Start with values, not your idea

“Values are timeless. They are the bedrock of a company and don’t change even when everything else does.”

I wish more startups realised this.

Too many are:

  • hiring the wrong people
  • building the wrong products
  • and looking for customers in the wrong places
“A company needn’t model its behaviour on what other companies do, because it doesn’t have to attract the same customers or value the same things. It isn’t as simple as declaring an enemy and beating them…… We don’t particularly care what others choose to do, because we know the game we are playing — and we quite enjoy it.” From the Delighted blog

A revolution is happening

Umair Haque, the renowned writer and economist recently stated that “we’re on the cusp of a values-driven revolution.”

He highlighted that consumers now are much more careful about who they buy from and whether they represent the values they hold dear.

Therefore it’s important to pin down your values and what you stand for.

Think of your core values as those that, when the chips are down, you believe in so much, that if you took them away your company would cease to exist.

However, don’t just brainstorm some values only to then forget about them — you need to live and abide by them everyday. You values are how you behave, not how you would like to.

“In the absence of values all decisions go to profits”

How to identify your values

An excerpt from the Moutains & Valleys exercise from CultureSync.

  • Think of some key events in your life or career that were significant or life changing, and the type of thing someone would write in a biography about your life (whether positive or negative).
  • For a positive event, consider what values were present that made it so satisfying for you.
  • For negative events consider what values were absent or threatened that made it so unsatisfying.
  • For each of these milestone events, look at the list of values you have identified and consider if there is anything even deeper than these. What values are essential to your perfect world?

After you go through this initially on your own, talking with someone about each event may help clarify and stimulate other important values overlooked at first.

Looking across all the events, pick your top 5 to 8 values that matter the most to you. Base this on how strongly you feel about them.

These are your core values.

Your compass

At The Happy Startup School, we believe that the brightest companies of the future will be values-driven. Your values will be your True North and will be a magnet that will attract the right people to your mission.

If you’re going into business, control the things that you can control. Namely:

  • your purpose
  • your values
  • the people you work with
  • the product or services you build
  • the customers you attract
  • the culture you create.

The rest will take care of itself.