My last piece on this topic examined the importance and power of corporate core values.
Among the points made in that article was this important one about marketing:
‘Companies that have clear and accurate core values are able to reach beyond their existing markets.’
It also asked:
“Why do some companies founder in the face of new market challenges, while others demonstrate the flexibility to adapt?
And it provided this answer:
“It is because the ones that founder draw their values, their raison d’être, entirely from their markets.
It went on to make these points:
“Because these organisations are driven by their markets, they are entirely at their mercy.
So when market conditions change, it is often too late for them to engage on any kind process of self-discovery or self-definition.
“Companies that thrive on market change can do so because they have been participators in that change process.
“And they have only been able to do this because they know very clearly who they are, what they stand for and what is most important to them.”
The point was also made that without a clearly defined set of values, any attempt at entrepreneurialism is ultimately futile.
So how can a company go about developing a set of values which is a true reflection of its brand?
Very few, if any, organisations start out from a blueprint in which its USP and company culture are clearly stated and strictly adhered to. That’s not how we humans tend to work, is it?
USPs and brands usually develop organically and exist without being known terribly well.
Deep down, in our gut’ we know what our company is like. We work in it every day, we’re very familiar with it, but how can we articulate all that we know and feel?
We must devise a collaborative process to tease out our understanding and articulate what we know deep down about our company.
There are many roads to the one destination – I’ve used a few quite successfully in the past – but here is one which I find works well.
- Define the personality
The word ‘company’ originated from the old French ‘compagnie’, meaning ‘society, friendship, intimacy’. So really, it means ‘a group of people’.
Companies are not just about people, they are people.
Every modern company has a culture, an approach, a way of working, an outlook etc, and in all cases, this culture is derived from the founding personalities of that original association.
So first of all, think of your company is though it were a person. Then try and get inside that personality.
Trying to take an empirical approach to all of this can make our brains hurt. It’s far better to go with the ‘gut feeling’ approach by devising an activity to ‘brainstorm’ or ‘braindump’ every person’s gut answers to the question:
If our company is a person, what is that person like?
Get every idea down, no matter how unlikely, inappropriate or wrong they may first appear to anyone.
Then take everything single thing that has been written and have it drafted into a personality statement for further refining, so that we end up with a company profile we can all recognise and buy into.
- Refine the personality
In the next session, break out each of the agreed personality traits and examine what each means in practical terms by asking this question:
‘If this trait is true of our company, how is it borne out in our practices? What are some examples of us acting in this particular way?’
Gather all of these responses and then create a three-column grid in which the first column lists the traits and the second lists all of the examples from the previous session.
At the head of the third column write: ‘what we believe’.
Now you are asking your people to infer. If this particular thing is what we do, what does it imply about what we believe? (This is also work that can cause brain-aches, but it’s worth sticking with because it can also be hugely rewarding.)
Now hand all of this over for processing into a broad set of value statements.
- Process the values
You now have a broad statement of values which outline what is important to your company. The next stage is about identifying what is most important and then prioritising them.
The group examines these written value statements, assessing their veracity, revising where necessary or appropriate.
- Develop the values
The next stage is quite fascinating because it involves separating each of the value statements into categories or themes. These should emerge quite naturally as you go through them.
You will probably end up with five or six broad areas, to which can be attributed a theme word – eg ‘energy’ ‘drive’ ‘excitement’ ‘loyalty’, ‘enterprise’ and so on.
Above each area, we can now draft a blanket statement which describes that value area in one or two sentences.
- Use the values
So now you have some words on paper, outlining your values which mean a great deal.
In terms of understanding and further developing your brand, they are gold dust.
Your core values should guide every important decision your company makes.
Constantly challenge and update them – because they are what will help your company prosper through whatever challenge your market can throw at it in the future.
Call me at any time if you’d like to discuss this further.