Defining your values

What if I said to you that the owner of a business believes being ethical is one of the most important things to them as an individual, and yet they routinely use unethical practices in their business dealings. It wouldn’t ring true, would it? You’d think that they don’t believe being ethical is important to them, either in the personal or professional life. What’s important to you in your personal life translates to your professional life too. If we believe in something, it is part of who we are?

So, who are we? How do we define our values so that everyone can understand them and align with them as customer, colleague, supplier, and community?

Who to involve in value-setting

According to the 2020 Amo Global survey, companies are even more concerned about their values during and after the pandemic, particularly for their people and communities. There’s no better time to decide what’s important to you and let everyone know. Here’s how to do it.

There’s an important thing to note here. Whether you are flying solo or a have a suite of employees, having company values is essential if you want your business to be successful. As a growing number of customers look for companies that have values they align with, you must think carefully about what yours will be.

If you are a solopreneur, don’t skip this. Your customers want to know what you do and how you go about it. Also, if you do decide to grow you can use your values to find a team that has similar values. It will make the recruiting process so much easier.

If you have a team already, involve them in this process. It doesn’t have to be everybody in the office – you can choose a handful of invested team members to help you draw out what most important to them and the business. Being clear on what really matters will then filter through to everyone. If it filters through to suppliers and other outside sources too, all the better. It will help you decide if you are working with the right people too.  

You don’t have to stick to conventional ways of expressing values in this discovery process either. Values come from the emotional side of us, so don’t be afraid of drawing pictures of how it should feel to work here or express them in other unconventional ways.

Remember too, values aren’t just a word. “Honest”, for example, is a word and is a good place to start, but it doesn’t encompass what makes you honest. Draw out what “honest” really means to you, your employees, and the company. 

Start with a handful of values, between four and eight. Each should be a clear account of what it means to have this value. Try not to overlap too much either. For example, integrity and honesty are quite similar, so pick one.  Now, the fun starts! Test your values against your work practices and see if they hold up. Don’t skimp in this area either. Go through everything you do in the company and if anything doesn’t align with your values, it needs to change. Similarly, the value might not hold up to scrutiny, so ask yourself are you willing to live by that value?

They must be important for owners, management, customers, and employees, as well as shareholders.

Great Examples of Company Values

If you’re wondering where to start, look at two of my favourite company values. Zillow is a great example of simple, clear and thoughtful values. They have eight titles, under which is a short description detailing what that particular value means to them. Xero set out their values in their latest annual report. Similar to Zillow, they have headings under which they have described what it means and how the value has impacted the business throughout the year.

So now you have some idea of how to create your company values, set aside some time in the coming week to start on, or refresh, yours. And if you need help with getting started, contact us to find out more.

Fiona Grant-Jones

As a Management Accountant, I have a proactive focus on the future. I enjoy working with business owners to improve performance through management accounting and forecasting techniques. My knowledge of Tax and Tax planning has supported me in offering a more complete service to our clients. My interests span from the ones that my mother approves of, such as needlecraft and papercraft to the ones she is not so keen on such as scuba diving and skiing!

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