Core Values and Your BrandOutside Contributor
Your landscape business may be a very small enterprise, and so you might not have spent much time considering or documenting what your company’s core values are.
Defining core values and making them a part of your company’s culture is an important part of building your brand.
Every big business was small once, and well articulated core values can serve as important guide posts on your company’s journey.
Today, if your business is enjoying some success, you most likely are already operating from a set of core values that you – the business owner – hold important. You may been enjoying success because you are obsessed with complete customer satisfaction – even when interacting with the most difficult clients. Or, through your leadership, and daily behavior, you might be stressing and constantly working on job site and employee safety.
You may have lost business in the past because your internal core values knew the difference between cutting corners, or another party’s questionable ethics. The point is – you have core values today with your business, but are they defined and nurtured to help you develop your company’s culture and brand?
Many large companies take the time to write down and articulate core values, because as organizations get larger, and more leaders emerge within a company, the original core values of a company can get lost, diluted and no longer serve as a guidepost for the company’s culture. Building brand equity gets lost.
A great Harvard Business Review (HBR) article to read about making your values mean something makes several strong points when considering the core values for your company.
Here are some key points from the article to consider.
- Baseless values are toxic – If you are writing down values for appearance – or worst yet your own leadership actions don’t support your stated values – you are going to do more harm than good to your business. You’ve probably been in some client’s office where there are aspirational and motivational posters on the wall, and you’ve thought to yourself, really?
- Core values must have teeth – Not only do your values need to force you to make the right choices, your leadership and your company’s culture need to have the fortitude to implement them – not just when it’s convenient, but in how you operate your business. As the author of the HBR article, Patrick Lecioni, states “Indeed, an organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.” 1
- Don’t confuse aspirational values with core values – You may aspire to have your company values become a core value, but if the value you are articulating is where you want your company to be in the future – it’s an aspirational value, not a core value. Again from Lecioni’s article, “Core values are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions; they serve as its cultural cornerstones.”1
- Have your core values permeate throughout your company – Through your leadership everyone in your company makes decisions and takes actions based on your company’s core values. When all the members of your team are making decisions, or their actions are made on stated core values as a litmus test, it really becomes a part of how you do business. For example, is “Safety First” a core value or a slogan?
You probably can now see how core values are a part of your brand strategy. Your core values help define for you – and your team – what is important – and what is not important.
Remember, core values have teeth – so that means the employees who are still a part of your team buy into your company’s core values and their actions and behaviors will reflect that core value. If “safety” is a core value of your company, your team will hold their teammates accountable to ensure safety is first in their actions. This will help attract high quality employees who might work for another company, which might not place the same value on safety as your company.
Remember core values will have teeth – so that means that the employees who ares still a part of your team buy into your company’s core values and their actions and behaviors will reflect that core value.
You may have a core value that you feel very strongly about. For example, say that you are passionate about only using natural fertilizers and other organic products and processes. Having this passion become a core value which you began to build a brand and a strategy around. You now have a better understanding of how you want to position yourself in the market, what type of customers you want to reach and what type of employees would fit within your core value of natural and organic fertilization application.
Remember a strong brand can help you command higher prices and to become the preferred landscape professional of choice within your market. Having a strong set of core values that differentiates your company can be a critical part of building a strong and sustainable brand.
1 September 15, 2015, Harvard Business Reveiew, Patrick Lecioni, Make Your Values Mean Something. Original article published July 2002.