In a local business meeting this week I was struck by how little is understood of core values in different businesses. In today's entrepreneurial landscape there is a tradition and temptation to want to partner with just about anyone that can help increase the number of potential customers in the top of your sales funnel. The temptation is easy to understand. Potential customers at the top of the funnel increase your chances of profit at the bottom of the funnel. This can sound very attractive if you are just starting out, trying to launch a new business line, or if you are the leader is a subsequent generation and you are trying to make a name for yourself.
Company Core Values Matter for the Startup Business
The temptation to partner with anyone seems especially attractive to those that are just starting out. We see it all the time in their marketing approach, the broad solutions and the large net they cast for partners. However, this is perhaps the most critical time for the leader to understand the company core values. These values are what determines which customer you will pursue, how you will communicate with them, what value you will bring, what partnerships you will create and what activities you undertake. Without a clear understanding of what your company stands for, you have the potential commit to processes and results that aren't simply a distraction - they can be detrimental.
Company Core Values Matter for The Second Generational Leader (or Third, or Fourth...)
First off, my heart hurts for any second generation leader. Whomever takes over for the founder and patriarch of a company has two substantial challenges. Their first challenge is that they simply aren't the founder - this means they act, think, lead, decide, and communicate differently. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that they have a different set of core values. The second challenge for this leader is that they now have to outperform their predecessor to gain the respect and trust of the staff - this means there is a huge temptation to deviate from core values.
As this second generational leader is trying not to be the 'fall guy' in an established organization, they are pressured to prove themselves. This pressure often leads to compromise on the company core values. As the core values are compromised, the opportunity to grow the company faster than the previous path increases, but the changes of long term sustained growth is compromised. Those that have been in the company a long time and the lifelong customers notice these changes immediately and they start to withdraw - weakening the company in the long term.
Company Core Values Matter for the Customer
We don't talk about this much, but the customer is the primary beneficiary of our core values. They receive a level of service, quality, and experience directly related to what we value as a company. As we introduce ambiguity with respect to these core values, we start to see customer loyalty wain. As these customers find other solutions, we are then pressured to work harder to retain those that will stay and find new customers to sustain our business. It would have been to stick to our values in the first place.
The Judges Era Demonstrates the Importance of Company Core Values
As I read the book of Judges, I see the parallels from these historic times with the challenges of businesses trying to establish themselves, grow, or reengage with second generational leaders. As I was reading the following passage hit me as a demonstration of this very real challenge today:
“All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.” (Judges 2:10–13, NASB95)
From this passage we can see that our understanding of core values must be passed from generation to generation. In addition, if we are just starting out, we should be seeking the wisdom of others to help us sort out a set of company core values. These core values are what keep us grounded in doing the work the God has asked for us to do in His business.
4 Steps to Establish Company Core Values
These core values are so essential, they should be the first task you take on as you are establishing a new business. In addition, these should be revisited as you transition any leader into a new position. These core values will govern how you act (if you have an accountable organization) and they will provide you a standard against which you can make decisions. Therefore, I might suggest you undertake the following:
- Ask God what He values for His business that He has gifted you.
- Based on the solution you are providing, determine the experience you would like if you were a customer.
- Work in a team to settle on a list that can be easily understood and hold one another accountable.
- Integrate your core values into your company's decision making process.
If you understand the risk of compromising on your core values and have an organization of integrity and accountability, you will see results. These results include customer loyalty, employee commitment, and reduced stress. By having a set of values that are easily understood, you continue to develop your company's culture and have a standard for evaluating your own progress and those on your team. Imagine the massive impact you could have on your community if you simply stood for godly values and followed through - you could change the world.