Values – Got ‘em?

The business news is a constant source of fascination.  Hardly a day passes without a story in the business news about some sort of illegal or unethical activity: an accounting scandal, embezzlement, an investment scam, theft of intellectual property, insider trading, or sexual harassment in a large company.  If it isn’t one thing it’s another.  There is probably some news of a business crime in your newspaper today.  

I’ll bet that every one of the companies mentioned in the news has a beautifully framed Values Statement hanging prominently in the lobby and proudly displayed in the Annual Report.  But does anyone ever read it?  Are the core values known throughout the rank and file of the company?  Are they referred to when discussing policy or competitive strategic moves?  Or are they just forgotten until it is time to dust the plaque or print the next Annual Report?

Don’t get me wrong.  Having a Values Statement is a very good thing.  It is a starting point to building a respected, ethical company; a company that treats its’ customers, staff, and vendors with respect.  But it can be much more than that.  It can be the basis for selecting new staff when adding to the workforce.  It can make the training period easier and less stressful because, if new hires understand the core values, they will understand that those values are the basis for policy.  It can make relationships with customers and vendors more cordial and less adversarial.  It can even be used as a marketing message if the company actually follows (and can show they follow) their Values Statement – giving foundational depth to the issues of how the company treats staff, customers, vendors, bankers, and stakeholders.

Few small companies have a formal, written Values Statement and many of those that do, never use it or refer to it.  If you do have one, take a moment and read it, then ask yourself whether it is a living document – one the company and the people within the company adhere to.  If you find you don’t have one, start the process of crafting one by asking, “What core values should be the foundation for this company and how should we implement them?”

Having a Values Statement and using it as part of the basis for company operations is useful in many ways because, keeping in compliance with it may keep your company from being in the news, in a bad way, and someone’s photo out of the newspaper doing a perp walk.

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