wardell books

Corporate Values

Your Corporate Values make up the second side to your Corporate Foundation Pyramid. They are the humanity and the personality of your business. When people deal with your company, how are they treated? Do your customers feel important? What happens when they have a complaint? Do your suppliers get paid on time? How does your staff feel? Do you have a problem with theft? How would your business respond to a harassment complaint?

Like it or not, Corporate Values already permeate your business. The question is, do they serve or take away from your Corporate Mission? Are they organized in any way or are they random and accidental? Do all of your people have a clear understanding of what they are and do they truly believe in them? How about your customers? Do they appreciate the values expressed by your business as a whole or do they just enjoy working with one particular member of your staff? You perhaps?

Your Corporate Values are concerned with issues relating to values, beliefs and ethics. Once documented, they clarify and formalize the “personality” of your business in a way that supports your Corporate Mission. The two major documents falling under the category of Corporate Values are:

  1. Your Statement of Values — How your business behaves.
  2. Your Code of Conduct — How your people behave (including you).

Statement of Values

Your Statement of Values (sometimes referred to as Core Values, Core Beliefs, Statement of Beliefs, or Corporate Ethics) indicates the way your business interacts with the world. It describes your organizational integrity, ethics and beliefs.

Before you begin, have a second look at your Personal Values. They represent the standard for living that you are committed to. In a similar fashion, your Statement of Values represents the standard for business that you are committed to. It makes it clear to everyone that your business strives to operate within a set of ethical and practical guidelines. It says, “We practice business here in a particular way and we want the world to know it.”

In a world where business ethics are the exception rather than the rule, a strong Statement of Values can help to differentiate your business from your competition. A Statement of Values lets people know where you stand, and indirectly where they stand, when they do business with you. So long as you live up to their expectations, it gives people tremendous confidence in dealing with your business.

Why is Your Statement of Values Important for Your Business?

It sets the tone for business activities. Common values keep everyone on the same page. Your stakeholders all know what to expect (and what's expected of them). When dealing with your company, it's important that your customers, employees, lenders, suppliers, etc. know the rules of engagement. It acts as a reference point for decision making. For example, if you were faced with a choice between losing a valued client or losing a valued employee, your Statement of Values could help you (or any manager) make the right decision. It helps you to hire the right kind of employees. Hiring employees with Values that are similar to your company’s will bring you motivated and productive employees and will increase employee retention rate. It has a positive impact on your sales volume. When everyone involved understand the rules and purpose of the game, they are more effective. When a business is effective, sales volume goes up. It supports your Corporate Mission and your Corporate Vision. Without a set of values to guide everyday activity, mission and vision are both dreams without a way to engage the real world. It supports your Personal Foundation. It does this by making sure your business remains consistent with your Personal Values.

Kraft Foods

Kraft Foods have more than 40 brands that are over 100 years old. They are in every kitchen and grocery store in the developed world. The following is from their 2009 Values Statement.

Actions speak louder than words. That is why at Kraft foods:

  • We inspire trust
  • We act like owners
  • We keep it simple
  • We are open and inclusive
  • We tell it like it is
  • We lead from the head and the heart
  • We discuss. We decide. We deliver.

IBM Statement of Values

Review your Personal Values. Write down any points that relate to the way you wish your business to operate.

For example, if one of your Personal Values is to be honest and to expect honesty in all of your relationships, then you might wish to make honesty a part of your corporate culture.

Now list any other values that you feel might be important for your business and make notes to yourself as to why.

One successful company has made full use of this concept with outstanding results. In ten years, Zappos.com has grown from a company with almost no sales, to more than $1 billion in annual gross merchandise sales. Their commitment to their ten core values has earned them a loyal customer base and a committed staff.

Now try writing a Statement of Values for your business. At this point you may want to gather some input from your staff. Remember, however, that it’s your business and if it doesn’t reflect your values then there's very little point in the exercise.

Look back over your previous notes and read through the examples once more, then take a shot at writing your Statement of Values. This is your first try so treat it as a draft. You'll likely go through several versions before you get it just right, so don't worry if it's not perfect yet. In fact, it may never be completely perfect. Your entire Corporate Foundation is made up of living documents that will evolve over time as both you and your business grow.

Write your Statement of Values. What are the principles that will guide your organization?

What will you do to make sure that your Statement of Values is more than just words on a page, filed away in a manual somewhere? Do all stakeholders (employees, shareholders, partners, etc.) have access to this document? What else can you do to bring it to life?