Values Are at The Heart of Everything!

It takes me by surprise when I ask business owners what their core values are and how they respond with either having no idea or just telling me to go have a look at their website!

Recently I spent some time reflecting on this issue trying to understand why the corporate world continues to focus so much on organisational values whereas the SME space doesn’t always see this as a priority. In truth, I don’t blame this cohort as I feel there is less emphasis placed on explaining the practical application of how core values are implemented across the entire business.

The reality is all businesses are in fact living their values in some way or another, whether they are clearly identified or not. This gets weaved into those cultural norms that determines what is acceptable and what is not. However, being intentional about your core values by communicating this through language ensures transparency, consistency and accountability on a whole new level.

So, here are five important areas of the business where values have practical implications in addition to formulating the strategic foundations and supporting company purpose:

Brand Positioning

Your values tell stakeholders what you stand for and you will be amazed at how this can impact on brand styling and tone of voice. More importantly, values are often at the heart of your business story. It adds weight to your narrative and usually stems from past experiences, how you view the world and an authentic, non-compromising sense of conviction of what is really important to you and your team. People are interested in this and believe me it can be a huge differentiator when clients are looking to work with businesses that offer substance and are aligned with their own values.

Hiring and Talent Management

If you are not clear on values or struggle to articulate them in a simple and meaningful way, this can hurt you in the recruitment process and impact on how you measure performance beyond OKR’s. The truth is that most of the people issues that I see are not related to “job” performance per se, but rather linked to those below the surface beliefs, motivations and values that drive behaviours and actions. Simple remedies to limit the impacts from revolving door recruitment to preventing a misaligned values fallout is by incorporating core values into the hiring process from advertising the role to interviewing candidates and then following up by ensuring that behavioural competencies carry as much weight as other KPI’s in performance reviews.    

Sales and Account Management

Values form part of your sales identity and gives your frontline team the moral compass they need to build relationships that matter and set the boundaries to how they transact. It can also be a useful tool or reference point for defining what an ideal client looks like or better still, informs your sales team of the type of client you no longer wish to engage with. An example of this could be segmenting your database according to several key features associated with a premium client and that align to your values. In other words, let’s say you place high value on either respect and/or reliability and a customer continuously pay their account late. What category of customer would they be assigned to in your database?

Financial Management

The above example of the late paying customer applies in equal measure here under financial management. But more than that, it plays into how your organisation manages risk. Often core values are either more aligned to a cautious, more risk averse operating model (slower burn) or a greater appetite for high growth initiatives (fast scale up). These considerations may significantly impact the way decisions are made concerning the sourcing and utilisation of funds in the business.


Few would argue that clearly identifying and being true to your values are one of the foundational pillars that guide strong leadership. Apart from having an impact on leadership styles and emotional intelligence, living your values has a significant influence on making key decisions. As indicated above, whether it’s a finance, sales, branding or HR decision, these can be challenging at times and so having a rock-solid values-based platform to fall back on can make this process easier and enable decisive action. Another important factor to consider is what I call “leadership follow through”. Part of the role of leaders is to inspire and influence those around them to advance the cause and achieve desired results. It’s a tall order to ask those to follow when you don’t practice what you preach. There are many leaders out there who get very excited about establishing the values with their team, but when push comes to shove, they often sabotage the values they committed to upholding. Being accountable in this domain is extremely critical otherwise trust can be completely eroded and the organisational can potentially implode.

The above is just a snapshot of how core values can be interwoven throughout the functioning of a business. Spending more time in attaching meaning to the words and really exploring why each value is important both personally and how it translates to the business is a key imperative to growing your business in the future. I know if someone asks me to share my values, I can easily explain this without referring them to my website. This does happen from time to time and when I do share them, I often get that validation with a response that implies: “yeah, I can see that”.

Can you wholeheartedly share your core values without hesitation when asked by a prospective client, recruiter, staff member or network partner?       

Values Are at The Heart of Everything!
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