How does such a seemingly ‘touchy feely’ concept such as core values play out in the business world? Are core values still relevant? Useful? Advantageous? Profitable? They can be all of those things and more…

A business, big or small, built upon a guiding set of core values – which can be seen, felt and experienced by those who interact with the business at any level – is uniquely positioned to THRIVE in today’s and tomorrow’s economy, far more than a business without them will.

When your business communicates a very clear and definite ‘why’, everyone knows why it exists and what purpose it serves. Consider the difference between:

“My business sells coaching programs and exists to make me money and put food on the table for my family”.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making money to provide for your family as a goal but it’s rarely the most compelling proposition to entice people to buy from you, is it?

Versus:

“My business sells coaching programs and exists because I believe we each deserve the freedom to choose the life we want and it’s my goal to help people achieve that freedom, while also making a healthy enough profit to provide for the life I want to live”.

See the difference? Building a business which has and communicates the core value of ‘freedom’ at its foundation provides a compelling hook to those who also value freedom.

So how else can a business use core values?

A business built upon core values uses them to:

  • Help make long term, strategic decisions – which business model should I use? Should I launch this new service or not?
  • Determine how the business is run on a day to day and longer term basis – should I work with this supplier? Should I hire this person or the other gal?
  • Define how the business shows up in the world – should we use this logo or that one? Which word/phrase is better? Should we write about this topic or not? Should we share this resource?

And it’s the same core values which determine the mindset, actions, behaviour and energy of your business and those who work in and with it – including you, the business owner*.

* Note: The core values of your business may well be different to your own personal set of core values. 

And the benefits? A business with well-defined, well-articulated and embedded core values:

  • Attracts an engaged and loyal audience (and very often raving fans), with a meaningful promise i.e. what they say they’re going to do for their customers.
  • Has a clear, cohesive and strong culture, even if you’re only a company of one!
  • Adds more to the ecosystem/industry/community it inhabits than just the offerings it sells.
  • Has more than just profit as a driving force, and its reason for being.
  • Is set up for longer term, sustainable success.

So what exactly does a values-driven business look like?

Buffer is a fully distributed, remote working company – there are no offices and the entire team works 100% remotely. Buffer puts an almost obsessive focus on its company culture, and that culture is determined by 10 core values, which are openly and deliberately expressed throughout the business:

An example of core values in action at Buffer

Source: http://open.bufferapp.com/buffer-values/

The rigorous approach to living and breathing the Buffer values is embedded into everything they do – hiring, customer service, product strategy, operations and more.

This relentless focus on its values has resulted in an impressively strong and cohesive culture despite nobody working in the same location and transparency as a value is apparent in their approach to sharing everything openly about their company – from salaries, to revenue, and even how they price their offerings (including sharing where every cent goes). You can see their ‘Transparency Dashboard’ here.

Buffer is a poster child of the startup economy; it is profitable and sustainable, and it creates meaning. It doesn’t matter that it is ‘just’ a social media tool; in building the company the way they are building it, they give added meaning and value to the ecosystem they inhabit.

How are you building your business around its core values?

In a world where many, many people are looking for more meaning in their lives and are making more conscious, more informed choices about where they spend their money, it’s the businesses which can clearly articulate their reasons for being and which are built around more than just the desire for profit which will meet our demands for more meaning and more value.

If you’re building your own business and you are:

  • Struggling to attract the right (or any) customers and clients.
  • Reactive not proactive, and unsure of how to take a more strategic approach.
  • Constantly questioning or second guessing your decisions.

…define the core values that drive your business, and use these as your guiding lights.