Don’t overlook how values will help build a great company and company culture
Last summer I held a ‘Business Values’ workshop in my garden. I’m lucky I live in a rural area, and have 1/4 acre in my my back garden which meant during the brief lifting of COVID restrictions I could meet and brainstorm with one of my clients over creating values for their company.
It was a lovely sunny day (thankfully — British summers being notoriously wet!). I baked cookies, served tea, and had set up some tables and whiteboards suitable spaced out. Mean while two of my cats acquainted themselves with everyone (the third decided to retreat upstairs for some quiet!), whilst my puppy ran around trying to trip up everyone!
We’d held off until we could do this in person, because we wanted the whole leadship team to be available, and wanted to be able to focus exclusively on the purpose (barring distractions from the animals!): creating the company values.
When you’re building a business maybe you don’t automatically think about values. If you’re a solopreneur, or a start as small team you might begin with an idea for a product or service and slowly that grows as you acquire customers. So where do values come into this?
Values ultimately, should support the company’s vision, it should permeate its policies and vision and every decision should be aligned with the those values. Absence of these values is what leads to taking on customers who aren’t right for you , or employees who don’t fit the mould.
A company who has really embraced having values, is Hubspot
Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have a culture. Why not make it one you love?
Solve For The Customer — not just their happiness, but also their success.
Power is now gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” -Louis Brandeis
HubSpot has a no-door policy, where everyone has access to anyone in the company.
You shouldn’t penalize the many for the mistakes of the few.
Results should matter more than when or where they are produced.
Influence should be independent of hierarchy.
Great people want direction on where they’re going — not directions on how to get there.
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”
We’d rather be failing frequently than never trying.
The list above sets a path for how to do business, how to treat each other and how to behave. Hubspot has produced a substantial document furthering their values and even dividing it into customer and employee values. Like Hubspot, your company values should support the vision for your company and should serve as guidelines to your internal operations. When decisions are made and actions are taken that are not aligned with your value system, you will know that red lines have been crossed and the decision should not have been made.
It’s also important when creating values, to get buy in from everyone. We ran three sessions — two with the senior leadership team, and one with the whole company to validate the first two sessions. This allowed all the employees to agree, challenge, or contribute to the foundational set the leadership team had produced. It shows the employee that their opinions are valid, and allows them to understand and embrace the reason behind the values in the first place.
At the end of the sessions with my client we had a value charter — it became more than just a few statements, more like a ‘how to’ guide. Your values should not be an empty set of statements only used as a crutch. It should be a vision of what you want your business to be, and how you intend to get there. Good values will keep you focused on what you want accomplish, and it will keep you from wandering off the path.
In the instances of the company I worked with, these values have become useful for making decisions and employing people already. The simple question, of whether people fit the values help to identify strong candidates. It also helps to reject potential customers who also don’t fit the mould. Saying no is never easy, but saying no knowing that the reason is solid and based on ensuring that your company values are being up held, somehow makes it easier.
If you haven’t got values, what’s stopping you? How do you know that everyone understands your vision and can carry it forward without them? It’s time to get workshopping with your team! (cookies and animals are optional!)