How to Build Brand Values that Work for Your Business

Find out why building business values can help drive success, secure the right talent and provide your enterprise with a framework to lean on

How to Build Brand Values that Work for Your Business

Values are the essence of your company identity. They act as a compass when trying to agree on a course of action or make a difficult decision. They bring together your people under a set of shared beliefs and provide guidance on how to behave and how to succeed in the work environment.

The right business values can help you run at things faster and with more certainty as they provide a solid framework on which to assess various alternative approaches. Values are also invaluable in talent acquisition, as people who share your values will be drawn to you and they provide a benchmark on which to assess a candidate’s fit.

Here we look at how you can create values and make them work in your small business…

Learn from the business giants

Values are normally represented in a list of 3-10 items that describe “what’s important around here” and though everyone has an idea of what they want for their business it can help to look at the companies which lead the way in employee retention and business.

For example take a look at Google’s values:

  • Focus on the end user and all else will follow
  • Its best to do one thing really, really well
  • Fast is better than slow
  • Democracy on the web works
  • You don’t need to be on the desk to need an answer
  • You can make money without doing evil
  • There’s always more information out there
  • The need for information crosses all borders
  • You can be serious without a suit
  • Great just isn’t good enough

Or getting out of the tech sector, check out Mars values:

  • Quality
  • Responsibility
  • Mutuality
  • Efficiency
  • Freedom

All values listed should be followed by an explanation, clearly spelling out exactly what it is you’re talking about. It’s also a great idea to include some stories of how people in the organisation can live and breathe these values every day. And it’s important that these stories are not way out there events that might happen once in a blue moon but everyday things – like holding the door open for a fellow employee, asking yourself everyday “how can I make this 1% better”, etc..

But how do I create the right values for my small business?

There are largely two schools of thought around how to create values that will work within your small or medium business.

Firstly, values can be “uncovered” rather than “set”, so find out the personal values of your star employees and then build your company values around that. Alternatively values can be created from the top down, after all they need to strategically position the company for success in the future.

In my experience, it’s best to do both so at our company we check back in with our values periodically to ensure they are still working for us, this is especially important as an organisation grows (we are now five times bigger than when our original values hit the scene). Talk to a number of employees who you feel “really get” your brand and find out what is important to them. Then find patterns and themes in that, and combine it with your own value set. Because we are Founder led, Vend is largely built on Vaughan’s value set, which makes sense for us.

What are the common pitfalls and how do I avoid them?

An organisation is in constant flux, whether that’s from being on a winning streak, to having endured a difficult contract, having ballooning costs, or being in major expansion or contraction mode. When you’re creating your values it’s important to be aware of the surrounding atmosphere so as not to be swayed by the prevailing thought of the time. The values need to transcend time, so try to step back from the current day “vibe” and do robust long term thinking.

A list of 10 values in my opinion is too long (sorry Google!), try to keep it to a list of three to five core values so that they are memorable for everyone. As I previously mentioned each value should have an explanation so you can elaborate and even if necessary add the odd sub value.

Coming back to Google their explanation for You Can Be Serious Without A Suit is:

Our founders built Google around the idea that work should be challenging, and the challenge should be fun. We believe that great, creative things are more likely to happen with the right company culture–and that doesn’t just mean lava lamps and rubber balls. There is an emphasis on team achievements and pride in individual accomplishments that contribute to our overall success. We put great stock in our employees–energetic, passionate people from diverse backgrounds with creative approaches to work, play and life. Our atmosphere may be casual, but as new ideas emerge in a café line, at a team meeting or at the gym, they are traded, tested and put into practice with dizzying speed–and they may be the launch pad for a new project destined for worldwide use.

Finally be aware of the statement that is not really a value statement, for example, “our product is the best” is a statement, not a value statement. The value statement might in this instance talk about “We do what it takes to be the best”; or “We strive for excellence”, or “Product first, everything else second”.

How to make values work in your business

When you have your values, the hard work really begins because you now have to communicate them to your employees. Hopefully this won’t be a surprise as you’ve already included some of them in the creation process. When talking about values, it’s a great idea to do it through stories. Stories have a strong emotional pull on people, which can help inspire your team and embed new values.

Of course, to be worthwhile, your values need to be interwoven through everything – from how you make decisions, to how you hire people, to how you reward performance. A great place to start is by listing everywhere you could weave your values into, a list to get you started could include your careers page, job descriptions and interviews, induction, marketing, and staff meetings. Once you have your list why not make it a priority to incorporate your values into one thing every week, in no time at all, your values will be visible everywhere.

It can seem like a great idea to have strong values, but the reality is it can be very hard to live by them. It may mean not hiring someone of technical brilliance as they don’t share the values, it might mean forgoing a business deal that would trample on your values, and it might mean apologising for your team if you fall short of the values yourself.

So ask yourself: Am I 100% committed to this process? If the answer is no, then ask yourself what you can do to get to a place of commitment, and then go do these things first and revisit building your company values at a later stage.

If the answer is yes, then go for it!

This article was written by Mel Rowsell, head of employee experience at POS software business Vend.

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