How We Defined Our Company’s Core Values (& How You Can Define Yours)
In a recent study about the perception of advertising, only 3% of those surveyed described the claims made in ads as “very accurate.” The other 97% described ads to be either “somewhat accurate” (21%), “somewhat exaggerated” (57%), or “very exaggerated” (19%).
Well, to a certain degree, you could assume it means that approximately 97% of people think companies are lying to them.
That’s disappointing. But it makes sense—the companies that have either made poor choices or proven themselves to be untrustworthy in the past have ruined the consumer perception of “what businesses are after” for the rest of us. And by “the rest of us,” I mean companies who have values they’re striving to stick to.
Would your company fall under that category? One with values? Of course, all for-profit businesses are in it for just that—profit. But can’t you be in it to make money and have the best interest of your customers (and employees) in mind? At Nectafy, we think so. Companies like Google do, too. (As they put it, “You can make money without doing evil.”)
Creating a company like this—one that customers can trust—doesn’t happen overnight. And it starts at the core—from the inside out.
At Nectafy, we have a set of core values that define who we are as a company. And in my opinion, it may just be one of the best documents we’ve ever created!
These values didn’t just appear one day—they’re the result of hours of hard work put in by our whole team. Here’s how we did it (and how your company can define core values, too).
How We Defined Our Company’s Core Values (& How You Can Define Yours)
Step #1: We bought in.
Defining company values can have many benefits, but if the leaders in your organization don’t buy in to those values, the act of defining them alone can’t possibly have a positive effect on your company. Having core values isn’t just about making a list. It’s about incorporating them into everything you do—and that starts from the top down.
In our case, the desire to create a list of core values came directly from our founder and president, Lance. If he wasn’t into the idea, these values definitely wouldn’t be an integral part of our company.
Speaking from an employee perspective, I certainly couldn’t give you all the reasons why your company should put values first, but from what I’ve seen in my time at Nectafy, the benefits are countless.
Defining values gives everyone in an organization a code to live and work by, which allows employees to “function based on their own internal compasses, rather than having to refer to a rulebook and be monitored by bosses.” (For an entirely remote company like Nectafy, “internal compasses” are absolutely necessary.)
While having a values-based organization might seem a little like a “trendy startup” business model, it’s not. Companies have seen success in placing an emphasis on values for decades. Southwest Airlines Co-Founder and CEO Herb Kelleher, who embraced a values-based business model, wrote this in 1997:
“A financial analyst once asked me if I was afraid of losing control of our organization. I told him I’ve never had control and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done, and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchs and control mechanisms you need.”
Step #2: We gathered our team to discuss the values that were important to each of us and took notes.
After you have leadership and team buy-in, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose which team members you want to contribute to this conversation. This should definitely involve all company leaders, and depending on the size of your organization, my recommendation would be that you include everyone else, too! If you want your team to be committed to these values, having them involved from the start encourages them to take ownership.
We, of course, wanted everyone involved, so we decided to start the process in one of our weekly team meetings. The question we threw out for brainstorming was simply, “What do we value as a company?” Then, as we discussed, a designated note-taker typed out everything that was said in a Google Doc (one of the best ways to collaborate online!).
It took us several weeks of “chiseling away” at this brainstorming for a few minutes at a time to realize that we needed to devote a block of time to finishing it up as a team. So, in one of our “Nonday” (“Nectafy Monday”) meetings, where we have a several hours to focus solely on Nectafy, we finished fleshing out these values.
Step #3: We pared down our list of brainstormed ideas into a rough draft.
At our Nonday meeting, as we talked through each idea as a team, our designated note-taker narrowed down the several pages of the notes we had from our previous brainstorming sessions by consolidating similar ideas into brief, still-rough value statements.
Step #4: We split into pairs and came up with single-statement definitions of each value.
Once we’d reached a point where we felt we had the basic list of values down, we knew we needed to come up with clear, concise definitions of each value. So we split into teams of two, and each pair gave it their best shot at writing the perfect single statement to describe the values assigned to them.
Step #5: We regrouped as a team to read through the definitions and create a final draft.
We read through each of the statements that we came up with when we split into pairs, and we reworked them as necessary to make sure everyone on the team agreed with each one. And finally—we had it! Our list of core values!
Step #6: We handed it off to one person for a final edit.
To make sure our list of core values was absolutely perfect, we handed it off to one team member to do a final edit of the document. This team member was tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Editing for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Reworking wording if necessary, to make sure each value was written consistently.
- Formatting the list correctly.
- Making sure the document looked polished and complete.
Step #7: We are implementing these core values into everything we do.
Our core values are how we “live and breathe” at Nectafy! We’d be missing the point if we didn’t implement these values into every aspect of our work—so that’s what we’re doing. From our hiring process, to how we communicate with each other, to how we execute our work and interact with clients, these values are ingrained in what we do.
Whatever values your company chooses should be unique to you. It isn’t so much what you choose, but how authentic those values are to your company—because if they’re values you truly believe in, they’ll be easy to live out.
“People with different personalities, different approaches, different values succeed not because one set of values or practices is superior, but because their values and practices are genuine. And when you and your organization are true to yourselves—when you deliver results and a singular experience—customers can spot it from 30,000 feet.” –Herb Kelleher