Using values to improve your business performance
Following on from last week’s blog on identifying your personal core values, we’re going to explore how businesses can harness the benefits of identifying and using their values effectively.
From Netflix to H&M, Teach First to KPMG, many businesses and charities use brand values to share their beliefs and what is important to them to build connections with their employees, partners and broader target market. So why is it important to have values as a business and what should you do with them once you’ve identified them?
The importance of identifying and clarifying your business’s values
Identifying values as a business sets you apart and defines exactly who you are and what you care about. They separate you from the competition, bring a unique voice to your business and drive your behaviour. From where you make your products to who you hire (or fire!) and how you market yourself, values should lie at the foundation of these decisions.
They provide a solid base from which to guide behaviour across all aspects of what you do and can be used by your team in their day to day decision-making. Values help the company work towards shared goals so that decisions are made and challenges are overcome by a cohesive team working with the same principles in mind.
As a business, values are useful tools in attracting like-minded people who are aligned with what your company cares about and is driven by. This is true whether you are a charity trying to find fundraisers or a restaurant trying to find the right suppliers. Not only will your values attract the right employees, customers, investors or clients but they can also help to deter anyone who might not be the right fit.
Values help to define and build a strong culture within your business, which in turn can be used to build valuable connections with people. This can be crucial when growing a business, nurturing brand loyalty and ensuring the longevity of your business. In the words of Airbnb’s CEO and Founder, Brian Chelsky, when speaking at Stanford,
‘companies around for a really long time had a clear mission... a clear sense of values, and they had a shared way of doing something that was unique to them and was really special’.
What to do with your values
‘One reason we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one.’ (Brené Brown, Dare to Lead)
It’s important you clarify what your values mean for you and - more importantly - how they are shown through your work. If you choose four core values in the form of single words they become buzzwords and the benefits you gain from having them will become null and void.
Be specific, provide clarity and show examples of how your business works according to your values to truly gain an advantage. For example, claiming ‘quality’ as a value doesn’t tell anyone anything. However, take the first of Patagonia’s Values: ‘Build the best product’ and the explanation that comes with it:
‘Our criteria for the best product rests on function, repairability, and, foremost, durability. Among the most direct ways we can limit ecological impacts is with goods that last for generations or can be recycled so the materials in them remain in use. Making the best product matters for saving the planet.’
This is not only clear and specific but is evident in their ‘ironclad guarantee’ - if you’re not happy with a product you can return it for repair, replacement or refund. They are not just making claims to try and differentiate themselves - they are living according to this value.
This can be seen across all aspects of their work and has become synonymous with their brand, attracting millions of dedicated customers and advocates.
Once you have identified your values, it is important for businesses to support their teams in terms of how to work towards these values to continually practice them. This should involve helping teams to understand their own values.
Exploring how an individual’s core values can work harmoniously with the business’s values will lead to improved work satisfaction and performance.
Finally, don’t be afraid to share your values. It can be intimidating knowing how to communicate and demonstrate your values, especially as a smaller business. However, the benefit of attracting and building connections with the right people is lost if they can’t find them or see what drives your business. So be bold and talk about how you practice ‘a big values game’!
Thanks for reading and if you’d like to find out more about values work, coaching and self development get in touch here.