A values based business succeeds when there is both a company-wide effort and an individual focus, top, down, and across, on the declared foundational values of a company. It’s not a slogan on a wall, or a list of “here’s who we are” that’s covered at the annual kick-off meeting (and not mentioned again during the year). A values based business is one that establishes a core set of values that represent who the company is, guides how it conducts its business, and acts as the check and balance on behavior, decisions, hiring & firing, and training & development. Implemented correctly, it leads to a cohesive workforce that operates with transparency and trust, is proactive, has greater loyalty, and increased productivity.
Elements of a Values Based Business:
1. What do we stand for?
Selecting the foundational values of the company is crucial. For some, it’s putting into words what happens at their business each day. For others, it is a soul-searching process of defining the core values of what the company stands for and what they want to be known for. Either way, formalizing a list of values puts a framework around all aspects of a business, to guide rewards/hiring/firing, employee development, customer service decisions, and whom to bring on or keep as clients.
Major categories of values, Functional > Emotional > Life Changing > Social Impact, and the elements that make up each layer within the pyramid, can be found on www.bain.com. For example, within Functional, your company might choose “Reduces Risk” or “Quality” as a component of your values-based business and tailor your core values from there.
1 – What do we value? What do we stand for? What is non-negotiable?
2 – What do we do to support those values? (That’s what you keep or enhance.)
3 – What does NOT support those values? (That’s what you discontinue, or adjust to reflect the values.)
4 – How do we ensure we keep them in the forefront, as the guiding light, every day? (Training, reminders in weekly meetings, or recognition for exemplifying values in daily tasks.)
5 – Do our customers or clients reflect our chosen values?
6 – What is the evaluation system for keeping our business in line with the values?
7 – What are the rewards and penalties for acting in line with, or against, the values?
2. Do your best
Belief and trust in leadership gives each member of the organization the self-confidence to make strong decisions on behalf of the company. Trust starts with leading by example. It is fostered by visible and verbal examples that embody the values, in internal meetings, training, discussions, and decisions, and when interacting with clients and customers.
An LRN HOW report found that high-trust environments foster employees who are 22 times more likely to be willing to take risks that could benefit the company. Also, employees who work at a high-trust organization are 8 times more likely to report higher levels of innovation compared to their competition. Plus, at a high-trust culture, employees are 6 times more likely to show elevated levels of financial performance compared to their competition.
1 – Are our values woven into every aspect of our company?
2 – Are we, as a company, daily checking our decisions against our stated values, and holding ourselves accountable?
3 – Am I, as an employee, using self-honesty in measuring my individual behaviors and decisions?
4 – Have we consistently matched up words and actions to our principles? Look at both internal aspects (across employee groups, within the leadership ranks) and external aspects (customers, clients, vendors, partners).
3. Do the right thing
Globalization and social media continue to expand levels of being connected, within businesses and across employees, communities, and society in general. What a company does, and how it conducts business, is more and more transparent beyond company walls. According to an Ethics Study referenced on employee engagement by LRN, more than 90% of U.S. workers say it is “critically important” for them to work for an ethical company. Clients and customers will do business with companies who are aligned with their own principles.
1 – What actions transcend our company walls? Is the impact positive or negative?
2 – Are we proud of our reputation?
3 – Does our reputation reflect our values and principles?
4 – What is our social impact? How can we positively impact our immediate community, or our industry at large?
Final Thoughts on Building a Values Based Business
Choosing to be a values based business, is truly that. A choice. It is a conscious, pro-active approach to managing and running a successful company. Greater opportunities, both internal and external, await a values based business.
Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property Law, Litigation, and Transactions law firm located in Dallas, Texas. The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution. The firm publishes the following blogs: Intellectual Property Law, Conversations with Innovators (interviews with thought leaders), Leaders in Law (discussions on timely law topics), and Culture Counts (thoughts on law firm culture and the business of the practice of law).
Also published on Medium.