When I worked in Silicon Valley, the concept of core values was all the rage and I was used to hearing and seeing them displayed loudly on company walls right and left. Luckily, I worked for a company where core values encompassed a day-to-day behavior at Twitter. We recalled our core values not only in quarterly reviews, but in our daily work and were frequently encouraged to make decisions based on them and evaluate potential choices that might go against those core values we held dear.
Unfortunately, when I made the shift to start my own small business, I found the practice much less popular. All around me, there were small businesses — many times with dozens of employees — that had not yet clarified or communicated their core values. If you operate or work for a small business and haven’t simplified your core values, or need a refresher, then listen up. Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re effectively implementing these core values to ensure your business’ growth and success.
Brainstorm Potential Core Values
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The first step in creating core values is brainstorm what makes sense for your organization. Brainstorming allows you to generate as many ideas as possible without editing yourself. One of the worst things you can do during this process is worry about having a “good” idea (or a “great” one)! Instead, focus on coming up with as many ideas as possible, perhaps in a set period of time. For example, try brainstorming 25 potential core values in 10 minutes. Or 50 in 30 minutes, perhaps. Once you have the ideas, then you can move on to the next step.
Identify the Key Core Values that Work for Your Business
Once you have a list of potential core values, now cut that list down to a few key core values that resonate very highly with your small business, your mission and the direction in which you want to go. Remember, you can choose to involve others in this process as well. Depending on the size or structure of your organization, evaluate if other team leaders’ contributions would benefit the larger process. Doing this exercise in groups is a great way to create greater buy-in even before you communicate and share your values company-wide. No matter what, work to find those few core values you feel are distinctly you; don’t worry about other companies’ core values. Focus on what would most resonate with you and your team.
Convey those Core Values to Your Company
Once you decide on your organization’s key core values, the next step is think about how to best convey those to your company. Whether it’s a simple memo, an announcement at a company dinner, or the focus of a team-wide retreat or offsite meeting, you’ll want to make sure you convey the importance of the core values and the role you want them to play within your organization.
Communicate those Core Values Externally in Ways that Work
Once you’ve determined and conveyed your core values internally, the next step is taking small steps to communicate them externally to your current and potential customers and clients. There are different ways to do this and the strategy will depend on your specific goals. Perhaps, it’s about putting these values on your website, incorporating them in your annual report, or introducing them into your discussions with potential clients. Whatever it is, make sure you think about how important it can be to help the public better understand your business and what it’s all about.
Ultimately, core values aren’t something reserved only for large companies with huge bottom lines. Small businesses need core values if not more so, than larger businesses. By following these steps, you can brainstorm, determine and convey your own core values to the world – to great effect.