essence of your company and it's the binding agent to your ultimate customer. Think about drawing a line in the sand. If anyone crosses that value line, it leaves us with an unpleasant feeling and maybe even feeling violated. If honesty is something that you strongly believe in and won't tolerate dishonesty from yourself or from others, being honest in all of your business transactions regardless of the outcome should be a value. If treating others with respect is a sacred value, your work culture and your customer service policy should reflect that. This is where a little self-discovery is needed. 

Tina M. Wolfe 2021 McDowell Chamber of Commerce
This is a good exercise to do with your leadership team. You'll want to answer questions such as: 

  1. What gifts do I have to share with the world? Think about what you are really good at and what comes effortlessly to you. 
  2. If money were no object, how would I chose to spend my time? Once you get past daydreaming of all the beach vacations, you'll get closer to your natural gifts. What type of meaningful work would satisfy your passions. 
  3. What are the things that I value most in my life? One of the quickest ways to become unhappy or stuck is to consistently live out of alignment with your values. If you value your health and wellness but consistency over-schedule yourself and say yes to every request, you are creating an internal conflict. You may not recognize it as such, you'll be tired, burnt out, irritated. 
  4. What is my purpose in life? Heavy question and a difficult one to answer but key to success. Take some time on this one. Pay attention to how you greet each day or drive into work. Are you energized, ready to follow a vision or do you feel like you are just getting through another work day? 
  5. What are my tendencies in times of difficulty and struggle? This is perhaps the most important work to do as it reveals our pressure gap. In her book, The Elegant Pivot, executive coach Lynn Carnes explains this as the ability to perform a skill at a low level of pressure compared to the ability to perform that same skill at high levels of pressure. It's well and good to focus on positive things, but as we know, owning a business and life in general provides plenty of high pressure situations with which we must deal. Understanding how you are at your lowest will give you massive power to overcome and grow. 

Why Core Values Are Important
Knowing your core values gives you a compass for your business and the work you want to accomplish. Like a compass, knowing and honoring your core values directs or guides your decision-making process to better align with who you are as a person and organization. It also helps your customer and your employees understand who you are as a business. 

Your core values will help you create relational capital for your company and customers and employees see a consistency in your operations. This builds trust and in turn builds loyalty. 

Tina M. Wolfe 2021 McDowell Chamber of Commerce
Core Values Exercise

Working with Bill Petterson of Mission Traction, the chamber leadership team went through this exercise of identifying the organization's core values and what would drive and direct the work and programs of the chamber. We felt this to be vital to help us as a team move forward, grow, stay focused, and make an impact. Try it with your team. 

Step 1: 
Have your team write down words that each feel is an important value to them as an individual and to the company. Also, take stock of the current culture and identify the key elements of your organization, both positive and negative, as well as elements you feel are missing. When your team is personally invested in this exercise, it creates a sense of trust and professional buy-in from them. 

Step 2: 
You and your leadership will now take that list and whittle it down to around 5-7 words. If you have words that could mean the same thing such as prudent and sagacious or discerning, just chose one. The goal is have at least five core values. 

Some coaches will recommend you chose a number "one" core value, but in my experience, I don't think that's necessary. The Chamber for example chose the following core values to guide all of our actions and decisions: 
  • Genuine
  • Impactful
  • Passionate
  • Trustworthy
  • Prudent
Once you have your core values you'll want to do an assessment of how the company is performing in living out those core values. This exercise is part of creating a company culture that reflects your passion and energizes your staff about the work you do everyday. 

Core Values Inform Culture

Have each team member write down all the aspects of your organization's culture that you would like to keep, enhance, and further develop. Share and discuss as a group. These questions from BambooHR may help guide your thoughts and discussion.
  • What do people like most about working for your organization? 
  • What do you highlight about your organization when recruiting someone new? 
  • What pieces of your organizational culture help you succeed?
Leave Behind
Have your team write down all the aspects of your organization that they would like to eliminate, leave behind, or are no longer serving the company or the customer. Post that list on a white board and discuss. You might find that some need to stay but adjustments are needed. 
  • What are common causes of frustration at your organization?
  • What makes you not want to go to work in the morning? 
  • Why do people leave your organization? 
Using your identified core values, have each team member write down aspects that would better reflect your organizations new core values. How can these values be implemented in policy, practices, and procedures that, if adopted, would make your company's culture even better. These are some questions to consider. 
  • What are the elements of your ideal organizational culture that reflect our values?
  • What crucial aspects are missing from your organization's culture? 
  • What would make your organization a more enjoyable place to work for and work with? 

Taking the time to do this work will set you and your business up for more success. Operating in full alignment with what matters most to you as an organization will ignite, once again, the spark of passion you had when you started your business. 
Tina M. Wolfe 2021 McDowell Chamber of Commerce

This process may reveal that changes are needed. If you’re looking to make a shift and need some guidance, chamber members Entrepreneurial Operating Systems-Mission Traction and Action Coach with Bill Gilliland can help guide you through the process. 

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