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What’s at your Core? A business cannot survive, never mind thrive, without core values

Core Values: The Heart of Your Small Business

A recent exchange with a client-prospect went something like this…

“I think I need to let her go; she’s just not a fit.”
“What happened? What do you mean, not a fit?”
“I just don’t see her lining up with our culture and values.”
“Ok, makes sense. But, when you were interviewing her for the position, what questions came up in your conversations that had you believe she was aligned with your values?”
“I never asked her anything related to our values. Heck, I really don’t have any values established for our organization, per se’. I mean, they’re in my head, but who else would really need to know them or hear them? We’re just a small company.”

Consider this: core values, for any size organization, are a foundational component of organizational health and well-being. Yes, foundational.

Conversations like the one outlined above are certainly not 100% avoidable. But with a solid foundation in place, including established core values, you and your team will have a roadmap to help navigate with clarity.

Since core values need to be in place for any company of any size, I stress the importance of getting them established early in my client engagements. This helps set the table for our coaching relationship and places emphasis on an essential element for organizational success.

I have my clients start the process by thinking of core values as the heart of their business: the ethics and standards that help define how you and your organization think, interact and serve clients. Pretty important stuff, isn’t it? But despite their importance, many companies neglect to establish them. And in their absence, things can slip. Consistency in performance and deliverables suffer. Client interactions suffer. Employee engagement suffers. Morale suffers. And so on…

If core values are truly at the heart of a business, I would argue that a business cannot survive, never mind thrive, without them.

Establishing your company’s core values starts with a truthful introspective reflection of who you are and how these moral standards dovetail into how your business lives and breathes.

Initiate your thinking process and capture a handful of guiding principles you prioritize in business. Then, massage those principles into action words or actionable statements. Avoid corporate jargon. Remember, values are calls-to-action reflecting your guiding principles.

As an example, consider the difference between a stated value of innovation, and a value statement of think beyond the obvious and inspire positive change.

Refine your list. Take your time. Revisit. Re-read. Share your list with your trusted associates and your coach.

Now that you have your list, how does it make you feel?

I truly hope words like inspired, motivated and proud, come to mind, to name just a few. If not, we need to do more work. Keep the process moving until you are satisfied and believe you and your organization live the values on your list. Core values are that important.

In summary:

  • Core values are an essential foundational component for any business of any size.

  • Core values keep everyone rooted in your guiding principles.

  • Core values should be inspiring, motivating and action oriented.

  • Lastly, core values are NOT something to post on a wall to sit static. They define the heart of your organization, and lets everyone know how to conduct themselves in it.


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