Is Writing a Core Values Statement Worth Your Time?

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May 26, 2014

I rarely want to follow the rules. So the more someone tells me I have to do something, the rebel in me doesn’t really want to.

That’s how I felt about developing a core values statement. For 25 years I resisted, even though all the so-called experts touted core values as the “missing link” for business.

I knew it would probably be useful in some way, but the whole process sounded painful, time-consuming, and expensive:

  • Hold multiple meetings with your employees and ask for their feedback!
  • Craft it this way — no wait, that way!
  • Take your employees off-site and have a brainstorming retreat!

Ugh. What small business owner has time for all that? Besides, my businesses had hummed along nicely for 25 years without it.

That was, of course, until I did need it.

When you need a values statement in a hurry

In 2013, we were about to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new, modern office building. The interior of the offices were to be a surprise to employees and would feature large TV screens displaying a slide show of our accomplishments and our core values. The trouble was, I hadn’t written the core values yet.

Suddenly, I needed a statement of core values in less than an hour. A deadline is an excellent motivator for me — I closed my door and dove in, all alone, and wrote:

Who are we?

What is in our hearts?

What are our values?

How do we do our work?

Thinking about work ethic and critical roles

I pictured 12 of my long-term employees, the cream of the crop. I saw the faces of people like Debbie, Mark, Brigitte, Wendy, Todd, Paul, and others. I thought about their work ethic and the critical part each have played in my businesses. Some 20 minutes later I had this list:

“Statement of Core Values”

  • I am hard-working, honest, and caring.
  • I have integrity. I don’t lie, cheat, or steal.
  • I always get the job done, no matter what. I do whatever it takes!
  • I’m not a clock-watcher. I always give more of myself (and my time) than what is expected of me.
  • I am very focused and use my time wisely.
  • My work is accurate and thorough.
  • I take ownership and pride in my work. For me, it’s not just a job … it’s my passion.
  • I know that change is constantly happening in any progressive business. So I quickly embrace change.
  • I’m a thinker. I think things through as far as I possibly can.
  • I’m a continuous learner. I regularly pursue new education and training on the job and also in my spare time.
  • I genuinely care about our customers, and I want them to be successful.
  • I always provide our customers with more value than they pay for.
  • My co-workers are like family to me, and I am loyal and accountable to each of them.
  • I honor my co-workers and treat them with respect.
  • I’m friendly, cooperative, and easy to get along with!
  • I try to remain humble. It’s “not about me” or doing things my way. It’s about the cause (the mission) that we are pursuing together. I’m an open-minded team player.
  • I get results. Consistently.

A great investment of time

Our statement of core values has come in handy in the last year. In addition to sharing the list at our grand opening and displaying them on the TV screens in our offices, I chose one core value — respect — as the basis for company-wide harassment training.

I also routinely discuss our core values in our monthly newsletter. Our core values help us reinforce our expectations for employees and now guide us in hiring decisions. I also plan to incorporate them in our hiring process.

If you’ve put off this task because you think it will be difficult or a waste of time, it really isn’t. It shouldn’t be hard if you know your people very well.

Defining your beliefs

Don’t over-think it. Just close your office door and picture each of your best employees, the ones who really understand your business. Think about their work ethic and what they value. Then just start writing. (You can borrow my questions to get you started:)

  • Who are we?
  • What is in our hearts?
  • What are our values?
  • How do we do our work?

The end result — your statement of core values — will help define your beliefs and give you a sense of direction as a company. It’s definitely worth 20 minutes of your time!

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