If you have made a break from the corporate world to be your own boss, you probably have some ideas about how you’d like to do things differently. This is easy in theory but can become challenging in practice. One of the most important ways to keep sight of your aims is to establish your company’s values.
Defining your business values is a team effort, even if, as the company founder, you have definite ideas already. You could be going it alone, but you’ll still find it useful to talk to your external partners to truly understand what your values mean for your particular business. Having some key concepts like passion and integrity written down is the first step, but nowhere near enough.
Your values should be used to help you determine which direction to head in whenever you are faced with a decision to make. One of the best ways to embed that in the company is to find opportunities to implement as early as possible. Here are four examples to get you on the right track.
1. Customer Focus
You could be B2B or B2C, but at the end of the day, you want to make business decisions that have positive impacts for your customers. Having customer focus as a value means establishing open communication with the people you do business with. If your company recognizes that its success is down to its customer relations, then this value will be a priority for you.
The first step to guaranteeing that you are implementing this business value is to come up with a customer-first strategy. It should be an active document, not something to file away. In your strategy, you’ll need to tackle how you listen to customers and how you respond.
The more business you do, the more customer-focused you will become, just as the more you interact with customers, the more you can learn about them. Whether you are selling online or work face-to-face with clients, keep a note of the things you learn about their needs. You can add this to your strategy, so it shapes your processes.
The word accountability can have some negative connotations, especially for those who aren’t fans of confrontation. The best way to implement this value, then, is in a positive manner without fear. Instead of viewing accountability as something that means you’ll get in trouble for various reasons, make it about defining what needs to be done, who is responsible, and what tools are available when things don’t go to plan.
Failure or mistakes are part of doing business. It is how you acknowledge and move on from them that counts. If you set up the right processes, this can be done productively. You need to define expectations, get everyone on board, measure the progress you make, and make changes along the way according to feedback, as well as when a project is complete.
This should apply to both individuals and the company as a whole. Why not set the tone by publishing a mission statement, and following up with an annual report. The company should state what it aims to do, and needs to share this with everyone involved.
The first place you can implement innovation is in your hiring process. You can spot talent from a resume, but don’t leave it to chance. Adapt your interview process to allow you the opportunity to test an applicant’s approach to innovation. This could be through questions that test their creativity and on the spot thinking, or through a task. It could be problem-solving or inventing something.
You and your small team might all be innovative people, but that isn’t a guarantee that you are implementing this value. The environment, the culture, and the time you dedicate to this value will impact how it affects your business. Whether it’s coming together as a team or allowing individuals time to think and then follow up on these thought processes, you can give innovation the space to thrive.
Even an exciting start-up can feel like a regular office job some days. If you want innovation to be palpable in your company, then you might need to shake things up every now and then. Get a change of scene, let others lead a meeting, or initiate a new project that requires a different approach.
4. Sustainable and Socially Conscious
CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, sounds like something associated with a huge, multinational conglomerate, which is not the direction you want to head. There is a more personal way to be socially conscious and sustainable and actually mean it. It all comes down to knowing what you are willing to do and how that will balance with your other business aims. Being upfront with yourself is key; socially conscious activities that seriously damage your profits aren’t going to work.
You’ll need a strategy that guarantees your business success so you can continue to give back to the community and take care of your small corner of the world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is something you can leave until you’re making millions; start as you mean to go on. You don’t have to install solar panels on the roof on day one, but perhaps you could implement a plan to have this achieved by your fourth quarter.
A great way to get started is with volunteer time off for all staff. They might already have ideas about with whom they would like to work but make it straightforward by establishing partnerships with not-for-profit organizations that would benefit from your help and expertise.
The Bottom Line
Defining your company values has many advantages. It can keep you on track to fulfill your dreams without compromising your principles. Your values are there to help you make decisions and head in the right direction. The best way to keep your values at the heart of everything you do is to implement them from day one, whether it is a strategy, a clause in a contract, a charitable organization, or an annual report.