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Values: a solid base from which to build a successful business

"Passion led us here" printed on pavement slabs.

Our values are our core beliefs – guidelines for how we live our lives. They help shape our decisions, influence our behaviour, and regulate our actions towards others.

Personal values are often intrinsic – we act on them naturally and feel conflicted if our values are compromised. Company values are slightly different. In some cases, values form the foundations on which a company is built, and in other cases, they develop as the business evolves and grows.  

If you are a one-person business, your company values will usually reflect your personal values. After all, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable acting dishonestly in your business if you value honesty in your personal life.

If your business is bigger than just you – if you have a team of employees – then you’ll have shared values. These should act as the guidelines for how you operate and influence your relationships with stakeholders, suppliers and customers.

Mission, vision and values – what do they all mean?

Mission, vision and values help companies stay on track. They provide employees with a shared goal and an understanding of how to achieve it.

They should be clear, simple and easy to remember. If they’re complicated or forgettable, they aren’t going to serve their purpose.

Mission

Your mission should summarise your core day-to-day objectives and be written with both customers and employees in mind.

For example, at Opportunity Marketing, our mission is to help SME businesses grow and fulfil their potential.

Vision

Your vision outlines your long-term goal and aspirations for the business. The aim is to motivate employees and give them something to strive for.

For example, our vision is to become the UK’s No 1. SME marketing consultancy.

Values

As we’ve already discussed, your values act as guidelines for how you operate. They help you achieve your mission and vision.

For example, one of our values is:

Be commercial: We always consider the likely return on investment from everything we do and recommend accordingly.  We don’t care if something ‘looks good’ – if it works, it ‘is good’ irrespective of what it looks like. We like to use facts!

This value aligns with our mission to help SME businesses grow because we couldn’t achieve our mission if we focused on what looks good rather than what gets results.  

How to determine your company values

All too often, companies hash together a list of values without much thought. Sometimes they’ll copy from a competitor or put together a generic list of words – honesty, integrity, passion, etc.

But values shouldn’t be a list of buzzwords or empty statements. They should be meaningful, and they should be coming from a place of authenticity. Your employees and customers won’t buy into them if they aren’t genuine. 

Often the best way to establish your values is to do it as a team. Work with your employees to determine what you stand for, what’s important, and how you want to present yourself as a company.

It might be that you start by listing words and phrases that describe your business or the people within it – fun, compassionate, respectful, collaborative, enthusiastic, creative. Or words that describe things that are important to you – sustainability, accountability, customer satisfaction, innovation, transparency.

Agree as a team which words are most suitable and come up with statements that build on these values.

For example, Salesforce lists “trust” as one of their values. They then build on this with the following statement: 

We act as trusted advisors. We earn the trust of our customers, employees, and extended family through transparency, security, compliance, privacy, and performance. And we deliver the industry’s most trusted infrastructure.

This gives the value far more context and meaning than simply listing “trust” as one of the company values.

If you include your team in the creation of your values, they will have far more context and meaning, and your employees are more likely to embrace them.

Corporate message on boardroom wall.

Why values should be more than words on a wall

Values should never just be words on a wall or a list of statements on your website. They should be evident in everything you do.

You can tell the world you value integrity, but people are more likely to believe you if you demonstrate integrity in the way you operate.

Make sure your values are being taught, recognised and reinforced. Share stories about how your organisation has demonstrated your values and recognise individuals who are exhibiting your values in their work.

Integrate your values into your training, and incorporate them into your recruitment processes, performance reviews and reward programmes. Make decisions with your values in mind.

And demonstrate your values externally too. Make them evident in the way you interact with customers – both in person and through your marketing content.

You don’t have to mention your company values in every marketing activity you do, but they should be evident in the way you communicate and promote your brand.

If you are struggling to communicate your values through your marketing, our consultants can help.  

We believe values provide a solid base for building a successful business and will help you create a marketing strategy that aligns with your mission, vision and values.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.
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