Company core values: Why your business needs them

On paper it was a good deal. Our company had a chance to create a joint venture partnership with another company in the same industry. They had developed some designs and tooling for the Italian market that would enhance our product line. We had a distribution network in the states that they couldn’t touch. Everything about it made sense. But something just didn’t seem right.

company core values

It wasn’t about the products. The money was fine. But our businesses just didn’t see eye to eye. It wasn’t about a superficial culture thing, like a city mouse, country mouse kind of thing. There was a real difference in company core values. One of our core values was building and maintaining long term partnerships with customers, dealers, and vendors. Our dealers were our friends as well as our customers, and we always treated them with respect. The other company’s core value was to make money. They valued making money so much they didn’t care what it cost them to do it. They didn’t mind driving a hard bargain, even if it meant souring a relationship.

We passed on the deal. The other company ended up partnering with a competitor. It hurt us in the short-term–we needed that product in our line! But when their relationship with our competitor went sour, even those customers who were complaining about gaps in our product line were glad that we didn’t jump at the deal.

Values define your limits. They tell you what you will say “no” to.

The most common reason we see partnerships split up, and promising new hires fail, is a mismatch in values. It’s not a failure in talent, smarts, or drive, but a disconnect in the basic beliefs (or core values) behind the drive. When we work with people who’s values match with ours we know that we are “safe”. We know that the decisions that person is going to make are most likely going to be similar to those that we would make. Similar values mean similar drives, similar decisions and similar limits. Values that match build trust.

That’s why the company I talked about earlier — the one that valued relationships and wanted to build long-term partnerships with their dealers — couldn’t partner with a company that wanted to make a quick buck by pushing overpriced products out the door. There was a mis-match in values at the most basic level. All the work that company put into building dealer relationships would be put in jeopardy by creating a partnership with a company whose single concern was the bottom line. But protecting those relationships was more valuable to them than the short-term gain that the partnership offered.

This is also true with employees. In that same company, when we hired team members we only looked for people who could express a real concern for customers. We looked for people who understood and cared about the value of long-term relationships. To find these people, we asked applicants about times they had passed up a short-term gain in favor of a customer relationship. Those who had lots of stories like that were our kind of people. If we had done that deal, our employees would have been horrified! It just wasn’t true to who we were; it would have violated our company’s core values.

Values create a tribe.

Do you want a team that’s really committed to the work they are doing? How ’bout employees who come in every day for more than a paycheck? Do you want customers who are fans and supporters — who treat you as more than a vendor? Values might be your answer.

When we demonstrate clear values we attract people who share those values. I love my Apple products, in part, because I value design. But not just design that looks good. I want well designed products that make me work better, and that’s one of the values Apple has demonstrated over and over through their product development, their marketing, and even down to the way they hire and train their “Geniuses”. They have earned my loyalty by demonstrating values that resonate with mine.

Values get you more.

That same company I talked about in the beginning developed a new product a year or two later. It was innovative, it was just what the market wanted, and it was in high demand; but it just didn’t work. Oh, it worked fine for a little while, but then the products started to fail. Not all of them, but way too many.

When the products started to fail, of course we replaced them, and raced to find a solution. As the returns mounted the dealers started to get frustrated; then they got angry! This product failure was costing them money (and damaging their reputation). We needed a solution fast. Because we had hired a team that valued customer relationships, they knew that we had to fix this quickly and they gave their all to do it! We had people working 7-day weeks — and the days were long. We had sales people working alongside our dealers to help them replace the bad units with good ones; and we didn’t have to ask anyone to do it —they did it because it was the right thing to do. Everyone in the company went the extra mile out of respect for the customer, because that was what they valued.

We survived that fiasco — in no small part because we had built long-term, strong relationships with our dealers. They knew that we had made a big mistake, but they trusted that we would commit our all to fixing it. And we did. Our team felt terrible that we had let our dealers down; but going the extra mile and fixing the problem felt great.

IF you are clear about your company core values, if you hire people based on those values, and if you reinforce those values through your company’s business practices, then your people make decisions, and “do the right thing” even when you aren’t there to enforce it. They know what “do the right thing” means without asking you, and you attract clients and customers whose values resonate with yours.

What are your company’s core values?

core values list
Photo credit: Natesh RamasamyJitabebe

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Brad: I think that rational core values for your company will create an opportunity to meet other like-(business)minded individuals.

    My mission is to spread better ideas on new media, business philosophy, and the good life! I am fighting for a second Renaissance.

    Best Premises,

    Martin

    • It’s much easier to meet like minded people when you put your values out there — the more you lead with values the more you attract your ideal client and chase away those who’s values don’t fit!

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