Core Values

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Establishing a Business’s Core Values

How and Why Your Core Values Matter

When we consider what it means to establish a business’s core values, we turn to Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. McKeown shares a pause worthy insight: “Live by design, not by default”.

Essentialism is primarily geared towards motivating individuals to define their priorities, live more intentionally, doing less instead of optimizing to cram in more.

But the axiom of “living by design, not by default”, is just as relevant to businesses as it is to individuals. The axiom perhaps becomes “operate by design, not by default”.

Core values, according to Harvard Business Review’s article Make Your Values Mean Something, “are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions; they serve as its cultural cornerstones.”

Businesses that are truly aligned with their core values are often able to advantageously leverage those core values in their market, and foster cohesion in their company.

Your business’s core values set you apart. They help you find and build an audience who also aligns themselves with those core values. Your business’s core values allows you to also recruit and hire staff who align themselves similarly. If properly uncovered and carried out, core values can be a source of unity and pride internally in your company.

Let’s Talk About ‘Uncovering’ a Business’s Core Values

As Open Eye’s managing partner, Taylor Tricarico points out: a business’s core values aren’t created, rather a business’s core values are uncovered.

Core values are inherent to your company’s mission, the way it delivers its goods.

Most companies know from the get-go what some of their core values are. The product or service they’ve created speaks directly to those values or was built as a result of their values.

Occasionally, there are companies who may feel a little unclear on what their inherent core values are. This is often the result of these companies being so busy delivering their service or product that they haven’t paused long enough to flush out their core values.

But with some help and best practices, their core values can be uncovered.

What’s The Best Way to Uncover Your Business’s Core Values

Taylor also points out a cardinal rule: core values are not uncovered (or created) by marketing firms or branding agencies. While your business’s core values will help you market what you do and why your business is unique, defining your core values solely for marketing purposes is disingenuous, inauthentic, and misguided.

Instead, core values should be an internal collaborative effort. Everyone in your company should be able to share their insights on what they feel your company’s core values are; thereby, providing opportunity for a collective exploration resulting in authentic and true determinations.

A collaborative exercise could look as analog as paper worksheets, or be more digitally oriented via company wide responsive electronic surveys. These surveys could take place in a special company wide retreat or over the course of time during normal operating hours.

Ultimately, by having all hands on deck, you’ll be able to identify common trends, and actively listen to feedback. Using the data, your company should be able to come up with several core values that resonate with the way you operate and deliver.

What to Consider When Uncovering a Business’s Core Values

Here are a few questions and tips for uncovering your business’s core values:

  • Revisit your company’s mission and founding. What is your core mission and why did your company embark on this journey?

  • What problem have you all set out to solve and why?

  • How do you deliver your services?

  • What unique qualities or traits are built into your goods, the way you interact with customers, or the way you operate on a daily basis? What do these unique qualities or traits say about your company?

  • Is there anything in the market —perhaps an industry standard—that you do or don’t believe in and why?

  • What do you want your company’s legacy to be? What do you want to be known for?

Next Steps

Once you have uncovered your business’s core values, you’ll want to announce them internally, promote them internally (think employee incentives, branded supplies) and incorporate them into HR (think interview questions, employee handbooks, etc). Once core values are collaboratively uncovered, you can then go on to use them in marketing and branding capacities to set yourself apart from your competitors.

By knowing your core values you’ll have a guiding foundation that you’ll be able to refer back to as you decide on new products to develop, new markets to enter, new potential relationships with vendors. Knowing what makes your company tick and why, having a deeper understanding of what’s important to your company, so that you can operate by design, not by default enables you to hire, market, grow, scale, in meaningful ways.

Need help uncovering your company’s core values? Let Open Eye help! We work with both small and large businesses helping them uncover their unique core values and provide recommendations on how to implement them.

Kiara Fuentes
  • Strategy and Consulting

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