Once upon a time, I remember reading in a book that it was important for every business to have a set of corporate values. Eager to “do the right thing”, I hurriedly got to work, opening up a Canva doc and listing out what embodied us at the time:
I saved my creation as a high-res file, sent it to the printers, and stuck it on our gym wall.
Shortly after installation, I realised that the words on the wall didn’t mean jack-shit in the real world. It had no material impact on who we were, what we did, or how we did it.
So we eventually binned it… and with it, the idea of company values was something I disregarded as corporate fluffy bullshit.
But that was a mistake.
Because here I am, at 8:00 pm on a Tuesday, writing out my company’s values.
And I’ll do it again when I get up tomorrow morning.
And then again tomorrow evening.
And on and on I’ll go until I document, what we should have documented, all those years ago.
And you know what’s funny?
Not much would have changed between now and then.
So why the change of heart, you might ask?
Well, I’ve had to eat humble pie.
Values are far more than wall art and can mean so much more than something you pay lip service to.
Because what I never understood about company values (and that the books failed to tell me) is how they affect the two things in your business that will eventually kill you if you fail to get them right:
Let me explain:
For most of us, our business is an amplification of our own personal values and ambition. It’s the vehicle that we use to “act on the world.”
Those that value money will gravitate to a business (and business opportunities) that can scale to the moon.
Those that value belonging will build a business that cherishes connection.
Those that value status will build a business that can be held in high regard and esteem.
What we value personally determines, for many, what the business optimises for.
In simpler terms… your values dictate your business model.
It sounds so simple typing this out.
Like, I’m smacking my head, going “duh’’…
It’s almost embarrassing that I’ve gotten seven years in business, having achieved what many people aspire to and look up to as pioneering, yet, I don’t even have my values clearly outlined… anywhere.
And I’m completely responsible for that misstep, but that’s a story for another email.
Then, of course, there is how values affect the team.
If values help determine how the model functions, it also determines how the team functions (because the team is responsible for acting out the model).
Without a rock-solid set of company values clearly defined by leadership, you risk building an organisation that is a conglomerate of everyone’s values…
A corporate value ‘soup’, so to speak.
Some values align…
And it’s those that don’t that will typically get you into trouble.
But take heed before you get out your notepad and start writing down words like integrity, community and stuff like that…
To do this right, you need to take the extra step and ask yourself the question:
“What does this value mean if it’s acted out?”
That question has all the meat on it, and the answers to that question don’t so easily ‘fit on a wall’ or a ‘corporate plaque’… which is why it’s so easily missed.
It is, by far, the most important.
Take from that what you will.
– Karl Goodman