Core values are an important component of your company and very pivotal in communicating who you are with the world. We’ve briefly talked about core values in prior episodes, including episode #01: Strategic Planning – Vision & Long-Term Goals and episode #47: A Vision Shouldn’t be a Mirage. However, today we are diving deeper to define core values, identify why they are important, and discover how you can use them in your business.
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:11 – Why core values matter
- 05:31 – Establishing core values
- 08:53 – Our core values
- 15:30 – Core values are established, what now?
- 21:33 – Podcast updates
Why core values matter
Our frequent listeners and readers know we typically start our podcasts with pointing out the significance of our discussion topic because we want you to know what you are getting into and why we are even broaching the subject. The topic of core values often gets muddled into the mission statement, vision, and other building components as you establish the culture of your company. Although these components correlate and, in some ways overlap, they do exist on their own and for good reason. So today, the spotlight is on core values.
Establishing what your company stands for
Referring back to Traction by Gino Wickman, a great foundation-laying book, your core values should drive everything in your business. If they don’t, take time to figure out why. We all have inherent individual core values. As business owners, we also need to identify our business core values. The core values for your business might not be exactly the same as your individual core values and that’s ok. It is likely they will be similar because our businesses are extensions of ourselves. Without knowing those core values, it is difficult to take the next steps of defining your mission, vision, and then make the daily decisions necessary to run your company. Ideally, you should know your core values so you can ensure your leadership team and team members have the same core values and are on the same page.
Mission and vision
Ultimately, your mission and vision can be crafted as you identify who you are, as an individual, who you are as a company, and how you want your company to operate. A main part of identifying who you are and how you want your company to operate is discovering your core values. Your vision and mission have to align with your core values in order for your business to function properly.
Culture and retention
We recommend sharing your core values with potential team members prior to hiring them. This gives people the opportunity to see if they are a good fit for your company. Innately, people want to align well with their work culture and team. When team member values mesh with the business core values, people have a natural excitement and dedication. One of your goals should be to hire team members that fit into your company culture and environment. When this happens, it will be reflected in their work product and you will also be more likely to retain these team members. Retaining solid team members keeps your operation sustainable and gives you the opportunity to continue hiring and growing a strong, united team.
Understanding your core values gives you an automatic filter when making business decisions and helps you stay on track. This knowledge should also allow you to easily identify what will or will not work with your company. When you have talking points and monthly/quarterly meetings, it’s beneficial to revisit your core values to ensure you are staying true to them and that they are still relevant.
Establishing core values
It may sound like a simple task to identify the core values of your company, but when you start making your list it’s easy for it to get lengthy in a hurry. Nailing down the core values that are truly relevant and highlighting what you want your company to stand for can be a tricky endeavor. If you already have leadership partners, it’s best to work with them during this process. If that’s not possible, consult with a mentor or advisor who can give you honest feedback and additional insight. In Traction, Gino Wickman recommends your list should boil down to between three and seven core values because they start to lose meaning when you have more than seven.
With your entire leadership team present, start identifying what is important and write those things down. This may include things like integrity, professionalism, timeliness, etc. If you are struggling in coming up with an initial list, look at your current team members or team members you’ve worked with in the past. Start brainstorming by asking yourself why you enjoy working with them, what makes them stand out, and what attributes they have that are admirable. Then, write those down. At this point in the process, your list does not need to focus on your industry or your specific business. You’ll have time to work with business-specific information when you create your vision and mission. For now, core values are values you hold personally and in business.
Once you have an initial list, review it and identify what items on the list can be pared down and combined into one core value. For instance, there may be a number of items on your initial core value list that are related and can be combined under something like ‘professionalism.’ This part of the process allows you to review your list of attributes, determine the core value underneath, and decide which are most important to you and your company. You want your leadership team and team members to possess those attributes and operate according to them.
Mission and vision
Plenty of businesses have created a mission or vision prior to identifying their core values. We just don’t recommend it. Your core values tell you, and everyone else, what your business is about. They help you maintain focus on what is truly important and keep business operations running smoothly. Once you’ve established your core values, you can then move onto creating your vision and mission. If, for one reason or another, you already have your mission and vision, just check to see if they align with your core values. If not, make some adjustments!
Our core values
Our PJS & Co. CPAs leadership team recently went through this process and redefined our company core values, so we are right here with you! We are hoping our experience can help you as you go through this process.
Previously, our leadership team had a relatively small list of core values and decided we wanted this list to be easily understood and more transparent in communicating broadly with those outside of our organization and to our own clients. We took that short list, honed in on what we could expand upon to provide more clarity, and then expanded on those values. From that expanded list of established values, we then boiled it down to six core values – integrity, relationship-focused, proactive communication, collaboration, service-minded, and lifestyle. For us, the process of redefining our company core values boiled down to taking a short list, making the list bigger, evaluating the list, and then condensing it again.
When you make your list, the title of your core values may not be clear as day. For instance, your list may include something like “truthful, hardworking, do what’s right.” When you think about all of those things, they define someone with integrity. It’s ok to tweak your list and change the titles of your core values. Once we finalized the title of each, we wanted a specific catch phrase for each individual core value that can be shared frequently, so we generated those.
PJS and Co. CPA core value catch phrases
- Integrity: “Doing the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.”
- Relationship-focused: “Creating a partnership mentality and fostering an environment of teamwork.”
- Proactive communication: “Make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen.”
- Collaboration: “Working with others to achieve something great!”
- Service-minded: “Advocating for and creating peace of mind for our clients.”
- Lifestyle: “Cultivating life in balance.”
All of our core values and their corresponding catch phrases are important. If you asked our leadership team and team members, they’d probably tell you the “lifestyle” core value and its mantra is one of the most important. We are very focused on and intentional about business and lifestyle integration. We expand on this value by saying, “We cultivate lifestyle by fostering a landscape of change for our team and for our clients to be able to create a wondrous blend of business and personal lives, encouraging personal and professional growth is a vital part in achieving health, success, and happiness, striving to forge a new path for generations to come where living lives is not in conflict with being in business, but is in harmony with it, welcoming others to join with us on this journey.” Lifestyle has always been a high priority for us. Having a business, growing it, and being able to live life without missing important things outside of work, like family and friends, is what we strive for. For more information about PJS & Co. CPAs and our core values, visit our our about us page.
Core values are established, what now?
Keep your core values alive!
As you are going through business, strategically planning, looking at operations, etc. check to see if they align with your core values. Keep sight of your core values as you go through your day-to-day routine. Establish your core values as filters for decisions you are making as a business owner. One easy way to incorporate your values into regular business activity is during employee performance evaluations. Do the employee’s values align with the business core values? If not, it may be time to let them go.
Another time to review your core values is when you are looking to expand your team. You can have a checklist of your core values at hand, and when hiring or during the onboarding process, use that checklist to see where the new hire aligns with the business. We are hiring right now, so this is top of mind for us. We are looking for people to join our team and want them to align with our business. This is one of many reasons we communicate our core values on our website. The core values we hold innately creates a culture in our business and helps us attract like-minded team members who are a good fit for our company. When this happens, there is a higher likelihood of keeping them long-term. We try to use our core values to create cohesion in our business to help everyone grow in the right direction, simultaneously. Our goal is for you to do the same.
Reassess as needed
Like people, businesses evolve. We recommend, at a minimum, to revisit your core values, mission, and vision at your strategic planning meetings. (Really, our hope is that you are frequently integrating your core values in your business decision-making process, as we just mentioned.) Don’t hesitate to take time to review and redefine your core values like we did. At PJS & Co. CPAs, we saw a need to make some adjustments to our core values and took action. Just make sure if you change your core values, you also want to review your mission and vision to ensure they remain relevant. If your new core values have significantly changed, it might be time to do the same with your mission and vision statement.
Since we are talking about core values, this is the perfect timing to share with you some changes we are making to The Cultivating Business Growth Podcast. As we talked about earlier, one of our core values is lifestyle and we firmly believe in work/life balance. Currently, we release a podcast episode every Monday. This has proved to be quite challenging alongside distance learning with children at home. Starting in October, we are moving our podcast cadence to biweekly releases. So, have no fear. We will still be bringing you this beneficial content and building upon our 55 episode arsenal we’ve been working on since December 2019. You’ll just have to catch us every other Monday. You can ensure you never miss an episode by subscribing to our podcast on your podcast app. Every time we release a new episode, you’ll receive a notification!
Today we had the pleasure of discussing core values. We shared why core values are important and why you need to have them for your business, the benefits of having core values in place, when to establish your core values, and how to identify them. We talked about how we, at PJS & Co. CPAs just redefined our core values and dove into what those were. Lastly, we talked about incorporating your core values in your day-to-day business decisions so you can truly benefit from them. Let us know if you have any questions; we’d love to hear from you!