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Entrepreneurs love talking about company culture. But unlike hanging hammocks in the office or installing a two-story slide, your company’s core values can actually have a major impact on your bottom line.
Strong core values can drive smart hiring practices, reduce turnover and absenteeism, increase productivity and quality of work, help guide decision-making, improve customer relationships, and boost employee morale.
The startup phase is the best time to think about core values because it’s much easier to make changes early on and ensure that every aspect of your business is in alignment as you grow. Determining your company’s core values will have a big impact on the type of organization your startup becomes, so choose wisely.
6 Core Values to Consider for Your Startup
When choosing values to build your company on, you should consider beliefs that many of the most successful businesses have in common:
1) Happiness/Passion: Passion for what you do and happiness in the workplace lead to more productive employees, fewer workplace problems, and a higher quality of work. Companies that have embraced passion as a core value include Zappos, Coca-Cola, and Rackspace.
2) Education: Building a culture that values continuous education means your employees will grow with your organization and deliver better results. Epic offers its employees extensive training and a personal professional development fund.
3) Innovation/Creativity: Innovation is probably the value that will give your company the biggest competitive advantage. When employees are encouraged to innovate, they’ll bring breakthrough ideas to the table. Google even has a secret lab devoted to moonshot ideas, such as self-driving cars and Google Glass.
4) Transparency: Being genuine and transparent, both internally and externally, is a tenet that’s growing in popularity. If anything about your company isn’t genuine — from your business partnerships to your marketing campaigns — your customers will be able to tell. Chipotle has distinguished itself among its fast casual counterparts by providing comprehensive information about the origins of its ingredients. Buffer takes transparency to the extreme by publishing employees’ salaries.
5) Excellent Customer Service: Your customers’ satisfaction will make or break your business, so a customer-first focus should be at the center of everything you do. Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Whole Foods, and American Express each embrace customer service as one of their core values.
6) Giving Back: When your company is doing something to benefit others, your employees feel good about working with you, and your customers feel good about buying your products. TOMS, Salesforce.com, and Warby Parker all embrace social responsibility as a core part of their business.
How to Build Your Core Values
Simply having core values isn’t enough to reap the benefits they offer. You have to work to embed them in your culture. Consider these tips for building your values:
- Identify shared values. Gather the core values of your company leaders, founding team, or employees. (Zappos, for example, sent an email to employees asking for the values they wanted to live by.) You and your co-founder can determine together which values overlap so you can choose the ones that are most important to your company.
- Test your commitment to your values. Core values are meaningless unless you’re willing to hire, fire, and change policies based on these values.
- Demonstrate values daily. Living your company’s values must start at the top with you, the leader. Core values should affect everything from how you conduct meetings to how you communicate with customers. If an action doesn’t support your core values, it’s time to reevaluate it.
- Refer to your values in times of turmoil. It’s easy to stand true to your values when everything’s sunny, but they matter most when times are tough. In times of crisis, refer back to your values to determine the best course of action.
Many parts of your company culture are flexible and don’t necessarily affect the work you do on a daily basis. However, your values impact absolutely everything. When choosing values, think of the type of people you want on your team, the experience your company provides, and how you want to feel. Use these attributes to shape your values. They’ll impact your company for years to come.