A lot goes into starting a new business; from hours of research to understand your market to collecting all the resources, both human and capital, necessary. One thing that should not be neglected in the process is writing your core values.
Core values are what define your business and the direction it will take, whether your business is small or big. These are just some of the reasons why you need core values.
- They communicate to customers and other stakeholders (such as potential hires) what the company does and why it is important.
- They set you apart from other companies and help differentiate you from your competition.
- They guide the company in making decisions and in times of change. Sometimes if a decision goes against one of the core values, it is an indication that it is the wrong one to make.
- Core values help in shaping the culture of the business.
Companies with the strongest core values invest time into the process of crafting them. Doing it any other way might leave you with values that do not communicate or worse, sound inauthentic.
Your public and stakeholders will hold your new business up to these values so writing them should be treated as a priority. Here’s how to write core values for your new business:
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who established company values 5 years after Zappos started, has stated that he wished he had put them in place from day one. It really is never too early to start thinking about the core values for your new business.
Having them from the start will help you look out for employees who can help your company live up to them and will help you build a winning company culture. It will also guide your decisions and help you start your business off on the right foot instead of trying to back track and course correct in the future.
When writing core values for a new business, take some time to ask yourself some questions.
- What is most important to you?
- Why did you create the business?
- How will you measure success?
- How do you want your customers and employees to feel?
- What challenges do your customers face?
The answers to questions such as these will inform what your core values will be. Don’t rush the process, coming up with a list of core values that truly represent your company might take some time and some tries.
Get some help/brainstorm
Sometimes it helps to have more than one voice in the room when you are coming up with core values for a new business. If you already have partners or potential customers, get their input. After all, the values need to communicate to these people.
Knowing what they think can give you some insight as you write your company values. You need not implement all their thoughts but the collaborative process can only help you arrive at values that are truly representative of your business.
If the business already has employees, getting their input through the process of writing the core values can be helpful in getting them to live by these values once you put them in place.
Remain hands on
As the owner of the business, you might opt to hire a team to write the core values for you so that you can focus on the other aspects necessary to keep your business running. Unless you intend to remain hands on throughout the process, this can be risky.
The process of getting the right values for your company might go through some iterations that require your input at each stage. Your involvement will ensure that you wind up with values that you truly believe in.
Think about people
All businesses are about people; the people who consume your product or use your service, the people who work to make your product or service, the people who are secondary beneficiaries and those who are indirectly affected by your business. Having these people in mind and not just your business objectives will guide in your writing core values that work.
Make them unique
It is common to find that several companies have core values like integrity, team work, accountability and customer service. But as the CEO of Airbnb Brian Cheesky explained, “There have to be like three, five, six things that are unique to you.”
Take it a step further and use your value statements to show who you truly are as a company. For instance, this is how Starbucks interprets Integrity: “Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.” Or Virgin Airlines’ take on Team work “Together we make the difference.”
Unique or creative values will not only communicate, they will be memorable.
Keep it simple
At the same time, unique doesn’t mean verbose or complex. Coca cola communicates Quality this way: “What we do, we do it well.”
This simply worded core value not only tells employees that quality is important but it also signals to consumers that it is a priority.
It is also best to have just a few core values so employees can recall them with ease.
Once you have a list core values that you are satisfied with, the final step is to roll them out to your team. As they will drive company culture, taking the time to explain the process and how each of the values you settled on ties into your work will be invaluable for buy in.
The next people to share them with are your customers. If your business is small, you can go straight to sharing them with your public and other stakeholders.
The process of writing core values for a new business is both personal and collaborative. It should take into account both who the business is and what it aims to achieve. New business owners should remember that having no core values is like letting your business walk around with no direction.