What makes your business special? Why your core values matter

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How to reveal competitive strengths you may be taking for granted.

How would you describe your ethos and values? And, for that matter, why should you bother? It’s not something I had considered in terms of my business until I came across a YouTube vlog by mental health consultant Nick Wilson about how your core values are the things that make you and your organisation special, inspiring and respected.

Your beliefs about what is important define what you are all about: the characteristics of what you do and the way that you work. Nick’s point is about being inspiring and he flags up the book “Key Person of Influence” by Daniel Priestley. However, that’s not why I think it matters to understand what makes you tick.

Understanding your real value proposition

Your professional ethos and values are the ingrained principles that you apply (probably subconsciously) to get a successful outcome in the work that you do. They are, in effect, the added value that colleagues and customers get when they work with you. A recent HBR article, “The B2B Elements of Value” by Bain & Co, shows that competitive strength comes from relationship value ie. the way you do business, not the features and functions of your products and services.

The way you do business is the source of your real value proposition. So, if you want customers to understand why they should do business with you, if you want potential recruits to understand why they should come and work for you, you need to understand the value of you.

Authentic not ‘me too’

There are loads of examples on the interweb about company values. Some are lists of stock-phrases that I hope would describe the way all companies operate: words like ‘transparency’, ‘integrity’, ‘accountability’, ‘responsibility’. That’s not what I mean by values that make you and your business special.

As well as a marketer, I’m also an engineer. I discovered a definition of the ethos of professional engineering and I found phrases that uncannily describe some of my characteristics: ‘thinking how different parts need to work together; ‘communicating & collaborating with other disciplines’; ‘seeking reliable outcomes by reducing risks’.

Capturing “the essence” of you

Landscape photographers talk about capturing “the essence” of a place. It is the little details that make a destination memorable. Skilled photographers learn how to look beyond the obvious “sky, hills, houses, sea”. To inspire people and help them understand what really differentiates one place from another, their photos focus on those individual elements that makes a place unique or special.

The "essence" of you are characteristics that others (or you) might overlook or take for granted. Introspection is not easy but if you pause and consider how you approach a challenge, or the sort of mistakes you get annoyed by that others don't, or what you find inspiring at work and at home, then you will start to see "the essence of you".

So what’s the essence of my business? Here are 6 core values that I think define my ethos and the real value that I add for colleagues and customers:

  1. Outcome not output: Being busy is not the same as being useful. Strive for effectiveness.
  2. Communicate to collaborate: Effective communication stitches people, teams and organisations together.
  3. Learning never stops: Understanding how other people do amazing things can fuel ideas and better solutions.
  4. Plan for success: Thinking ahead reduces stress, risk, uncertainty and assumptions.
  5. Structured thinking: Providing a framework makes a complicated challenge more manageable and likely to succeed.
  6. Ad d colour to delight: Structure helps get the job done. Colour makes the experience enjoyable.

What are the elements of your business value? What methods would you recommend for defining core values? Do share. #customervalue #competitivestrength #valueproposition