Every business has a beating heart from the very start.
Oftentimes it’s a great idea. Sometimes it’s a great group of people.
But no matter how excellent your idea or how stellar your team, what’s most integral to a fledgling company is an ironclad set of company core values.
Blue Summit Supplies is still a new company and we’re learning every day. One thing we learned early on was the importance of core values. Our CEO Owen Franklin spent hours reading book after book on building a small business, with two in particular becoming standouts: Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras and Principles by Ray Dalio.
He feels so strongly about these two books that his single piece of advice for companies looking to create business core values is simple:
“Go read Principles and Built to Last. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. I would’ve saved myself a lot of anguish and money if I’d read those books before starting this company.”
What are core values in business?
Core values in business are the fundamental beliefs of the organization that serve as an unwavering set of morals for the company. They help guide decisions across all channels, from creating the ideal team to making smart product choices and investments.
So why do companies need an established set of company core values?
According to Ray Dalio, successful entrepreneur and author of Principles, “The most important thing is that you develop your own principles and ideally write them down, especially if you are working with others.”
This may seem counter-intuitive, since your ‘most important thing’ might feel like it should be raising capital or building out a great team. But before you do any of that, implementing your values – the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your company – is key.
“You have to thoughtfully establish a culture first. If you let the culture create itself, you may get a culture you don’t want, like Tony Hsieh,” says Owen.
He’s referencing Tony Hsieh, found of Zappos.com.
Hsieh wrote in his book Delivering Happiness about his first company exploding into a huge financial success – and how, in doing so, it had become a place he no longer enjoyed working. He wound up sacrificing a large sum of money to quit his role at this company and start a new company from the ground-up, the one that would become Zappos.com. This time, he established the culture first.
“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” – Tony Hsieh
The Blue Summit Supplies Team
While profit is necessary and important, Collins and Porras of Build to Last say, “Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one.”
They define ‘visionary companies’ as ‘clock-makers,’ meaning companies who can withstand trials and time because they were built to evolve, adapt, and grow. Instead of companies who are merely ‘time-tellers’ – those who run a business solely to make a profit –visionary companies build the clock from the ground up and create a culture in which it is not enough just to know what, they must also know the why and how.
“Those who built the visionary companies wisely understood that it is better to understand who you are than where you are going—for where you are going will almost certainly change. It is a lesson as relevant to our individual lives as to aspiring visionary companies.” – Built to Last
Creating an unchanging set of core values doesn’t mean your company shouldn’t change. In fact, your company should always be changing and evolving. But your core values should be such that they stay the same in the face of continuous growth and evolution.
Say Collins and Porras, “The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.”
Dalio agrees, going farther with the concept of consistency in values and principles:
“Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”
Experience Principles - for Free
Haven’t bought your copy of Principles yet?
Dalio recently released Principles in Action, an iPhone app that has the entire text of his book (for free) along with helpful videos, case studies, and a coach tool to find answers to real-life problems. You can even mark pages in your digital book and save your favorite principles for future reference.
How do you create your core values?
At Blue Summit Supplies, our way of creating core values was “a lot of learning through failure,” Owen laughs. “I actually started ours on a plane – I copied someone else’s and tweaked them until I was happy.”
Starting with a set of existing core values and molding them into your own is a smart and time-effective method for coming up with your ideal core values. It’s imperative your values are uniquely yours and match up to what you value.
“The happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.” ― Ray Dalio
Creating a core value system that reflects what you value is also key to building a team that works well together. It’s difficult to hire people when you don’t know what you’re looking for; however, establishing a standard of behavior and shared goals will help you know the right candidate when you see them.
According to Built to Last, “Aligning culture with people and people with culture makes business work and makes people happiest and most cohesive[…] Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.”
And Principles agrees: “The most important thing is that you develop your own principles and ideally write them down, especially if you are working with others.”
If you’re a small business and you’re not sure where to start when it comes to creating your core values, here are Blue Summit Supplies’.
- Learn, innovate, and think differently
- Embrace scale and think big
- Believe in what you do
- Create resourcefulness and innovation through frugality
- Embrace the power of profit
These are our ‘how,’ and the ‘why’ is simple: to add value to our sphere of influence. Our sphere of influence is everyone our operations touch, from our customers to our employees to you, our readers, and beyond.
“We’re learning,” smiles Owen.
It’s not simple, but it is worth it.
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