Few people start a business solely to make money. At some point, entrepreneurs either realize they are really good at something, or love the feeling they get out of doing something, and choose to make it their living. Every decision they make about the future of their business is made with their individual success, or the success of their family in mind. This changes once a few employees are hired and the company grows. No longer can the entrepreneur rule with only their best interests in mind. There are others to look after and take care of.
The good news is that you don’t need to relinquish your value system to accommodate your employees. In fact, you can incorporate your values into every part of your business and infuse your culture with everything you held near and dear to you when you first started. You’ll find that once your whole team is on the same page as you and everyone shares the same values, your company will function and grow exactly how you want it to. Here are four steps you can take to align your organization with your values and run a values-based business.
Don’t let short-term distractions and planning cloud your value system. A good way to do this is to set a very long-term goal or vision unrelated to profit. It announces to your competition and your employees that you mean what you say, and aren’t swayed by immediate financial goals or development hallmarks. We aren’t advising against setting short-term goals—if anything, they’re just as important. Your short-term goals should align with your long-term goals.
Recruit with values in mind
No matter what position you hire for, make sure you look out for and actively assess character in your candidates. Hiring someone and hoping to mould them into your value system doesn’t always work. Just like in any other relationship, hoping you can ‘fix’ a person often results in either disappointment when the fixing never occurs, or complacency and acceptance of behaviours you initially resented because you give up trying. Hiring with your values in mind will give your employees greater autonomy, because they’ll make decisions similarly to how you would, and won’t require as much direct supervision or management.
Constant vigilance and surveillance of your employees will not only make them feel less empowered, it will create a culture of finger pointing devoid of trust or good faith. When you set clear goals and let your employees rise to the occasion, they feel trusted with your vision and values, and in turn, will trust you a lot more. For example, a growing number of independent, millennial-run coffee shops in Canadian cities including Toronto and Vancouver employ an almost co-op model of operation where the in-store employees manage supply ordering and menu offerings because they closely know their customers and communities. They also collaborate to hire, promote, and set schedules rather than leaving it up to a powerful few who operate independent of their subordinates. The result is a culture where staff feel important and valued, and pass those values on to everyone they interact with.
Measure growth in values, not just profit
Similar to the second tip, if you employ a staff of number-chasers who pursue financial goals instead of goals more closely aligned with your value system, you’ll have a team of robots on your hands. Your personal values will remain personal instead of permeated throughout your organization. It is therefore important to place your personal and corporate values in the forefront when measuring success. Hitting a profit milestone is a great achievement, but did three employees quit in the process? That’s not such a great achievement any more. If benevolence is one of your values, measure corporate time or money spent on charitable endeavours. If environmental welfare is one of your values, measure your company’s ecological footprint and set a goal to reduce it or mitigate it by planting trees or cleaning natural areas. Whatever your values are, quantify them and use them as an indication of corporate success.
If you truly seek greater workplace collaboration, innovation, and engagement, lead with your values in mind. What do you feel is important in life, income and survival aside? You’ll find that most people around you may share the exact same values as you, whether they relate to family, ecology, ethics, or anything else. Putting these qualities front and centre when making business decisions, hiring and compensation decisions, and branding and marketing will go a very long way towards building your company exactly how you planned.
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