Most organizations begin with a business plan and an organization chart and a lot of enthusiasm, but eventually they recognize the need for a number of additional policies and devices that define who they are and drive their progress. One of the most fundamental, and the one we cover here, is your statement of Core Values. It will be the first step in drawing up the necessary documents and plans that will help animate your ideas into company beliefs and actions. These are the communications to all associates and stakeholders explaining what your enterprise wants to accomplish, what it stands for and where you intend to direct it. These are virtues that you post on the office walls and in the company newsletter that help to create the culture and the language of success that you want all associates to embrace.
Core Values definition: Principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world, its enduring purpose.
OK, here we need to tap the brakes a little bit. Defining your company core values isn’t something you can (or should) bang out on a cocktail napkin. If yours is a small company then it’s core values may be an extension of your own personal beliefs that include your views on integrity, philanthropy, value creation and truth. If you are a non-profit organization serving the economically disadvantaged you may want to state diversity, respect and stewardship as your key identifiers. Either way some introspection will serve you well. Other tenets to consider may include: leadership, stretch, global, consistency, creativity and diligence. Typically this list will include the five or six items you feel are most important, but expanding to eight or nine isn’t unheard of.
Kevin Daum wrote for INC. magazine: “Most concede the power of core values in business. Jim Collins made a great case in Built to Last. But it’s difficult to accurately create or accept core values for your company if your own personal core values are unclear”. Many claim to understand their own values, but I maintain you don’t really know them until you have:”
- Articulated them clearly in writing.
- Tested them through daily decision-making.
Remember that these could be under inspection every day in the issues of customer service, credit and collection and employee hiring and disputes just to name a few. So take some time and be willing to accept input from others in formulating the pillars of what your company stands for.