As a small business ourselves, the Summa Media team knows just how important core values are to defining and distinguishing your brand in the marketplace. Your core values communicate your brand’s beliefs to the world and tell prospective clients and employees alike how they can expect to be treated. Core values also help to shape the culture of your organization and differentiates your brand from the competition.
When defining a brand’s core values, the Summa Media team typically sees business leaders take one of two approaches. The first is the rushed approach. This approach occurs when a business owner knows they need core values, but they don’t have the time to really sit down and think about what their values are. This often leads to them copy and paste words such as: “Trust, Respect, Authenticity, and Partnership” on their company’s about page and call it a day. Now they supposedly have core values, but the values don’t really seem to carry much weight, do they?
The other approach we often see is the frozen in fear approach. In this scenario the business leader knows they need core values and they know they are important. However, they are so overwhelmed about the possibility of choosing the wrong values that they become frozen in fear, unable to make any sort of decision. While core values are of course very important, there is no reason to fear them either.
In order to help our clients better define and articulate their brand’s core values, the Summa Media team has come up with a method to the madness. It isn’t particularly time consuming and it will help get you past the fear of making a mistake.
Today we are sharing our process with you. Keep reading below to learn how you should define your core values!
What Are Brand Core Values?
Your brand’s core values are the guiding principles that articulate to the world what your brand represents. Core values define what is most important to you as a business and a business leader. They are a built in moral compass for all business related decisions and should be the driving force behind your brand and all of your operations.
At Summa Media, we have seen many businesses and leaders struggle with their core values and this often occurs because they did not carefully think about their values before defining them. When selecting your core values you need to evaluate what they mean to you and how your team will use them.
As a rule of the thumb, your brand’s core values should first and foremost be:
- Easy to Remember
Core values should be easy to remember and memorable for both your team and your clients. When choosing your core values choose short, clever words or phrases that your team will be able to recite by heart and reflect on when making decisions that impact the business.
Your brand’s core values should be authentic and an accurate reflection of your brand and your personal values. If something doesn’t resonate with you, but you think it sounds like a good core value to have, cross it off the list! Employees and clients can tell when something is coming from an inauthentic place and that makes them wary to trust the source.
If you are struggling as to whether or not your values seem authentic, ask yourself what values, goals, and beliefs excite and fulfill you. The things that come to mind are things that you are passionate about and that carry a lot of weight for you. Choosing values that excite your soul will help ensure you walk the walk.
In addition to being memorable and authentic, it is important that your core values are well-defined. When outlining your core values, it isn’t enough to just list each value, you must also share what each value means to you and your brand. Help your employees and clients understand the why behind each value so that they better resonate. Well-defined core values will also ensure that you can hold your team accountable for demonstrating the values in their actions.
Why You Should Define Your Core Values
There is no law that says your business must define it’s core values to operate, which often means that many brand’s choose not to define them at all. However, by taking the time to define your core values you are sending the world a message about who you are and how you conduct business.
Having clearly defined core values also helps you run your business because they allow you to:
- Use your core values as a moral compass
When making business decisions including hiring and firing decisions, growth opportunities, potential partnerships, and more having core values gives you a moral compass to turn to. Evaluate each decision you make based on whether or not it aligns with your brand’s values and if a decision does not seem to match up, ask yourself if that is truly the right path for your brand.
- Hire team members that are aligned with your brand’s values
Core values help to shape your company culture and influence things like employee retention and turnover. When bringing new hires onto the team, a candidate may seem great on paper, but when you speak to them something might feel off. Many hiring managers ignore red flags because the skillset needed is there. This often leads to poor hiring decisions that have an impact on the business as a whole.
Oftentimes the red flags or bad feelings that were ignored are poorly aligned values. When interviewing candidates take the time to assess their values and culture fit, not just their skills, to ensure you have the right person for the job and the team.
- Boost company morale and team retention
When your employees believe in the core values of your brand and they see these core values alive within your business, company morale is raised. People want to work for and do business with company’s whose values align to theirs. By seeing strong values they are equally passionate about across your organization you will boost job satisfaction and increase employee retention.
- Differentiate from your competitors
When your values are clearly defined and you lead with them in the forefront, your client’s will take notice of this. Prospective customers whose personal values align with yours will seek your business out as a like-minded brand. For example, a person who is passionate about the outdoors and sustainability likely seeks clothing manufacturers and retailers that value sustainability and have implemented practices to reduce waste and their carbon footprint!
Processes to Help You Determine Your Core Values
The Summa Media team knows that choosing core values to accurately represent your brand to the world can feel like a daunting task. To help make the process feel less overwhelming, we have outlined the process that we use to help get our clients started below:
- Brainstorm and whiteboard your ideas
Start defining your core values by doing a brainstorming session (or two or three!) and write down everything that you value personally and professionally. Think hard about the things that you value in life, where you want to take your company, and how you would like to perform as a leader. Don’t worry if the list is long at first, you will take steps to shorten it later, for now just get it all down on paper.
- Revise the list
Now that you have your long list of values, step away from the list for a few days. Take time to reflect on what you have written, maybe there will be other values that come to mind, maybe there will be a few that you choose to take off.
After you have taken time to reflect on the values, you need to revise and narrow down the list. Your goal is to bring the list down to the top five or six core values that will define your brand. This may take a few rounds of revision and may be done over the course of a few days and that is okay! Remember, everything should feel authentic and you can’t rush authenticity.
- Ask for feedback
Once you have your list narrowed down, ask for feedback! Survey trusted clients and employees and ask them for their input on the values. Do the values resonate with them? Do they see each value reflected in your brand’s operations? Are there any other values they would advise you to include?
- Define what each value means to you
Once you have your list narrowed down and approved by a select group of clients and employees, it is time to define each core value. Take the time to reflect on how each value influences you and how you feel your business incorporates each into your day-to-day processes. Share anecdotes and advice to help ensure the values resonate with your team and clients.
When defining your core values it is important to remember that there is no one size fits all approach. Core values are extremely personal and should be meaningful to your unique business and beliefs. Take the time to reflect on what you value and use that as a guide to get started.
Does your business have well-defined core values? If so, the Summa Media team would love to hear from you. Share your core values with us in the comments below!