Build the Brand | Part IV: Creating Your Core Values

Growing up I was taught a lot of do’s and don’ts and rights and wrongs, but one of the most important things I had instilled in me were values.

Get an education.

Always handle your business.

Respect your elders.

Always keep God and your faith in the  front of your life.

Work hard for what you want in life.

There were times I would ignore the do’s and don’ts, and do wrong just to see if they were right. But I never forgot my values. Whenever I came across an area in my in my life that challenged one of these I knew what to do. I couldn’t give up on school when it got hard. If I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, I’d see the consequences of it. No matter how rude or disrespectful an elder was to me, I always acted accordingly and didn’t get out of character. When things got rough, I knew how to pray. And my work ethic in areas I wanted to excel in was met with a vigorous approach.

Needless to say, those values gave me absolute direction when I felt lost, and that’s why I have established a set of values for my business.

Often times I feel stuck running Geeky Dreamer and find myself not knowing what to do or improve on. But then I remember the company values, and how they remind me to Be Responsible to my commitments and position here. They’re values that lead me to action and make up an important part of the company’s culture.

What are core values?

Your core values are going to be your company’s DNA. They’ll define behaviors and skills, drive priorities and decisions, and determine how your organization spends its time. If you have a value in customer service and not one in innovation, you won’t spend a lot of time trying to find new ways to do things. You’ll invest your resources in customer service and your employees will have an emphasis on it too.

Values also have an important role in getting the right talent in your organization and keeping them. They’ll lead you in the right direction when it’s time to make a difficult decision, prioritizing your resources, and differentiating your brand altogether.

But not every organization has values that are able to control to do these things. To reap the benefits of having values, your values need to have meaning to your organization.

Your values won’t work if they’re meaningless

Responsibility.

Integrity.

Excellence.

Those were the values of the infamous company known as Enron. They don’t hold much weight now after the debacle that occurred in 2001. But unlike Enron, your values have to mean something to your organization. You’re not out to impress anyone with these. Remember: These drive your organization’s decision making, hiring, and other major operations. Don’t go for fluff. Go for authenticity. Here are some general rules

  1. You don’t need 80 core values. No one, not even you, is going to remember them. Go for 5 or less and leave it at that. You’ll see some examples posted below to help you with this. You won’t get a lot of mileage out of listing Responsibility, Dedication, Customer Service, Respect, Teamwork, Authenticity, Excellence, Education, Knowledgeable, Commitment, Community Oriented, Goal Oriented, Innovative, Character Driven, Honesty, Relationships, Loyalty and—well, you get the idea.
  2. Memorization is key. If everyone has to keep running to a poster, electronic document or worse—forgetting they had core values in the first place, that isn’t going to benefit your organization. Keep them short and simple.
  3. You need to be passionate about them. As the commander in chief of your organization if you don’t have passion behind your values no one else will. You can’t fake the funk on this one. They’ll fall flat every time.
  4. Your team needs to let you know the values guide their actions. Also, you need to be able to tell if they’re guiding your actions as well.
  5. They need to be unique to your company’s beliefs. Sure. People like responsibility as a core value, but how do you define it in terms of your organization? What is the benefit of the value  to your company and your employees if listed? Make your values your own. Don’t copy someone else’s.
  6. They need to connect back to your mission and vision statements. If there’s a disconnect everyone will feel it. If your mission statement talks about customer service and your core values don’t place emphasis on it or mention it at all, there’s a problem.
  7. They need to be integrated in the way you do business. I put a lot of emphasis on the relationship between myself and the client. It’s clearly outlined in two of the core values and is directly integrated into day-to-day interactions. Your values should do the same.
  8. They should be a part of your daily culture. I Embrace My Geek everyday and make it a point to Be Adventurous finding new ways to improve workflow and other areas. Incorporating your values into the culture will make it easier to reinforce and get employees to adopt it.

Creating your core values

Your values need to be organic.

Again: You can’t copy another organization’s values and expect you and your team to be passionate about it. Want to know why? Because they aren’t yours to be passionate about. These will take time, but look at your mission and vision statement. From them, what does your culture need to become in order to properly achieve those goals and vision? Now envision your organization 5 years from now. What is the culture like? And what values did it take you to get there? Create as giant of a list as you need to, then get your values down to no more than 5. It’ll get harder to remember them after that number.

For me, the areas I wanted to focus on were the client, myself, and future staff. I put emphasis on the relationship between client and designer and the work ethic and mindset of the company. From there, I was able to develop 5 strong core values for Geeky Dreamer:

Be Responsible

You have a responsibility to the world, to the craft, to the client, to commitments, and ultimately yourself.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

Always exceed expectations and create more value to the client than what was expected. Promise a solution, deliver an incredible experience.

Embrace Your Geek

There’s an inner child in all of us. And that child still knows how to have fun, be a little weird, and embrace what makes you different. Your differences are welcomed to the table.

Be Adventurous

Don’t settle on what works. Try something different. There’s more than one way to do something. Find it.

Protect Yourself

Sometimes it’s okay to go into warrior-mode and work 12-18 hour days. But that kind of commitment isn’t always necessary. Pull your late nights and early mornings when needed, but take pride and joy in the power of rest and having a life outside of work.

They’re worded in a way that prompts someone to do something. They are intentionally designed to be actionable, decision-making tools—and you can do the same with yours!

  1. Start your value out with a verb. The whole idea is to remember it and ask yourself if you’re doing it. If not, you’ll know what to do next.
  2. Keep it short and simple—including the description. No one is going to remember a paragraph’s worth of description. Get to the point and don’t add any fluff.
  3. No more than 5. Again, once we get over that number they start getting harder to remember. If you want to shoot for 10 be my guest, but 5 is more than enough.

Conclusion

Just like my personal values, your organization’s values will aid you when you’re lost, trying to figure out where to go next, or how to make an important decision. Let them be organic and authentic to your organization. Don’t rush your values and make the 5 you chose count.