Part of my job requires me to spend a lot of time inside my clients’ businesses. I’m always excited when I’m sitting in the office taking in the surroundings and I find printed, framed and pride of place a list of business values. This tells me everything I need to know about the business: what it stands for, why they do what they do, how they treat their staff and their customers. It’s a direct insight into the culture of the business in just a few short paragraphs. Or at least it should be…
What happens more commonly is a business will have its few sentences up on the wall for all to see and they get completely ignored by everyone in the business. They’re often just words that have no influence on the activities of the business whatsoever.
I’ve got no doubt that the values were written with the best of intentions: this is who we are and this is what we stand for, and this is how we’re going to run our business. But in business as in life things happen, things change and the little things get in the way of the big intentions.
So what’s the point? It’s difficult to run a business, deal with all the issues that come along and still keep focused on the company culture. However, by making your business culture the heart of everything you do, not just a list of values you no longer value, it becomes much easier to handle all the day-to-day activities and issues. At Elation we’ve split the entire business into 4 key management areas, so I’ll use these areas to demonstrate the value of a strong culture.
People: This really is where the values and culture of a business shine through. It’s the people within your business that embody everything you dreamed your company would look like. By making you culture a key part of your recruitment process, you will only hire people that fit with your vision, and using your culture and values as a tool for assessments, training and development, it will become embedded into every action your team complete. At Elation we use our 5 Core Values in review meetings to see how well the team are performing: if they haven’t embodied each value in some way then they haven’t had a perfect month.
Finance: In most businesses it’s not immediately obvious how your culture and values can interact with and influence your finances, but by linking the two you not only help to devise a finance strategy and guidelines, but one that reflects who you are. For example, your pricing guidelines might reflect that you want to be seen as a really creative and bespoke company, so you’ll create your quotes specifically for each client. Or you may have CSR at the heart of your business so you’ll give smaller companies and charities lower rates and longer grace with payments.
Sales: Your Sales function is the first insight your prospects and clients have of your business, and it’s therefore vital that it reflects your values precisely. By epitomising your culture at the early stages of your customer’s journey you’re setting their expectations for what it will be like to work with you. Every aspect of your business is built around your values, so the conversations your sales team have with your prospects will be a reflection of this. As long as the team delivering your services also stick to your values (see People to ensure this happens) you will never have a disappointed customer.
Operations: Operations is a really broad term that can involve a range of areas and departments, but by having your values at the centre of this you’re able to thread it through each area and hold them all together. Whether reviewing your marketing strategy or developing a new process for improving internal communication the first question should be “does it reflect our values?” If the answer is Yes then you will have a consistent message across all areas of your business, allowing you to build a strong brand and sustainable business.
So, how valuable are your values? What impact do they have on your business? Or are they just a nice set of words on the wall?
Robin Mason is the Co-Creator of Elation Sales, bespoke sales team training, sales process & planning and outsourced sales campaigns.