It’s not the 1990’s anymore. Great companies aren’t just about profits and sales; they also stand for something. If you want to position yourself in the market, capture and keep customers, make sales, but also attract and retain talented team members, you need to define your core values, ideally from the start.

Do you value sustainability or maybe social responsibility? Are you about an adventurous spirit or minimalist lifestyle? Whatever you stand for, when people buy from you, they porpbably support your brand’s affinities to some degree.

By defining your company’s values from day one, you can build a company that reflects who you want to be. Clearly defined core values will also help you stay focused and make important decisions easier because they’ll always be there to guide you.

Some define core values as ‘branding’ yet there seems to be a lot of semantic games being played in modern day branding agencies so I prefer to be more specific and less ambiguous.

How to Define Your Company Values

Defining a set of company values doesn’t mean simply acknowledging them on the company’s website. You need to make sure your values define you and that they’re reflected in the people that work for you, both inside and outside the workplace. Your core values are who you are, your identity.

Here are a few tips that will help you define your company values and put them into action.

Determine Your Vision

As a company founder and an entrepreneur, you’re the leader. And great leaders always have great visions. Just think of figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or Martin Luther (the original).

Once your vision is clear, you can use it to define the core values which, in turn, will enable you to build a company that is able to turn your vision into reality.

Building a business solely for profit won’t get you far. Your passion and vision should drive you to add value to people’s lives, inspire them, and make positive changes.

But how exactly do you determine what your vision is?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Who are you trying to help and how?
  • How will your products or services change people’s lives?
  • How will your products or services reach people?

When answering these questions, think about how the leaders of the most successful companies would answer them. Try with companies like Uber or Apple, for example. Think about what their leaders envisioned and what makes them stand out.

One of the most successful Australian companies, Canva, enables both non-designers and professionals, to create great graphic designs. But their vision is more extensive than that. Canva wants to “empower everyone to create and communicate,” and they do this on a global level. The company also strives to “work towards a world that isn’t just good for a small few, but one that’s good for everyone.”

Once you’ve answered the above-listed questions for several successful companies, do the same for yours. Can you imagine how your company is helping shape the world you’ve envisioned? Then you’re on the right track.

Work with Your Team Members to Determine Your ‘Uniqueness’

Many leaders believe that they alone should determine the core values and then simply pass them on to their team. But for your company values to be meaningful, your team must be included in the process.

Sit with your team to define values early on. Start by thinking about what makes your company unique. Have each one of them write their ideas down, then reflect on them for some time, and narrow down the values to a few core statements.

In addition, consider your teams’ qualities and skills. Which traits make them successful? Which ones unite them as a team? Discuss this list with your team to determine which ones align with your company vision and represent them as a whole.

Come Up with a Shocking Rule

The Australian workforce management platform Deputy has this shocking rule: “Get over yourself.” Shocking rules like this one make team members stop for a moment and think about the company’s mission. As Deputy’s mission is to “improve the lives of business owners and hourly employees”, they need to build and maintain a company culture that is selfless.

Your ‘shocking rule’ should have a meaning that is linked to the company’s identity and embody the company’s mission. It should resonate with your team and have an impact on their actions.

Regardless of how your company changes, this shocking rule will always be there to guide your business.

Putting Your Values into Action

Now that you have a list of core values, the next step is to put them into action. But how exactly do you do that?

Start by writing them down physically. Draft a mission statement and outline your core values. Put these on your company website. Revisit several times if necessary, to adjust and polish them until they reflect what you want to express.

Here is one great example of a mission statement by Salesforce, a company that was awarded as one of Australia’s Best Places to Work: “We believe that the business of business is to improve the state of the world, and we work to make sure Salesforce is a platform for change through serving the interests of all our stakeholders — employees, customers, partners, communities and the environment.”

Salesforce’s vision, mission, and core values motivate nearly 60% of its employees. When asked who they feel the most loyal to at work, almost 20% of employees said Salesforce’s vision and mission. More than 15% of employees said that the main reason they stay at Salesforce is because of the company mission. This clearly demonstrates the importance of having a focused mission and cohesive core values.

But this certainly didn’t happen overnight for Salesforce. Creating a company like this starts with a clear vision and making sure that every single employee in the company lives by the core values every day.

Your marketing should be tailored to reflect your core values. These qualities are what make your company unique and special, so you need to make sure they shine through at every point of contact.

Review the company policies to make sure they reflect your core values as well and start drafting ideal team models so that you’ll be prepared to do interviews that will help you find workers that support your core values, vision, and mission.

One great way to make sure your core values don’t get forgotten over time is to tie them to team recognition. Have the team choose a colleague that exhibits the company values every month and reward that person with a present or an award. Another option is to offer certain perks (like a day off or a bonus) for the team member who represents the company in a positive light.

Whatever you’re doing with your company, think about whether it reflects your core values. If that’s not the case, then you probably shouldn’t do it. If it does reflect your values, then you can proceed, resting assured that you’re sticking to what truly matters.

Final Thoughts

Every entrepreneur has a passion but not all of them are able to express that passion and use it to move forward.

Defining your company’s core values will help you stay focused. It will help you determine what is truly important and concentrate on it.

And oftentimes, you don’t need to beat your brains out to figure out what makes your company special; sometimes it takes something simple to make a company stand out from the crowd.