Without a clearly defined set of values, any attempt at entrepreneurialism is pretty futile.
But how can a company go about developing a set of values that 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.