Everyone on this site who owns their own business either started their venture right out of school or left a different job to follow the dream of being your own boss. Those of us who left another company are all too familiar with “core values” and “mission statements” and all of the other fluff that comes with working for a large company. And even those of you who never had the pleasure of working in a corporate environment may have avoided that direction altogether because of a distaste for such things.
And while I pretty much intend to steer clear of mission statements for the rest of my life, there is definitely something to be said for core values. In fact, for many entrepreneurs, your core values will define almost every aspect of your business.
Establishing your company’s core values can be especially important when you are very first starting out. The reality is that the very vast majority of small businesses are not going to be some ground breaking venture that revolutionizes the world but will rather either fill a niche or work to serve a very local market. So in the end, your core values will very likely be the thing that differentiates you from your competition.
Example of a core value you might use to shape your business is a resolute adherence to integrity. No matter what kind of business you are in, opportunities will present themselves where you can fudge the numbers a bit or move a piece of data around with the result being more money in your pocket. Are you willing to do that? I would hope not and in the end, decisions like that will inevitably shape your business and your long term success.
Another core value you will want to consider is how you will support your employees. We all know that happy employees are more productive employees but how far are you willing to go to make your workers happy and keep them that way?
Your core values could also include your brand. For example, I run a fundraising company that is focused on providing groups earth friendly and healthy fundraising choices. I have to decide what constitutes earth friendly and how far down the path I am willing to go before something just doesn’t make sense as a part of my business identity.
For some businesses, there may need to be only one core value and the rest of the business can be defined on that single point. For example, a high end grocer like Whole Foods business model is based exclusively on the goal of providing the very best foods possible. They aren’t working on offering the best prices or having the flashiest marketing. Nope, they just want to offer their customers great foods from around the world. Even if you work alone, maintaining a passion for offering the best or the cheapest or the fastest product or service is absolutely necessary to being successful.
As our businesses grow, it can be very easy to try and pull away from the core values that we relied on to build the foundations of our companies. And if you started your company a week ago or 10 years ago, I urge you to spend a bit of time considering just who you want your company to be and make sure that it is living up to your standards.
Jordan Gottlieb is the founder and CEO of Go Green Fundraising. He grew sick of mission statements while working for a major international IT firm where he came to his senses and started his own business. He is working to revolutionize student fundraising by offering healthy, educational, and green fundraising ideas.