One critical part every entrepreneur should have in their business is a list of core values. Core values can be used as a blueprint when making important business decisions, and can also help you run your business with a clearer path toward growth and success.
As an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you have a vision of your business and how you want your life to be. Your business is your calling – and even as it may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life, you have your ‘WHY’ that drives you to do business.
My ‘WHY’ For My First and Current Businesses
Watching the sunset from a patio in Redondo Beach, California one Sunday evening when I was in my 20s, my (then) husband and I were talking to our neighbors across the courtyard. We were barbequing and wishing that the weekend wasn’t coming to an end.
That’s when the daydreaming began – thinking about what if we start our own business, work together and support ourselves by being our own boss. The more we thought about it, the more we got hopeful that one day we’d live in a world where we didn’t dread Mondays. We started talking endlessly about the idea of quitting our jobs and becoming entrepreneurs.
As the days went on, the conversations went deeper as our research began. Then we started wondering what it would take to build a business that we could sell for millions of dollars and then retire?
Being my own boss and having more freedom when it comes to time were what started my entrepreneurial journey. That was my ‘WHY’ then.
My WHY for my current business is different – it feels good to share the knowledge I’ve learned over the last 20+ years of being an entrepreneur, and I like to help other people with their own businesses and entrepreneurial journey. It’s exciting for me to watch entrepreneurs go from where they are when we start together to the next steps of their businesses. It makes me feel good to help tease out answers that founders need for issues that they have in their businesses.
How Your Core Values Impact Your ‘WHY’
As I’ve mentioned in the introduction, there is one tool that could help you run your business with a clearer path toward growth and success – AND fulfill your WHY.
What are Core Values and How Do They Affect Your Business?
Core values are the foundation and the principles your company upholds and exemplifies through the products/services offered, customer service, and company culture. As your set of core values (along with your vision and mission statements) serves as a compass that will guide you in your decision-making, it impacts how and who to hire, entering business partnerships, how you operate your business and so on.
Things aren’t always black and white, but when you have defined your core values, you’re able to more easily make important business decisions and negotiate so that you can build your company based on what’s important to you.
For example, one of my clients used his core values to decide if he was going to enter into a business partnership. Because one of his core values is “Building Meaningful Relationships,” he decided that the partnership was the right decision.
Another one of my clients has the core value of not working on Sundays. He owns a retail shop and had to decide if he was going to sign a lease for a holiday pop up in the mall. The original contract called for the store to be open 7 days a week during the holidays. However, instead of declining this growth opportunity, he stayed true to his personal and company values, which led him to negotiate that his store will be closed on Sundays.
How to Determine Your Core Values
So once you have written the vision and mission statements for your company, let’s determine your set of core values that will help you live the life you envisioned as a business owner. Here are four easy steps:
Step #1: Define your personal core values.
Before you define your company core values, it’s best to define your own personal core values first. What are the characteristics that are personally important to you? How do you want to build your business?
During a coaching session with one of my clients, she asked whether it is right or not to use her personal core values as she wanted them to be the values she and her team exhibit to one another. I told her it’s best for founders to have a set of personal core values as well as business core values. However, as the founder of the company, she can use her personal core values to guide how she builds her business. She can demonstrate her personal core values in her business, as her company is something that she is creating for herself.
Step #2: List down words or phrases that resonate with the company culture you envision.
Honesty, teamwork, attention to detail – these are some values that can be tied to company culture. But you have to think about you – how do you see your team members working together? What are the characteristics you want your employees to have?
For instance, one of my core values is “Clear and direct communication.” I expect everyone on my team not to give vague or unclear responses – from the interview stage right up until today. Another one of my core values related to company culture is “Responsibility.” I want everyone in my team, including myself, to own their tasks and be responsible for the outcome.
One of the advantages of having a set of core values is you and your whole team are aware of how you will live within the business while working on the path to where the business is headed, and you are guided along the entrepreneurial journey. Core values can help determine which people around you – whether employees or partners – can you rely on and those who are unfit to realize your vision.
Incidentally, I have worksheets that can help you create a set of core values that are part of my Total Team Makeover course. Core values are one of the foundations of my course about hiring the right people because of their importance in building your team and your culture.
Step #3: Envision how you want your business to be known by your prospects and clients.
Of course you want your business to be top-of-mind by your prospects, current clients, and past clients. In order to do this, you need to be remembered. One way that could happen is by having a set of core values that sets your business apart from others that are seen through your product offerings, how your company interacts with customers, and overall business operations.
Step #4: Choose the words or phrases that truly have deep meaning for YOU.
Take a look at the list of words and phrases you made – what are the top five entries that truly have a deep meaning for you? What are the words that resonate with your vision and the life you want to live as a founder? You can also ask your team (if you already have one) about their thoughts – which words or phrases do they think can help establish the company’s core values?
These five words you choose are your core values. You can have more than five, but ensure that they have deep meaning. Embody your core values, live them, share them with your team members and see how clearer your entrepreneurial path will be.
Clear Your Entrepreneurial Path with Your Core Values
I see entrepreneurship as a creating calling and a chance for freedom to live the life you want to live. So, you have to make your business decisions based on what resonates with you and YOUR vision. Core values can be your guiding light – pretty much like a blueprint – on how you can make it happen.
If you need help with business planning or creating a set of core values, schedule a free call with me and let’s talk!
Hi! I’m Diane Prince. I co-founded a company that we built from scratch to $50 million in six years and sold to a strategic buyer. I am a keynote speaker that talks and writes about building startups, founding businesses, and entrepreneurship. I share my perspective from my own experience from over 25 years building, scaling, and selling businesses.
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