Each month in this column series I ask a different question to you, the ExitEvent Entrepreneur. Thought provoking questions that are meant to get you to sit back and think. Each month I offer insight into the question, along with common mistakes made by (us) entrepreneurs, and a key take-away for you to think more about. My goal—to increase your self-awareness as an entrepreneur and a leader.
Jim Collins is a must-read for all business owners and leaders. He has written bestsellers like “Built to Last”, “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” (I recommend them to everyone). He introduced us to the concept of the company’s core values
, which he defines as "the handful of guiding principles by which a company navigates
." These core values are the essential and enduring tenets of an organization.
You have personal values that guide you in your daily life, your parents taught you values and if you have kids, you are now teaching them. A company works the same. Without values guiding your organization on a daily basis, your navigation system is inoperative and any direction might seem like progress, even if it is the wrong way.
Common Mistake made— You can probably still remember where you were when the idea was hatched on the “napkin”. All of us dreamt first, then we dove headfirst into the deep end of the entrepreneurial pool. Whether we knew how to swim was immaterial, we would figure it out along the way because we had an idea that was going to change the world and there was no time to wait. When asked, “Can you swim?” (i.e. do you know what you are doing?) by the naysayers, we all know the response we gave: ”Of course I can swim (i.e. build a business)!”
As entrepreneurs, we are fanatically driven to get our ideas into the marketplace quickly, and that becomes our singular focus. We may overlook the development of a set of core values, or we quickly come up with them and throw them on a wall or business card. But that, unfortunately, becomes the extent of the use of values in our organizations. It’s typically out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
Too many organizations have a set of core values that are gathering dust rather than being actively used on a day-to-day basis.
Key Take-away— Last month
I asked you to slow down to speed up and I am going to ask you to do that same thing again. You see, if you have a set of core values that are guiding your organization, they will go so far as to act as your hiring and firing guide. Core values answer the basic question you ask yourself on a daily basis: “Should I or Shouldn’t I?”
Your core values last the lifetime of the organization and don’t ever change. They are the guide for how you and your rapidly expanding workforce should operate on a daily basis. To put it all in perspective, Collins states that "core values are only as good as the amount of business you would forfeit to maintain them."
Let me ask you a difficult question: Should you accept new business to get your bonus or to the help the company make its quarterly targets if it goes against the company's core values?
If you do, then you violate the core values and could be fired for the decision. There are way too many examples of companies going astray to pursue revenue and profits (Enron comes to mind first!).
If you don’t, then core values continue to guide the day-to-day performance of the entire organization. They provide consistent guidance and navigation for your employees and the pending new hires who are trying to decide whether to join your team.
Go make your dreams come true. You have the passion to accomplish any goal you set in front of you…but slow down long enough to ensure your company has its core values in place, and then actively utilize them in your business!