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6 min read

After you have connected with your story, it’s time to determine your core business values.

This is a bit less on the emotional side and a little more on the professional side. Your core values represent the decision making factors of your business.

Let’s start with determining your one main value and then back it up with some secondary values. The reason you should pick one main value over all others, is that it acts as the direction of your company and gives a simple tie-breaker in any tough to make decision.

Start by writing down several different values of your company, these could be things such as creating memorable guest experiences, maximizing profitability, providing an excellent job atmosphere for your employees, having the best grilled cheese in the state, being a place that caters to local artists, or any of a number of others things that may be important to your business.

Narrow down these items by ranking them in order of importance. If you are having trouble deciding between items of seemingly similar importance, ask yourself, “what if this was the only thing we were known for?” Maximum profitability is a great thing to shoot for, but it’s likely not going to be your primary core value. This would imply that in any tough decision, the company will always decide to go with the more profitable choice. Even if this choice is firing a long term employee you enjoy, downgrading food quality, or weakening your drinks. This is not what most businesses strive to do.

Say your deciding between being an excellent place to work and being the place with an unforgettable bloody mary. (A Bloody Mary, is a popular Wisconsin drink that is typically made with tomato juice, vodka, and about 20 other spices and sauces you’d find in a kitchen and then loaded with massive amounts of garnishes to the point where you can’t see the drink.) First, ask yourself, what if this was the only thing I was known for?

Option one: Being the best Bloody Mary bar but were a place that had employees that gave okay service because they were indifferent about their job.

Option two: Being a place that employees love working for, show up early, stay late, and stay with the company for years, however those in the community aren’t really sure what your ‘thing’ is. They always have a good time when they go there, but there’s nothing in the food or drinks that’s really special.

Which one is more preferable to you? Hint: The answer is subjective, it’s what is right for you and your business. Also, remember just because you have a great staff that loves coming to work doesn’t mean you can’t also have a killer bloody mary, it’s just the extreme case that helps you set your primary core value.

This is important when you get to the point of determining, “Do I let this employee go who sells Bloody Mary’s better than anyone else in the company but she shows up late and everyone dislikes working with her?”

When you have defined your primary core value, write it down and keep it in a prominent place, so that when you’re faced with a tough decision you know the direction to take.

Once you have your primary core value, you can then back that up with 3-4 other core values. Values that are important and tie into the identity of the company. Values that direct everyone in the company to make tough decisions in order to move the company forward.

I would limit these to no more than 5 total core values. Any more than that and you will start to get conflicting decisions. Furthermore, any more than 5 and your employees will have a hard time remembering them and they will lose their directiveness.

Make sure your managers and employees know your primary core value so that they know the best way to sway when faced with a tough choice. “Should I give into this complaining customer and give them their drink for free even though they drank most of it before complaining that it tasted weak?” Talk about your core values daily so that they are ingrained within your staff.

Most importantly, stick to your values! If you say that you want to have the best steaks in the area, don’t send out a steak that’s cooked wrong because you’re busy and you don’t want to back up the kitchen even further. Make sure every customer, gets the best steak, everytime. If you choose to ignore your core values when they become inconvenient, your staff will realize they aren’t important and will ignore them too.

To recap,

  • Define a primary core value that identifies the direction of the company and directs every decision you make
  • Back than up with up to four more core values
  • Talk about your values until they are ingrained within yourself and your staff
  • Keep talking about your values, daily
  • Stick to your values. Make decisions in line with your values Every. Single. Time. Even when it’s inconvenient.

Follow these steps and you’ll have a healthier workplace, less stress, and a much more well defined brand to employees and customers.

One final quip. Businesses that do this correctly shouldn’t have to explain their values to their customers. It should be evident with the actions of the employees and inherent within the vibe of the company.