Every business has core values, a set of beliefs and ideas that define you as an organization.
Values show in how you hire, fire, train, build, communicate, negotiate, serve, market and react within the market. For very small businesses your core values as a person often create the core values of your business. But not every business had defined their core values, instead many businesses pick and choose values situation by situation usually without even knowing it.
Business owners often struggle to know who they are as a company and because of this, they often look, feel, and sound different as a company according to who’s doing the talking and what the situation is. This is especially bad in customer service, sales and marketing situations where it can create conflicting ideas about the business, the promises the company is making, and your value to the customer.
As it turns out, it’s hard to be something that you are not, both in life and in business. Core values are not something you post on a wall or put in a memo, they are something you live and breathe daily and intentionally. They guide decisions and often make decisions for you. They put things in perspective and provide the foundation you stand on.
By now you’ve heard about Zappos, the company Amazon bought for $847 Million dollars that started with two or three guys trying to sell sneakers online. They didn’t have new products that had never before been seen, infact they sold the same brands you already had access too at local stores. They didn’t have an awesome advertising agency and a huge ad budget. However, what they did have that no one else did, was core values that guided them every step along the way. When you read “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, it’s very clear that his core values as a person drove the core values (and success) of the company.
Here’s Zappos 10 core values:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
If this is new information for you, just Google “Zappos Family Core Values” and dig in and be sure to watch the video where Zappos employees are talking about the core values they are guided by and believe themselves.
You, as the small business owner are driving the core values of the organization. So, who are you?
The DNA of core values is shaped by these keywords:
Integrity, Honesty / Truthfulness, Trust, Commitment / Diligence, Order / Cleanliness, Humility, Service, Respect / Dignity, Justice/ Fairness, Grace / Compassion, Forgiveness, Consideration, Accountability, Excellence, Value, Quality.
What do you stand for?
Trust, honesty and integrity may have been your response. So, why do you have contracts and agreements then? Why do you have escape clauses in your service proposals or no guarantee to your sales transactions? Why do you let employees say things that are not true or you don’t deal honestly yourself with employees or customers?
When you stand for something, you stand firmly for it – not wavering and not sometimes nor only when it’s convenient.
If you stand for quality, then guide your business with quality. Put systems and tools in place that uphold your expectations of quality and make sure that what the customer sees represents quality to them while matching your expectations of quality. You cannot stand for quality but then be so frugal that you do not invest in quality. You cannot stand for quality but have no quality control or evaluation process. You cannot stand for quality and hire inexperienced workers who have no understanding or ability of producing quality themselves.
What you stand for, IS what you are.
What you stand for, IS what you stand on when it comes to your business, your employees, your customers and your sales and marketing. The same goes with any ideas like fairness, affordable, practical, fun, friendly, and accessible and so on.
When you begin to see the power, confidence, and guidance of defined core values and a consistent view of what you stand for, you’ll be whole and complete in all that you do. You will not be double minded, confused, or tempted to go off course in your hiring, customers, marketing, or sales because you will know what you stand for and what you stand on!
How do you treat employees?
Did you know that how you treat your employees is an indicator to how your employees act toward your customers? Where employees are treated poorly, you can expect to see customers being treated poorly. When customers are mistreated, you’ll see the results in your sales.
So, are you building up or tearing down your employees? Are you educating them with an expectation of potential or reprimanding them with an expectation of continued problems? Are you setting them up for success with ongoing training, mentoring, and progressive growth opportunities?
If you want your company to thrive, start looking at your employees as a marketing asset. Minimize bad habits with your employees and enable them to fairly represent you and encourage them as being important and valuable and they will act that way to customers as well.
The act of implementing, educating and honoring core values along with an appropriate change in office-wide bad habits will be enough to see noticeable change. More importantly, it will place a firm foundation under your entire business and all layers of staff. This consistency will pay big dividends and keep everyone on the same page.
Look at the actions of your employees and see the results.
It’s not uncommon to have bad experiences in fast food establishments, but occasionally you’ll have a standout experience that includes a clean building, friendly cashier, overall pleasant atmosphere and the meal you expected. In those experiences, you can be certain that the franchise owner or manager there cares for their employees. Happy, cared for employees make happy customers.
Do you see areas where you can improve your environment, training process, and daily communication with employees? Look for areas where employees are in direct contact with customers and you’ll see how they are directly affecting your sales and marketing.
Whoever is on the frontline with customers is controlling the mainline of sales.
How do you treat customers?
This is where the rubber meets the road. No customers, no business. It’s that simple.
Core values or not, when it comes to customers, they are the final decision so how are you treating them? Like a transaction or nuisances? Like family or old friends?
I can’t tell you how important this is. All the marketing in the world cannot overcome bad behavior with customers. If you treat your customers poorly, you’re going to fail – period. They are your lifeblood and without them, you die.