If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything – so goes a popular statement from the 1970s. This was a period in history when long held values were coming under intense scrutiny, as the younger generation found itself at odds with the beliefs of authority figures.
There is an important lesson to be learned here as you’re crafting your company values statement. If they are to serve you well, you must base them upon fundamental truths. In other words, if you don’t also stand for principles that are right and just, you’ll fall just the same.
What Is A Values Statement?
Google crafted one of the simplest and most often repeated values statements of all time: “Don’t be evil.”
Said succinctly, your values statement is the declaration of the core guidelines by which your organization will function. It’s where you tell the world what matters to you and it should guide your decisions.
Let’s say one of your core values is to create profits and prosperity for your investors and you have to develop a new eCommerce site. Choosing to base its development on free website themes rather than making a huge spend to create the site from scratch would be more in line with your core values.
Your values statement can also inform your unique selling position. People like to do business with those who share their attitudes and beliefs. When you make your values known and (better yet) live by them, you tell the world who you are and how you’ll behave.
Here’s how to articulate yours.
Specificity Is Important
Rather than voicing vague platitudes, be very specific, leaving little room for interpretation or confusion.
Here’s a good example from Whole Foods Market.
These rules are capable of guiding the organization’s decision makers to what’s best for the company whenever they’re faced with a difficult decision. This works because these statements consider what’s best for its customers, vendors, environment and employees—in a very specific manner.
Actionable Is Too
When you’re crafting your values statement it’s important to ensure you’re capable of upholding them. In other words, rather than create a list of what you want to be, make sure you create a list of what you can be and enforce it rigorously. This will protect your credibility, even as it keeps you on the right path. Before you announce to the world you’re going to be committed to a certain set of actions, be certain your business is capable of keeping to them.
Keep Them Simple
While the temptation to issue a list of lofty ideals will be great, you’re far better off sticking to simple statements and behaviors. Make them too esoteric and people won’t understand them. Your statement should readily digestible with only a cursory read through. If people have to stop and interpret the words, or worse, pull out a dictionary to unravel the language, you’ve created a statement that will fail. Keep it short, to the point and free from redundancies.
Evolution Is OK
Companies grow, paradigms shift, needs change. It’s OK to modify your values statement to reflect new realities. Just remember why you established it in the first place. Conversely, there are times when your enterprise must change to live up to the statement. Before you decide to change your statement to accommodate a situation, take a good look to see if the company should change to uphold the statement instead.
Crafting your company values statement is one of the most important things you can do to let the world know who you are. With these guiding principles established and broadcast to the world, you’ll provide a yardstick by which you can be held accountable.