We started a new series called Grow from Within, with one basic assumption: every business has a desire to grow. As we’ve explored business growth, we’ve concluded that businesses will always look externally for growth opportunities but will rarely look internally. The goal of each article in this series is to demonstrate how an inward focus can create a sturdy foundation for business growth.
Our series includes:
- 4 Ways to Self-Evaluate your Business (read here)
- 5 Ways Core Values Grow Businesses
- How To Identify Your Ideal Customers … And Find More Just Like Them (read here)
- Your Business’ Best Kept Secret: Consistency (read here)
The focus of this article is core values, which drive a strong culture and reputation and fuel business growth. Each reader of this article falls within one of the following categories:
- We don’t have core values and I don’t know what they are
- We have core values, but they have nothing to do with our business growth
- We have core values, our team knows them, and they are guiding our business forward
For those in group three – well done! You’re in a select group of businesses who understand who you are, and you’re allowing that knowledge to propel you toward growth in your market segment. For those in groups one and two, don’t be alarmed! You are the majority, and this article was written for you. By the end of this article, you’ll be prepared to create (and follow) your business’ core values.
What Are Core Values and Why Do I Need Them?
The core values of a business define what’s most important to your company, serve as your primary navigational tool, and help you decide where to invest your limited amount of time and resources. At the most basic level, the definition of core and value are helpful:
- Core: the most important part of something that is central to its existence or character.
- Values: the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
Your core values answer one simple, yet monumental question: what characteristics of our company, if they went missing, would leave us directionless and without meaning?
When you have established what’s most important to your company, you’ll find that core values save you from falling prey to the shiny object that takes your attention away from what you do best. Maybe a customer asks if you offer a certain service or you lose one client because of a unique reason, and suddenly, you start making knee-jerk changes to how you run your business. A set of clearly defined core values keep you grounded and remind you what’s most important. As you consistently follow them, you’ll gain confidence in allowing your core values to make decisions for you.
We believe every business should establish and follow a list of core values – here’s 5 reasons why:
- They differentiate you from your competition
- They align your team
- They encourage and provide a metric for self-evaluation
- They help you make difficult decisions
- They produce market momentum
Why Aren’t Your Core Values Helping You Grow?
If you have core values written down, but don’t ever reference them and no one knows them, then the reality is you don’t have core values. While surveys show that most companies have a list of core values, only a small percentage of employees report knowing them. This means that either the employees don’t align with your core values or the core values are not consistently communicated. Either way, they aren’t being used effectively.
Another reason your core values may not be helping you grow is because they aren’t authentic. Maybe you created them when you started your company ten years ago and haven’t referenced them since. Maybe a business consultant created them for you and your team had little involvement. To be authentic, your values must align with your actions.
How you engage your community, treat your team, serve your clients, and spend your money all communicate your core values. Your values aren’t your dreams or even your aspirations – they are who you consistently are. And when you’ve hired based on these values, they are also who your team consistently is. If you’re not already doing the things you wrote down as values, you have an authenticity problem. Your core values must be true to who you are.
At M&R, we established 4 core values that guide all our decisions – they are used for hiring, are shared with every new team member at orientation, are used as part of our team reviews, determine how we treat people, how we invest our time and resources, and how we interact with our clients. They are ingrained in our culture, which is made easier by our team knowing them and seeing them in action.
Here’s a look at M&R Marketing’s core values:
- Relational: we are committed to cultivating deep, authentic relationships with our team and with our clients. The better we know each other and the more trust we have in our work together, the better the outcome will be.
- Insightful: we are committed to understanding the needs of our team, our clients, and our clients’ businesses by being attentive, caring, and others-focused.
- Innovative: we are committed to learning and exploring; this allows us to be on the cutting-edge of technology, marketing trends, and intelligent decision making.
- Passion: we are committed to being engaged, excitable, and enthusiastic for life and work. We love what we do, and we desire to improve the lives of our team and our clients through our work and attitudes.
As you plan to create your core values, be sure to carefully evaluate who should be at the table. Making these decisions 100% at the owner-level could cripple your results. When you’re selecting your team, be sure to keep it small but also well-rounded. Once you’ve created a team, setup a planning session off-campus and rid yourself of all distractions. You’ll want to select one person to serve as a moderator and walk the team through a brainstorming session focused on the DNA of your company.
After you’ve compiled your list of core values, edit them down several times so they contain tight, succinct statements. At this point, you’ll want to establish a strategy to begin sharing your core values both internally and externally.
Finally, be ready to act on them when tested. The next time you face a difficult decision, how will your core values guide that decision? Acting in accordance with your core values may be difficult in the short term, but over time, if your core values are authentic, it’ll drive business growth.
If we can help in any way, just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!