Discovering Your Core Values

Once you have taken your leap, and have a product or service to sell, it’s time to begin the process of building your business. In Entrepreneurial Leap, I address the 9 most common stages to building your business that will help you stay one step ahead of the barriers that slow or prevent many entrepreneurs from growing their business to its full potential.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the third stage: Discovering Your Core Values

You must discover your core values before you hire your first employee. Core values are the three to seven timeless guiding principles on which you will build your company. Core values are what define your company’s culture. A strong culture helps a company endure and be great. In the words of business guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

The reason you must know your company’s core values is that when you hire your first—or your hundredth—employee, you must hire only people who possess your company’s core values. This is the only way to protect and maintain a strong company culture. 

Here’s the good news: your company’s core values already exist. They are discovered rather than created. The process is a matter of uncovering what your three to seven core values are. To help you along, here is a list of some real-world core values:

  • Unequivocal excellence
  • Continually strives for perfection
  • Wins
  • Does the right thing
  • Compassion
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Hungry for achievement
  • Is enthusiastic, energetic, tenacious, and competitive
  • Encourages individual ability and creativity
  • Maintains accountability
  • Services the customer above all else
  • Works hard
  • Is never satisfied
  • Is interested in continuous self-improvement
  • Helps first
  • Exhibits professionalism
  • Encourages individual initiative
  • Growth-oriented
  • Treats everyone with respect
  • Provides opportunity based on merit: no one is entitled to anything
  • Has creativity, dreams, and imagination
  • Has personal integrity 
  • Isn’t cynical
  • Exhibits modesty and humility alongside confidence
  • Practices fanatical attention to consistency and detail
  • Is committed
  • Understands the value of reputation
  • Is fun
  • Is fair
  • Encourages teamwork

Choose the three to seven that most resonate with you. These are your non-negotiable guiding principles. Add anything you feel is missing from the list and then wordsmith them so they best suit you and your company.

Let’s say you conclude that your core values are:

  1. Do the right thing
  2. Have fun
  3. Work hard
  4. Growth-oriented 

With these four core values clearly defined, you must make them the rite of passage into your company. Hire only people who possess these core values. If you hire someone by mistake who you later discover doesn’t share your values, you must remove them quickly. Otherwise, they will corrode your culture. 

This is an early stage discipline, because in the building of a company the most common mistake new entrepreneurs make is hiring or partnering with the wrong people. They soon find themselves involved in a nightmare of trying to get out of a bad partnership or removing employees who don’t fit. I share this because my clients, in the first year of the process with me, have to get rid of an average of 20% of their employees due to hiring mistakes from the past. 

Don’t make the mistake of hiring your brother, cousin, friend, or anyone who doesn’t have your core values, merely because you need a body right now, or you feel you can trust them. Don’t hire anyone unless you are certain that their core values match yours.

Next Steps

Take a minute right now to write down the three to seven core values that resonate most with you.