#005 It’s Your Business: What Are Your Values?
For all of us who have started our own business, we had a reason why we started that business. Sure, we wanted to make some money doing what we do. For most of us though, that was almost a secondary consideration. We wanted time with our families. We wanted to do what we loved or we wanted to do something that we believed in. There was something special, that we felt that we had to offer the world that no-one else could do in that same personal way that we could.
Because of this, our businesses are colored by who we are and what we believe in. In other words, our values shape our businesses. But what exactly are those values?
What Are Your Values?
Our values are very personal and often very difficult to put down on paper – yet they guide almost everything that we do:
- What is the level of quality that we are happy to produce?
- How do we deal with the complaining customer? (There is always one…)
- Which behaviors do we consider acceptable between our staff and our customers?
- To what extent are we prepared to align with the competition?
- And so on…
Our values are often so core to our being that we don’t question them and we rarely think of them. But once a business grows beyond the about 10-15 people you are highly likely to delegate the daily work of some of your staff to someone else. If the person that you are delegating to has worked with you for years and knows your business and your values, then they are likely to manage in the same way that you would have done.
If on the other hand, you have new managers, they are likely to manage in the way that they feel is best to achieve the goals that you have set them. That may not match your values. And this is the point where writing down your values becomes important.
How to Write Down Your Values
I’m sure that at some point you have watched one of your staff deal with a particular customer or a particular situation and thought: ‘I wouldn’t have handled it like that.’ You may well have taken the person to one side and talked to them about it afterwards. (I know that I certainly have!) Your concern was almost certainly not with what was actually done (that is a typical technical training issue), it was more about how it was done.
Perhaps you have an operation’s manual. Perhaps you don’t. Even if you have a manual, it probably wouldn’t have been able to cover the situation. The reason is because the person handled the situation in way which was not In line with your values.
If that person knew your values and shared them, then the situation would never have occurred.
This is the core thought to have in your head when you start writing down your values and prepare to share them with your staff: “What values do I want to guide my staff when the end up in situations where they need to find a solution themselves?”
It might be best to think of some of the best and worse situations that happened as you built your business, how you dealt with them and what values were important to you in that moment. It is often the extreme situations that make it clear to us what our values really are.
Once you have your list of values, get someone else to read them and explain to you, what they understand them to mean.
Once I was on a diving holiday. The diving school had a policy of paying for students to come to the school with a taxi. (Quite a good marketing tactic. It gets the customers past the competition and directly onto your premises.) One group of divers came from quite a distance away and had taken a limousine – no taxi available – to take them to the diving school.
What was interesting to watch, was how the school dealt with the transport bill and the member of staff who made the call to pay for the taxi. Despite the school losing a significant part of their profit on the group, the school paid for the taxi. The senior staff also simply advised the (very upset) member of staff responsible, to make sure that he knew how far away customers were before offering them transport. Values: How we deal with honest mistakes…