When you get started in business, there are lots of things to put in place so that you can operate effectively – the services you’ll offer, your prices, your brand; then there’s your website and social media accounts; financial systems and accounting arrangements; your marketing strategy; and somewhere in there, you’ve probably defined your vision, mission and values as well.
There’s so much to do, that sometimes it’s easy to lose the purpose of why you’re doing it all – particularly defining those values. In fact, there are many businesses out there who haven’t done it at all. But your values are a hugely important tool for you and your business, because they will help you to define everything else with a much sharper focus; how to act when you face challenges; and the direction to take as your business develops.
Values are best described as abstract nouns, in single words or short phrases – such as Openness, Creativity, Commitment, Making a Difference, or Connection. They are used to describe the feelings and energies that give us our upfront motivation: they help us get out of bed in the morning, confront that challenging client, make bold decisions about the future of our businesses, and nurture our sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
In business, they are also how we help potential clients to understand how we operate: how we can be of service to our clients, how we express our passion for our work with confident clarity, and how we uphold powerful boundaries of what is acceptable, and what isn’t.
Yes, they are a marketing tool – lots of businesses promote themselves using their values (just look at John Lewis’s decades-old strapline, Never Knowingly Undersold) – but more significantly, when used consistently in all areas of our business, they become our foundation. When we work in alignment with our values it becomes easier to make decisions, and take a stand for or against whatever is important to us – and they protect us from avoidable errors or judgment lapses.
To help you understand this a little more, let’s look at the values of The Business Spa: because our SMILE is not just a marketing tactic!
We are open minded and non-judgemental, with our members, mentors, suppliers, venues and any other human being that we engage with. When you are supportive of what the other person is trying to achieve, you get great results for them.
We motivate and stimulate our members, fostering a can-do attitude throughout the business. We continually strive to provide more and more resources for our members, with the knock-on effect of helping others feel motivated to support our business too.
The joy of seeing our members excited by their vision for their businesses is probably one of the best parts of doing this work. The creativity and abundant potential of all the people involved in our business has created a community that has far greater value than the sum of its parts.
We create an environment where our members can learn new skills and create new plans for their business. Research indicates that spending time working on your business significantly increases your likelihood of growing a thriving business. As a group, we all learn from each other and the professional development sessions provided by our mentors enhance our ability to succeed.
We give you the opportunity to access the right expert to guide you forward in your business – and this also creates an opportunity for the mentor to give back. It’s fulfilling for both the mentor, the mentee and the facilitator.
This value sits quietly underneath all of the others, because life is for living; and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be having fun while I’m doing it!
Establishing Your Business Values
Your business values will often be underpinned by your life values, so be open to them being similar, but not necessarily identical. Here’s a little exercise to help you determine yours.
Think about a particularly perfect working day: a specific day when everything felt wonderful, exciting and invigorating; when you rocked your business intentions and stretched yourself a little.
Write down everything that happened that day. Where were you, what was happening, how did you feel, how did you react? What stands out as significant to you about that day?
Identify the moments where you felt the greatest reaction – what was it that filled you with emotion, and what was most striking about what happened?
When you look at the list, remember how those moments felt significant, when you felt joyful, in flow, excited and confident that you were being successful; that you knew exactly what to do, and when to do it. It doesn’t matter if there are 5 or 50 things – just keep going until you think you’ve written them all down.
Now think of an abstract noun, a word or short phrase that explains the quality or state of the moments you have highlighted.
Examples of these might be:
- Meaningful connections, fuelled by fun, vitality and passion.
- Purposeful collaboration, when the end result was greater than the sum of its parts.
- Generous Wisdom, when you were able to give your knowledge and time that made a difference to others.
Whatever the descriptions, they should help you to revisit those feelings of being energised and motivated, because that state is in alignment with one of your core values.
Now let’s break them down further because having a long list of values is exhausting, and ideally, we’d have no more than five. If you’ve got a long list, answer some of these questions to help you break it down:
- Which of these values is actually a need – is it something that you simply must have in life and business in order to feel ok?
- Which of them seem to be the same, and which word best describes both of them?
- Are there any of the items on the list that seem to be in conflict with each other?
- What order would you give them in terms of how important they are to you?
Hopefully, what you have now is a list of around 5 key words or phrases that accurately reflect what’s truly important to you in your business. Can you see how happy and successful you would be if all of your decisions were made from these values?
You don’t have to display your values on your website, although it’s great if you do – but do keep them somewhere you can refer back to them. When you next feel like you’ve aced your day and everything is going really well, remember to celebrate the values that you’ve upheld and how good that feels; and when you are next faced with a challenge or a difficult decision, reflect on your values and where they feature in the process.
Adapting to change is vital to the success of our businesses. Changing what you do can be confusing, isolating and even frightening, but we are all equipped with the ability to make the necessary changes that our businesses demand – and how successfully we make those changes begins with knowing our values, and making sure the actions we take are aligned with them.
Having this foundation will not only help you to attract clients who hold similar values but will also be an invaluable part of deciding how to develop your business in the future.
And of course, change influences our values too so regularly determining and then reviewing your value foundation is time very well spent!