Entrepreneurship and how to build a business that aligns with your values

Values are a set of principles that guide and govern who we are and who we must be. Great companies (both large and small) have a soul and values bring it to life through language; they articulate our essence in a way that would otherwise remain unspoken.

Why is it so important to build a business that aligns with your core values? Values are not just a set of principles that are manufactured to engineer productivity or loyalty, they are an authentic representation of the true heartbeat of an business and reflect its core identity. By defining our business’s values, we not only provide a roadmap for our team to follow; we also develop our unique brand identity and set ourselves apart from our competitors.

To build a business that aligns with your values, you first must answer the genuine questions of “Who are we?” and “Who do we strive to be?” To drill down even further, I’ve provided a list of questions below that can help you discover and define your core values:

  1. What is the unique culture and DNA of your company?
  2. When you look at your top people, those you would love more of, what attitudes, communication styles and behaviours do they consistently demonstrate that you want to encourage?
  3. When someone is not culturally aligned, what attitudes, communication styles and behaviours do they consistently demonstrate that you want to eliminate?
  4. Are there any aspects of your ideal culture that you would like to see demonstrated but don’t yet exist? What attitudes, communication styles or behaviours would boost performance further?
  5. In cascading order, what values do you consider the most important to least important?

Within an organisation, great culture comes not just from having a set of core values, but from the whole team acting in alignment with those values. Once you’ve found your values, it’s equally as important that you enrol your team to make sure that everyone is on board and a good cultural fit for your business.

The next step is to ensure your values become a living practice. For example, are you (and each one of your team members) doing something each day which embodies at least one of your core values? Are you thinking about your values when you’re engaging with customers, meeting new clients or developing strategy? If not, your values probably aren’t a living practice yet. You need to ensure that your values are deeply embedded into the fabric of your company, to ensure they’re having an impact on your culture and ultimately, performance.

Some further steps that can help you turn your values into a living practice include:

  • Ensuring that your values work together: When considered individually, a value could be interpreted and adopted in a way that isn’t in line with the culture you want to foster for your organisation. You want to get to a point where your values work together, in the sense that they defend against the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the others.
  • Integrating them throughout your entire business: Great culture is not about creating a list of values that you print off and hang on the wall. It is about alignment to those values, and alignment happens when the values shape how your business behaves. From your branding and positioning, to marketing and messaging, your sales process, the level of customer service you deliver, your recruitment process, induction and team training, and of course the ongoing management and leadership of your team.
  • Future-pacing yourself and your business: When I sat down to develop and define The Entourage’s values many years ago in 2014, it was during a period of exponential growth, so I asked myself, “As we continue to grow and become more successful, what do I want to defend against happening in our culture?” Ask yourself this same question – do your values do this? How can you further develop them to ensure that you and your team are aligned to them now, and also for when you get to where you want to get to?

Defining your business’ values and embedding them into the fabric of your company culture and day-to-day activities is key to long-term success as a business owner. Organisations that firmly know what they stand for and can communicate this, ultimately transcend the products or services they offer, occupying a special place in the hearts and minds of their customer.