Why should I care about brand values? And who are you anyway?
Writing a vision for your business is a bit fluffy and "woo woo" isn't it? And don't mention thinking about your brand values - who cares anyway?
It's true. I still come across companies, nay brands (they like to think), that believe it's all airy fairy nonsense and not for them. Or rather, it isn't a priority for them at the moment. They've got the day to day stuff to occupy them. The challenges of owning a business and staying afloat in very turbulent times.
I get all this. I really do. But let me turn it around for a minute. I was sitting in a networking group recently where the key challenges around the room for each business was lead generation. Lead generation, oh and employee management. And by that I mean, keeping the employees they have, ensuring their loyalty and continued "happiness" which in turn leads to high engagement and productivity. So 2 core issues, both, in many ways, caused by not being clear about their business and in particular their vision and values - what it represents and how it can benefit both client and team member.
In the last couple of weeks I've spoken to 3 current clients across 3 very different sectors (accountancy, credit insurance and networking) who have all said that the work they've done around the vision and values of their business has been far more successful than they ever imagined. Far more successful for 3 reasons:
For the first time in a while the team has felt united. United and connected. Each member knows where they're going and what the company values most of all. This has given them a sense of confidence and has also helped them to assess their day to day and how / why they are doing certain things rather than others. The result? A more contented and aligned team with a greater sense of energy and purpose
A stronger identity in a highly competitive market
This sense of identify has resulted in, again, a confidence and a permission to "be themselves". Most of us get caught up in the endless cost conversations but if you get it right, having a vision and values, and communicating them effectively puts you on a road where you can talk about the benefits of working with your business rather than scrabbling about trying to cover cost and a little bit of margin. The result isn't overnight but with consistent communication and subsequent behaviours, a business with a point of view and a value set begins to stand out in the market and become a beacon rather than an "also ran". The true benefit? Perceived value of your product or service beyond price.
Easy and more successful recruitment
If you know what you stand for and you have the tools to communicate that to candidates, you stand half a chance of finding the right person for the job, and more importantly the right person for YOU. If someone understands your business beyond the nuts and bolts then they can actively choose or walk away. They either identify or get turned off. As simple and as effective as that. And if they identify, they more quickly integrate successfully into the business. They "bond" better if you like. An early bonding results in early commitment and loyalty and hopefully a happy and effective recruit.
That's the 3 but here's ONE MORE...
Frequently I'm told that one of the key objectives for a business is to work with clients that they like. To enjoy what they do on a daily basis. And by that they generally mean finding clients who are great people, "get" their business, buy into it wholeheartedly and are,in general, like minded and of a certain attitude. This is usually about wanting to be a partnership. Wanting a long-term relationship which is mutually beneficial and, at its most simple, a lot more human where each business treats the other with mutual respect.
Having a vision that is clear and prominent with values which complement that vision enables a business not only to attract like minded potential clients, but it helps to turn the mirror onto current clients and assess whether they really are the right clients for them. Too often than not, at the start of a business we are all inclined to say "yes" A LOT. But then after a couple of years, we find our stride and make a decision to be more purposeful in our efforts. This is the time when the list of clients is taken out and examined and guess what? Not all of them are perfect in the work that they require but also in their approach. This is the time that our vision and values become an asset. By matching these with the client we can quite quickly see that they aren't right and also WHY they aren't right. This is when we suddenly feel more of a sense of control followed by the ability to start weeding them out and replacing them with a better fit.
So, there's a good argument for doing this fundamental work. But how is a vision and values developed? If you're a solo business owner then it's much simpler. You are your brand and your values can come directly from you. How you live your life, where you've come from and what you've learned along the way. But what if you have a business, say, of 5+ employees who are all different in their approach and what they hold dear?
This is where a more strategic approach applies. And I'd recommend that you look at collectively:
- Your business' position in your sector (a SWOT analysis if you like)
- How your competitors position themselves and the values that they espouse
- Gaps that can be identified and white space that your business can occupy as a result
- A collective evaluation of your employees perceptions of the current company vision and values and what rings true and what needs to be tweaked
One piece of advice. A vision and the subsequent values of a business are only as effective as the articulation of these factors. So many times I hear that the values of a business centre around "excellence" or "professional" or "honest". These in my opinion are FAT words. They are bland, over-used and quite frankly rather meaningless. Try to find words which have more meaning to them and reflect not only company thinking but how a company operates. Words expressing values should have an energy to them, they should be expressive, such as "determination", "rigor", "challenge" or "commitment". Words which spring off the page and seep into an individual's consciousness. Words which instantly generate a reaction.
In my mind, a company is only as good as the vision and the values that it stands by. If they conjur up emotions and opinion (good or bad) then they're working nicel. If they don't then they're words on a page and will remain just that. Meaningless and without further value.