How and why start-ups should define their values early on

Values are often considered a bolt-on or added bonus to start-up businesses, who may consider brand awareness, growth and revenue as their first priorities. While this approach is common and often successful, there’s evidence to show a values-first mindset can also provide incredible results in brand awareness, resulting in organic growth, often at a faster rate.

When launching a new business, putting your values first not only gives your new venture a strong, unified culture but can also provide clear business benefits in both the long and short term. Here’s how to make it happen.

Finding your values

Every business will have values that are unique to them, and it’s worth exploring what resonates with your own mission. It’s best to make your values broad enough that they can apply to many situations, but not so vague that they become meaningless.

For example, Google’s values include “focus on the user and all else will follow”, “it’s best to do one thing really, really well”, and “you can be serious without a suit”. These values can be applied to many situations, but are also clear, tangible, and help define the business’s culture and practices.

Our experience has been that having the values defined right from the start, makes communicating our points of difference easier, and sees drivers and users of the service quickly resonate with a business that they hadn’t heard of until then. As a start-up, that speedy recognition and connection is pretty valuable and would otherwise require huge marketing spend to achieve.

Putting your values into practice

Once you’ve defined your values, how do you go about putting them into practice? As any small business knows, planning for something is one thing, but actually acting on it is another thing entirely.

Ideally, you should define your business’s values before launch. You’ll find that once you’ve found your values, your brand image, tone of voice, and messaging will naturally follow suit – or at least be easier to discover.

For your values to work, your entire team needs to be on board with them. Workshop your ideas with your leadership team, and make sure that everyone has had their say. Once you’ve found your values, make sure that everyone in your business fully understands what they mean, and how they might play out in practice.

Write your values out, and place them somewhere where everyone can see them. Refer to your values regularly, and use them to help make decisions, set goals, and guide your team culture.

The long-term benefit

A values-first mindset can seem intimidating at first, especially for start-ups with limited revenue streams. You might think that by prioritising drivers and community over revenue, DinkumRide’s business will inevitably suffer. But in reality, we’ve experienced the exact opposite. By focusing on values first, we’ve been able to increase registrations and expand to other Australian states – and revenue has naturally followed.

People want to support businesses they believe in, and this is especially the case when the business is still small. A strong focus on your business’s values will lead to potential new customers knowing what you stand for, and why they should spend their money with you. Over the long term, this will lead to loyal customers, a strong brand image, and a sparkling reputation. What could be better than that?

Rajesh Vuppala, Founder, DinkumRide