Developing Your Core Values

Core Business Documents

There are three core documents that drive business strategy:

  1. Your Core Values
  2. Your Mission Statement
  3. Your Vision Statement

Each document informs the one that follows with the Vision Statement specifically driving your strategy.

It all Begins with Your Core Values

The Core Value document is not difficult or complicated. However, it is important. You may find that the process of developing that list with your team to be very enlightening. At the very least, your core values will greatly influence your mission, vision, and company strategy.

In their book Total Alignment: Tools and Tactics for Streamlining Your Organization, Riaz and Linda Khadem summary the the value-to-behavior process as follows:

  1. Define corporate/company values
  2. Define pinpointed behaviors aligned with values
  3. Change your behaviors
  4. Facilitate change in others

Core Values Examples

Your specific values will depend on the industry you’re in, the types of customers you have, and your specific priorities. However, your values should address and describe how you want to do business. Viewing some examples may be helpful.

Example 1: Starbucks

Starbucks’ core values are:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
  • We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.

Example 2: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s core values are:

  • Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
  • Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
  • Integrity: Be real
  • Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me
  • Passion: Committed in heart and mind
  • Diversity: As inclusive as our brands
  • Quality: What we do, we do well

Example 3: Yahoo!

Yahoo!’s core values are:

  • Excellence
  • Innovation
  • Customer Fixation
  • Teamwork
  • Community
  • Fun

Developing Your Core Values

As you review the examples above, you’ll notice that they vary in their level of detail as well as their content.

While your Core Values don’t have to be complicated, they should be developed thoughtfully. These ideas, philosophies, and sentiments are going to shape and guide your business.

As a very basic model, you may develop your Core Values by following these steps:

  1. Meet with your co-founders (if applicable)
  2. Have each co-founder make a list of words that they want to describe your company (for example, “Innovative”, “Optimistic”, “Customer-centric”, “Intregrous”, etc)
  3. After you’ve finished, read the lists aloud and see if and where the lists overlap
  4. Discuss what those words mean to each of you and how it might affect business operations
  5. Discuss the words that don’t overlap, and their meaning and impact, and whether they should be included

In the end you should have a list of around 10 words that accurately represent the values of your business. You can leave it at that, with just those words (as Yahoo! has done), or you can develop them with clarification (like Coca-Cola) or description (like Starbucks).

When your core values are finalized, print them out, frame them, pin them up, or whatever you want to do. But make sure that they are visible and easily-referenced. These values will shape the direction of your business throughout it’s life.

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