Defining Your Company’s Core Values (And Why It Matters)
I mentioned it to the baristas and they said they’ve had the sign for months, but the reposition it throughout the shop so people get a pleasant surprise when they discover it.
I love that.
It’s little touches like this that make the shop special. Not to mention, their amazing coffee and personable staff.
But more importantly, the shop knows who they are and EXACTLY who their customer is – people who care about quality coffee.
For instance, the baristas mentioned the shop contemplated getting a machine to make frappuccino’s last summer. But the idea was strongly vetoed because it completely goes against their focus of serving and educating people about high quality coffee and different brewing methods (hence their slow pour bar).
As the baristas quipped, “if you want a Frappuccino, go to Starbucks.”
And, hence the shop’s tagline – “Coffee. Inspired.”
That, my friends, is what strong branding looks like. It’s drawing the line in the sand for what you believe as a company and standing by it.
In other words, it’s developing a set of core values around what you believe as a company.
8th & Roast believes in sourcing quality beans and small-batch roasting to create an experience around a high-end, quality cup of coffee. And, it’s why they don’t use syrups for their lattes – everything is made fresh, by hand.
It’s also why I don’t write marketing proposals and we emphasize marketing strategy first with all of our clients.
It’s why Zappos focuses on delivering incredible service for customers.
It’s why simplicity rules above all else at Basecamp.
It’s why Southwest emphasizes their heart (and now even has a logo to match).
Why are core values important?
I know what you might be thinking. The concept of core values is just a bunch of hooey that matters very little to your business.
But, defining your core values might be one of the most important things you can do as a company because it explains why you exist as a company.
Core values drive your company’s culture and ultimately, how you do business. When implemented well across your entire brand, it should be evident in your company’s interactions with customers and in decisions you make as a company.
And, from a marketing and business perspective, your core values can help attract people to your business.
Perhaps the best way to explain this concept is to show you this TedTalk from Simon Sinek. He talks about the power of “why” as a business driver.
“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
If you’ve never seen it, I strongly suggest you take 18 minutes to watch it. It’s well worth it. Or, here’s the transcript if you’d rather read it.
How to Define Your Company’s Core Values
So now that you understand the importance of defining your company’s core values, how do you go about it?
Here are some questions to help you define it:
1. What does your business stand for?
In other words, what’s important to you as a company? Or, as Simon Sinek said, “what do you believe?”
For example, responsiveness is a core value for a law firm client we worked with. They believed that every client and prospective client deserved an attorney who was attentive and responsive.
That’s why they guarantee to call people back within 24 hours and clients get communicated with regularly. Every attorney at the firm promotes this and it’s evident through their testimonials. Almost every client talks about how they quickly responded to phone calls and emails and how important it was to always know the status of their case.
Their belief as a firm in how their clients should be treated is huge driver to their success. See how that works?
2. What change do you want to see in the world?
One of the ways you can help define your core values is by looking at things in your industry or the world that you don’t agree with.
What do you want to see changed? What are the problems in the world that keep you up at night? How can your company address them?
Answering these questions can help you define why you exist and what you want to be known for as a company.
For instance, 1907 Apparel exists to inspire hope in others. Their apparel is geared to help people tell their personal stories, while also lifting up people in need by giving a portion of proceeds to non-profit organizations in the areas of education, poverty and agriculture.
“All of our core values point to the overarching belief that we were meant to use what we have to help other people….We believe, at the heart of our core values, that everyone is entitled to the chance to broaden their mind, to work in dignity, and to eat three meals a day. These are basic human rights, and it is our responsibility to see to them. When you shop at 1907 Apparel, you enable other people to experience the hope you experienced by allowing us to lift them up through these programs.”
This is a fantastic example of how the desire to create change in the world can fuel a company’s core beliefs.
3. What do your employees value most?
Although you don’t want to create core values by committee, they also shouldn’t be developed in a vacuum. It’s important to know what your employees believe too.
Your employees don’t just want to come to work everyday – they want to work at a place that aligns with their values. They want to work at a place that gives them meaning. When you do this, you attract better people and they stick around longer.
Ask your employees about their personal values and see if there are any common themes.
I love this example from OfficeVibe, a company that focuses on employee culture and engagement. So, it’s fitting then, that their core values are fueled heavily by what their employees value.
For instance, their first core value? “Without fun, it sucks.” And all of that goes back to their core mission “to build the most epic place to work, have fun and innovate.”
4. What matters most to your customers?
This question may very well be answered through the other questions, but it’s also important to consider what matters most to your customers.
Although you may think that speed or price is the most important thing, you might discover that what they really value is quality and reliability.
Take the time to understand what is most important to your customers. What problems do they have that are not being solved? What do they care about in a vendor partner?
Getting answers to these questions can help you refine why you exist as a company.
This isn’t an easy process, but it’s a highly valuable one that can make a huge impact on your business.
What do you think?
Do you have core values as a company? What are other examples of core values you would add here?