Why Values-Based Businesses Are More Successful

Why Values-Based Businesses Are More Successful 

Get More Done, Have a Better Time Doing it, and Have The Right People Joining the Party – too Simple? NOPE!

I’m sure as a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of “core values” and running values-based businesses.  As a business coach, I find that there are common themes around barriers to creating and implementing them, and there is always a question about whether they are worth the investment of time and energy in the first place. 

Do any of the following statements sound true to you about your business?

  • Your organisation has values but there are cultural challenges, poor performance and people tend to be running to their own rules, which were what “the values were supposed to fix”.
  • Your organisation doesn’t have values. As a business owner you’ve heard of the benefits of having organisational values, but creating them seems like a bit of a minefield and you’re not sure how to get your team engaged.
  • You think that creating organisational values is just “fluff” and wastes time that could be used to make more money.

OK, so what are the benefits of having organisational core values?

Let’s not bury the lead. Why would you go through the process of creating organisational values, invest time and energy into really living the values, if there wasn’t a compelling reason for it?

Core values are the defining principles that tell everyone what is actually important in your organisation. It sets a foundation of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and so creates clear expectations of what it means to be in your organisation.

The World Economic Forum found that almost 40% of the 25,000 people aged between 18 and 35 who took part in the Global Shapers Annual Survey 2017 think that having a sense of “purpose/impact” is one of the most important criteria when looking at career opportunities. Values set the tone for the purpose of why your organisation exists.

But what’s the best reason?

At the end of the day, embedding organisational values (in the right way) saves you time and money. FULL STOP.

What, wait? You thought that values were just a feel-good thing? Well, they are, but when you and your team are aligned, you’ll spend less time attracting, retaining and managing the wrong team members, and more time cracking on and doing biz.

Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a little story of John who is a new team member working at ABC Widgets. An organisation that has ticked the box on creating the values, but they are not embedded into the business.

Common traps when it comes to values:

“We have values!” (But we don’t actually care about them…)

You’re the business owner of ABC Widgets and many years ago you defined your organisational values as “Integrity”, “trust”,  “Teamwork” and “Customer Service”. You have them stuck on the wall in the kitchen, but neither you nor your team can really recall them, and they are never talked about. 

How to do it better: values should never just sit on the wall. They MUST become a living and breathing part of everything you do in your organisation. From hiring to firing, from marketing to supplier engagement. Otherwise, your business is just another one of those that ‘ticked the box’ by announcing them, but for what purpose?

(NOTE: This lack of creativity and emotion in the values just makes me cringe and roll my eyes!) 

“It’s all about teamwork!” 🙂 (But we don’t hold anyone accountable…)

You overhear John asking Phil for help with something. Phil says: “yeah, sorry mate… It’s 4.50 and I need to pack up, I only work till 5,” and walks off leaving John unable to proceed with his task. You stay in your office and say nothing because Phil is a stickler for finishing at 5.

How to do it better: if teamwork is one of your values, as the leader in the business this is the perfect time to reinforce what that means. And it doesn’t mean running away from a team member who is looking for support and guidance.

“We say customer service is important…but…” (So we say one thing and do another)

John overhears Jenny and Bill having a conversation about how annoyed they are that you (the business owner) refuse to refund a customer who had to wait a long time for an order and when it arrived it was damaged. Your philosophy is: “it’s not my fault, because the parcel left here fine”.

How to do it better: if customer service is important… make it important! We all have customers that can be a bit… tricky (although in all honestly I just love my clients! 🙂 ) But if you say it’s important to keep your customers happy because you know that will lead to better relationships, repeat business, and referrals… then in this example, reship that darn product and give some compensation! Check out this awesome example of how Zappos live their values related to wowing customers and being fun and a little weird. 

“We trust our team to do a good job.” (But we don’t manage the behaviours so we don’t trust them at all) 

John reports to Stephanie and he has noted to you that Stephanie is not allowing him to do his work without significant interruption and involvement, even though that’s his area of expertise.  It’s not the first time you have had complaints about Stephanie’s micromanagement and need for control. But you get it because frankly, it’s hard to get good help!

How to do it better: Stephanie has some trust issues. As the leader in your business, it’s your responsibility to mentor, coach and lead your team for greater performance and excellence. 

Here’s how that might sound: “Stephanie I’ve noticed that you’re not really allowing John to fully embrace his job and that tells me that you don’t really trust him. That’s one of our core values, and the way we live that is by greeting failure as an opportunity to learn. Help me understand what’s going on and why you’re not trusting him?” 

“It was all for nought.” (We’re not learning from our mistakes)

After a month of training, inductions, and onboarding, John resigns. In his exit interview, he tells you that he was disappointed. He thought that when he saw the values in the kitchen they would have meant something, but:

  • He didn’t see the customer service priority
  • He didn’t feel that the organisation trusted the team to do their jobs well, and 
  • He felt that no one in the team ever stepped up to assist him throughout his time there.

How to do it better: reflect and learn! Have a think about the actual and time costs of recruiting and losing a potentially great team member. 

Take those values, and start to embed them in the organisation. Develop behaviours that make it very clear how to live them and hold your team accountable.

It’s really all about culture! 

Culture is the feeling that people have when they turn up to work. It’s the alignment of what we believe to be true. If culture is the house, then the values are the concrete foundation. 

My strong personal opinion is that when you’re part of an organisation you’re either on the bus, genuinely contributing to the culture or you’re not. If not, that’s totally fine, you might just be better on a different bus. 

Having seen the good, the bad and the ugly of work cultures, I know the organisations that are more likely to achieve their goals (and have a better time doing it), are those that live, breathe and hold everyone accountable to the organisation’s values. That’s what underpins the culture.

Values don’t just sit on a wall, they become the way you lead

As we saw at ABC Widgets, if you have “Integrity”, “Trust”, “Teamwork” and “Customer Service” sitting on your wall––,but your team can’t recite them, or don’t have specific behaviours that they can call on to know what they mean––then these words are just reverberations of air coming from your mouth. They are lip-service! 

A values-based business embeds values as a living, breathing part of every single workday. Let’s say, for example, a team member has a bad day and snaps at a colleague. You IMMEDIATELY check-in (not just to manage your team member but to also check in because, hello, you’re living the ‘teamwork’ value). You coach around the behaviour and re-establish the “rules” and standards in the organisation. Leadership made simple without conflict!

Why are business coaches so “thingy” about values?

As a small business coach, I know that the clearer we are as leaders about our expectations, the easier it is to lead. Full stop.

Being clear about the standards in your business is kind and gives your team the best opportunity to excel! Trust me on this. Leadership is a challenging space, but having a playbook of what’s acceptable makes calling people to account that much less emotionally draining.

When you define success right from the start and reinforce it, the greater the ease and grace that occurs as we go on our journey in businesses.

Would you like to know more?

My client Tim from Mobile Monster sat down to talk about the impact that my values program had on his business. In my next blog, I’ll share the video we did and will give you some strategies that you can use to embed values into your organisation!


In the meantime, if you want someone to guide you through creating organisational values – or you have them but want to give them a shake-up – I have the perfect 2-month values program for you. I specialise in small business coaching in Melbourne, and you can easily book a complimentary 15-minute chat to see if I’m a values match for you and your team! 🙂 

Read this next: How You Do One Thing Is How You Do Everything – Lessons In How You Show Up


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