When was the last time you flexed your company’s core (value) muscles?

No matter what size your company is now, growing it in a smart, lean way and recruiting the best people is – or should be – one of your top priorities. Maybe you’ve already started building your team, or you’re just beginning to think about making your first big hire. Either way, establishing your company’s core values helps you make smarter decisions in moving your business forward and creates a foundation for your company’s culture.

Over the course of running Little Pim for nine years, I hired over forty people. I made some awesome hires and had a few who lasted only a week! Over time I read many books and resources about the best methods for hiring—as well as practices that should be avoided (like hiring on gut instinct). Of course, I still made my share of mistakes, but do believe that having core values helped us to hire a lot more of the right people for our company and waste less time bringing on people who were not a fit.

In the last Million Dollar Monday post, we covered two of the three legs for the “hiring stool”: 1) finding the right people and 2) creating a strong onboarding process. Now let’s take a look at the third leg, having the right culture—a step that’s often overlooked because it can be seen as a business practice that doesn’t drive revenue (even though that’s not true).

Culture builds character and community

Company culture is a huge factor in the hiring process yet it often falls to the wayside—mostly because as entrepreneurs we have so much on our plates when establishing our business, brand, and team. When it comes to culture, doing one simple exercise will help you create it for your company. And this is creating your company’s core values. Utilize this core values template to get started!

What are core values? They are your company’s characteristics and priorities that support the vision, shape the culture, and are what makes your company culture unique. If you are a solopreneur then your company core values are your core values, but it’s still worth doing the exercise because it can be used to help you attract your first hires, advisors, coaches or mentors.

Core values are fundamental, enduring, and actionable

Having core values allows you to follow your “true north” when it comes to decision-making. They can guide you through recruiting the best people and planning activities that are in line with your company culture and say no to opportunities or ideas that are not in line with those values.

At Little Pim, we created our core values as a team during our strategic retreat and posted them in a frame right by the main entrance to keep them top of mind.

Little Pim Core Values

● Be creative risk-takers

          ✓ Take risks, stay creative, embrace change

● Help each other grow personally and professionally

          ✓ We encourage outside of work activities and support each other in ongoing learning

● Celebrate our achievements & unpack our mistakes

          ✓ Recognize accomplishments big and small

          ✓ Review what happened and learn from it

● Keep it balanced

          ✓ Maintain work-life balance, humor, and humility

Core values are usually for internal use (though we added them to our fundraising deck, because we thought investors would want to know what we are all about). They’re for your company and employees to know by heart, act on, and think about. They demonstrate how your business operates and what it prioritizes; that’s why developing strong core values isn’t a “soft” business practice, even though it might seem that way at first.

When hiring anyone in your business, core values are a great tool because cultural fit is key to your new employee succeeding. Do they naturally exemplify the core values? Having employees that enjoy working for your company, relate to your mission, and are in sync with your company’s culture will increase the likelihood that they will want to do their best and stay for a long time.

Values in motion

Here are some best practices around core values drawn from my coaching clients and entrepreneurs I respect.

  • My friend Carrie Kerpen is CEO of a social media agency called Likeable Media in New York that has prospective hires review a slide deck presentation about their company culture and what it’s like to work there. Likeable’s company culture is so unique and fun (think potlucks, silly games and dress up days), it was awarded SmartCEO’s Corporate Culture award this year, and made the list four years in a row of Crain’s best places to work in New York City! You can bet Carrie is getting ROI out of the work she did on core values and creating a great culture.
  • One of my Masterclass graduates has core values are all about social responsible innovation. For example, one of their seven core values is that “great companies of the future will also create psychologically safe environments to create great leaders, rather than dutiful followers”. Everything they do, inside and out, is geared towards innovating for social good and the people who work there are proud of being part of a company that is doing good while doing well.
  • I once visited a publishing company called PRI in Texas that was voted best place to work in Texas. They have their core values painted on the wall of their conference room, posted along hallways and even printed up a little booklet they give out to staff and visitors alike. Some of their core values are “be positive, be passionate, and be accountable.” During their daily morning meeting, the staff takes turns highlighting what their colleagues have done to embody least one of the values. Everyone in the room got into it, calling out wins, laughing and blushing and they leave feeling energized and inspired at the start of each day.
  • Zappos is famous for their company culture which is built around their 10 core values and “out there” company culture. Part of their on-boarding process is having every single new employee trained on their values. Zappos is so dedicated to company culture that if employees aren’t putting their all into it, they’re offered $2,000 to $5,000 to look elsewhere for employment. That way, Zappos only has people on their team who are 100% dedicated to the core values.

Core values are necessary to have in place for consistently choosing the right people for your team and developing an on-boarding process that sets your new hires up for success. By incorporating them into daily and weekly routines, they even become an integral piece of your company’s brand and culture.

Stay brave,

Julia