A company’s core values are important. Not only do they affect the way a company serves its clients and does its work, but it also affects the company’s culture-- how its employees are treated and valued (or not) in the day-to-day environment.
But coming up with core values is not always an easy task. Whether you are part of a brand-new startup whose identity remains to be determined, or an established company who has either skipped a step or whose values need a revamp, we begin with the same question: what do we care about?
Here are three steps to help you discover and develop your company’s core values.
Begin at the beginning.
Every company has an origin story. For us at Torch, it involves our founder, Jeremy O’Briant, and an old camper van he restored. Driving up and down the California coast in that van, Jeremy came to the realization that what he valued in work was the freedom to create and the ability to work with a great team; Torch was grown up out of those core values.
Since then, we’ve attempted to preserve the guiding ideas that made our company unique in its earliest days. We’ve worked them into the fabric of how we spend our days, how we work most efficiently, and how we interact with other team members. Our core values are:
- Build the Future
- Embrace the Adventure
- Be an Entrepreneur
“You define your core values usually by looking at what the company founder or founders valued most in the way they operate their business,” says Dayne Shuda, founder of Ghost Blog Writers. “Values really aren’t something you create. They’re something to be discovered.”
In other words, use your company’s origin story-- the passion, innovation, and determination it took to build it-- to define your company’s identity and goals for the future.
Let them spring from your mission statement.
Another place to look for inspiration when determining your company’s values is your mission statement. Usually, companies spend a good amount of time creating a statement of purpose that reflects what they’d like their company to do in the world; core values should spring from that source. Evan Nierman, founder and principal of Red Banyan, likes to think of the mission as the why and the values as the how.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What values are behind our mission statement?
- What values are necessary to achieve our mission?
- How will our values help us accomplish our goals?
Look to your existing team.
The team of people working for your company can and should reflect your core values. Recognizing the best in those people will help you discover what values are intrinsically at work in your company.
- Have the team brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your company, then whittle the list down to the most vital and descriptive words.
- Identify which team members best exemplify your company spirit, and work from there. What values do you recognize in those people?
- Take inventory of the decisions driving your everyday business practices.
- Reevaluate your values on a regular basis; as your team grows and changes, so, perhaps, will the goals you have for your company. That’s part of the excitement!
We'd love to hear how you've determined your company's values! Tell us in the comments below.