By Ben Muncaster, Director of Operations

Your company’s core values should shape its culture, support its vision and reflect the essence of who you are.

Establish the right values and they’ll provide you with a clear set of ground rules by which your business can operate.

And there’s no-one who knows more about a company’s values – than its leader. After all, you’re the person who is best placed to know its…

  • Personality
  • Customers
  • History
  • Ambitions
  • Mistakes
  • Successes
  • USPs

If the core values of your company only exist in your head and not on paper, there’s no better time to write them down – and start communicating them to every team member.

Here’s a simple (but effective) way to do it…

Defining your values (3 simple steps)

Step 1

To come up with your company’s core values, ask yourself two questions:

  • What’s important to my business?
  • What’s important to me?

If you struggle, adopt an alternative approach and ask:

  • What is my company definitely not?
  • What do my rivals do that we never would?

Write your answers down on a separate piece of paper or post-it and lay them out so you can see them clearly.

Step 2

Once you’ve exhausted all avenues, create an ‘affinity map’ by sorting the cards into 4-7 groups of similar ideas or concepts with underlying relationships.

If you create this list with your team or more than one person, pay close attention to ideas which repeatedly crop up as repetition is a sign that this ‘value’ is of significant importance.

After grouping the cards, choose a concept word which best sums up the entire collection. Write it down to be considered as a core value.

Individual cards can be ‘parked’ as a group but should not be dismissed. Ultimately, if they are right for you, they should be a core value.

Step 3

Before deciding whether to adopt your concept as a value, ask yourself:

  • Is this important to our long-term success?
  • Does this need to be maintained forever? Can it be sustained?
  • Does this apply to every area of my business and all our staff?
  • Will this help to make important decisions in future?
  • Would we build these values into a new business?
  • Would we keep them even if they became a competitive disadvantage?
  • Will these values be valid in 100 years’ time?

If you answer “no” to any of these, it’s probably not a value that’s worth adopting.

Answer “yes” and you’re definitely on the right track.

Using your values to shape future success

Ideally, you should draw up a list of five or less core values – so everyone can remember them when it comes to making a decision.

At Northern Accountants, we asked every team member to take part in the above activity, splitting into two groups before presenting their ‘results’ back before a final decision was made.

Our NA values are:

  • Trust
  • Inspire
  • Challenge
  • Innovate
  • Support

Having finalised your values, it’s important to communicate them to every team member as this makes it easier for them to understand what your business is about – and their role in it.

Lots of people want to work for a business where they feel like part of “one big family” but this is NOT a value. It’s a vibe. Vibes are highly-volatile emotional aspects which are influenced by outside factors. As companies grow, it actually becomes impossible to deliver on this because every person cannot possibly know everyone else.

In much the same way, enjoying the use of an office dartboard or pool table is not a value, it’s a vibe – because it’s not essential to the long-term success of your business.

Don’t get confused between vibes and values. Vibes are open to change, but ‘values’ never will be.

At Northern Accountants we use our values as the basis of our recruitment decision-making when assessing potential applicants, as a key part of our induction presentation and for the basis of our weekly team meetings – they’re also integrated into our quarterly appraisals.

If you can, make your values the basis for everything you do – your message WILL get through and you WILL achieve the culture you want.