We usually first experience a flavour of Company Values, especially in the world of B2B, when we read a company’s Mission Statement. Let us be honest some are great; others are utterly dreadful.
In the USA one retailer’s Mission Statement is “The Home Depot is in the home improvement business and our goal is to provide the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products and the most competitive prices”. Stating the obvious may be useful on their website but it hardly smacks or a far-reaching aspiration.
There are worse, of course. Enron’s Mission Statement was “Respect, Integrity, Communication, and Excellence”. Notwithstanding the obvious comment on what happened next, it tells you nothing about the company, what it hopes to achieve and what value it brings to the future. Indeed, what it eventually achieved is perhaps not quite the values they said they had!
Sometimes less is more. Virgin Atlantic’s Mission Statement, for example, is short and tells you not only what they do but excites you with their message too. “To embrace the human spirit and let it fly”.
Mission Statements can show what a company believes in. Today it is also highly likely a company will state its values both publicly and internally and enforce them as a code by which to work and by which to serve its customers.
The Mission and Values should also be true. Whilst it may help the marketing drive to have a really cool set of Values it can easily be undone if you do not live the values and once word is out that it is not real it becomes ever harder to get your message across.
The Values a company has should reflect the internal culture of the company and the external relationship it has with its clients. In the world of sales these Values should be aligned as much as possible with the customer as part of the sales process. Where Values do not align perhaps it might be best to avoid bringing them to the fore.
Where a Mission Statement has purpose and Values have meaning is where the two differ. So, it is little wonder then that the majority of the Fortune 500 companies all share pretty much the same values. That in itself is both good and also a shame. Good perhaps that they all aspire to be the same kind of company in how they conduct business, look after staff, consider the planet etc. Or perhaps they just all copied someone else’s.
Values are what matter to the founders, leaders, and workers; that impact the customers and suppliers and should not simply be platitudes. They should serve to engage the consumer and bind the workforce towards a common set of goals, not just within the confines of the product or service manufactured, but farther beyond and back into society and the world.
Values should mean you ‘walk the walk’ not just ‘talk the talk’. In January 2021 KPMG UK Chairman, Bill Michael resigned after participating in a video call. On the call someone complained of ‘Zoom-fatigue’. He responded, “Stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on people’s lives, and to stop “playing the victim card”.
Until that point Mr Michael had been a strong advocate of the values held by KPMG. In fact, these are quoted below because they are a good example of strong positive company values. However, it was not enough to save his job that he supported them, he had to live them and believe in them. Whether it was an aberration or something else should not matter. Even Chairmen are not better than the values a company has.
There are many sets of Values that convey all this. Some of the best I can list below:
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It is best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You do not need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just is not good enough.
International Olympic Committee
- Integrity – we do what is right.
- Excellence – we never stop learning and improving.
- Courage – we think and act boldly.
- Together – we respect each other and draw strength from our differences.
- For better – we do what matters.
In a report by Maitland/AMO they investigated what the most common words and phrases for UK companies and what the optimum number of Values should be; 3 to 5 is the most common number.
Whether you are a large organisation, like the examples given here (sorry about that) or a smaller enterprise having Core Values that bring the workforce together for common purpose is a good thing to have. Using that to align yourself with your customers, and suppliers, can be a powerful and positive sales tool. But remember, Executives need to be able to walk the walk not just talk the talk and the Values belong to everyone, not driven from the top.