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How To Determine Your Business Values: Exercises, Examples & Top Lists

Do you know what your business’s values are?

I believe that your corporate values may be THE most important asset in enhancing your company’s long-term monetary value.

Your strategies and trends will come and go — your values can be forever!

This article will help answer the top questions you need to know about corporate values, such as:

  • What are values?
  • Why are values important?
  • How do you determine your values (including a “values exercise”)?
  • What are some business examples of values?

Here we go…!

What are values?

My definition of values is simple: Values are deeply-held beliefs about the right way of doing things.

Each individual operates life with their own set of values…and, of course, a business should as well.

Why are values important to a business?

As the author Jim Collins penned:

“The founders of great, enduring organizations like Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson often did not have a vision statement when they started out. They usually began with a set of strong personal core values…”

It is your values that will guide you through the toughest decisions you make…you know, those 50-50 calls that every business leader faces periodically.

How do you determine your business values?

Here’s an easy values exercise Jim Collins suggests (with my own twists on it after going through a couple):

  1. Sit down with your team.
  2. Imagine that you need to create a mini-version of your company on Mars…
  3. …And you have to send a few people (up to 7)¬† from your company on a spaceship to Mars to represent your business’s best attributes.
  4. Identify the handful of employees you’d send on the spaceship (you can’t vote for yourself (and, ideally (if your company is large enough), you aren’t allowed to select anyone on the team doing the exercise)
  5. Now examine those people that your team identified and list out the values/attributes they possess that made you vote for them (e.g. Jane operates with integrity,Ralph strives for excellence, etc.)
  6. You should have a list of 10 or more business values at this point
  7. Start poking holes at each business value (you can use real-life business challenges/successes to test each business value to see if it is indeed true)
  8. Some values might be redundant with each other so start shrinking your list (I recommend you get it down to 8 or fewer values)
  9. Wordsmithing — Once you come up with the list of 8 or fewer values you may want to wordsmith them in a way that’s more of a commitment

Examples of Business Values

There are numerous examples of business values out there — here are a few of companies I’m familiar with:

Hot Topic Media’s Values — Here’s an example of values our team came up with:

  • We treat our customers, partners & employees with dignity and respect
  • We do what we say, and we own what we do
  • We give our customers more value than they expect
  • We are good shepherds of our company’s assets
  • We leave the world a better place than we found it (the “Campsite Rule”)
  • We are proud of what we do and have fun doing it
  • We keep things simple and clear

Google’s Values — Google has a version of values it calls “Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know To Be True

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
  3. Fast is better than slow
  4. Democracy on the web works
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
  6. You can make money without doing evil
  7. There’s always more information out there
  8. The need for information crosses all borders
  9. You can be serious without a suit
  10. Great just isn’t good enough

Hewlett Packard’s Values — HP Calls these¬† their “Shared Values”:

  • Passion for customers — We put our customers first in everything we do.
  • Trust and respect for individuals — We work together to create a culture of inclusion built on trust, respect and dignity for all.
  • Achievement and contribution — We strive for excellence in all we do; each person’s contribution is key to our success.
  • Results through teamwork — We effectively collaborate, always looking for more efficient ways to serve our customers.
  • Speed and agility — We are resourceful, adaptable and achieve results faster than our competitors.
  • Meaningful innovation — We are the technology company that invents the useful and the significant.
  • Uncompromising integrity — We are open, honest and direct in our dealings.

BabyCenter’Values — Johnson & Johnson subsidiary BabyCenter calls it these their “Operating Principles”:

  • Operate with Integrity — Always
  • Our Sucess Starts with Our People
  • Be Customer-Driven
  • Strive for Excellence
  • Work Together to Make Decisions
  • Everyone Needs Feedback
  • Respect One Another
  • Face Facts Constructively

A final point: values aren’t just something to write down (or put on a coffee mug as some do).

Values must be based on the real-life actions of a business.

And it starts with leadership — exemplifying their values through their actions and decisions.