At the heart of every successful organization are its core values. A company’s core values are those principles or guiding lights that each staff member shares -- those commitments they consider most important in their lives.
If you have ever seen a company that seemed to have a really strong corporate culture, it is because of its core values. The confluence of the core values produces the corporate culture, and great organizations involve their entire staff when developing these guiding principles. In the most effective organizations, the core values impact every part of the firm and are understood by every employee.
In addition to their ability to unify and strengthen the team, core values provide the foundation for a sound business. Unfortunately, too many businesses do not have core values, and without them, they just seem to flounder.
Businesses with strong core values operate like well-oiled machines. Without core values, however, the employees are out of sync with each other and do not seem to be as good at knowing what needs to be done.
Clearly, core values are critical to every business, but this is not a case where more is better. Each business should have no more than five or six core values because you want your staff to remember what they are and clearly understand how they impact your success.
The most common core values are integrity, perseverance, discipline, accountability and community. Most of the businesses I have worked with have some combination of these, and it is easy to understand why. Each of these are characteristics every business needs to be successful.
Integrity, which means acting with honesty and honor at all times, is critical. Customers do business with companies they trust and companies need to be able to trust their employees.
The second is perseverance, which means having the drive to keep moving forward no matter what. Thomas Edison gives us a great example of a situation where perseverance led to success. When asked by a reporter about the 10,000 failures he had before finally producing a working light bulb, Edison is credited with saying, “At least I know 10,000 things that do not work!”
Two companies that clearly have a core value of perseverance are Coke and Pepsi. They continue to fight for market share and will never give up. Just like at Coke and Pepsi, the entire staff must be willing to work hard to achieve the goals of the firm no matter what obstacles stand in their way.
In business, discipline means having a plan to achieve a goal and committing to following it to the letter. It is important to make sure everything has been considered before moving forward.
Accountability is all about assuming responsibility for actions or outcomes. It is relevant both for the organization as well as the individual.
Community refers to an organization’s commitment to giving back and helping making their community a better place. This includes financial support as well as volunteerism and community involvement.
Some other great core values you might want to consider include balance, diversity, innovation and safety, etc. The list of potential core values is nearly endless. The important thing to remember is that you need to pick the ones that are right for your company.
Now go out, identify your company’s core values and ensure they become part of your culture.
You can do this.
Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.