Building Your Business on Values

Values is a set of principles that give character to your biz and define what your biz is all about. Values empower both your partners, staff and customers towards ensuring that your biz is able to meet the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. A rational being will have a set of natural principles that guide interactions with others. So should your biz. Values mostly draw from natural law and common decency. In most of the big firms, values are embodied in their philosophy accompanying the vision and mission statements. Such firms take pride in displaying those statements on their walls and websites for all and sundry. Some believe in the values they espouse while others don’t. That really is the difference between those that will be there in the long run and those that won’t. For small businesses however, not many have well-grounded vision, mission and value statements. They consider those to be high level needs beyond them. Truth is, even though they may not have those displayed, values or vices are what fuels the thought system of the businesses. A good value system will be premised on the following 4 pillars.

1. Consistency

A good value system draws from the vision bearer. You know where you want to take your biz, you had better know how? Values are the map and the compass direction that will guide you. And guess what? You don’t need to pay a consultant to tell you what you should believe in? Just interrogate yourself and write it down on a piece of paper. Then you can discuss them with your stakeholders and mentors. Are you trustworthy as a person or just a con? Do you believe in innovation and creativity or you are just a boring copycat? Do you believe in professionalism or you are the one who will lead your staff in disrespecting your customers? Do you believe in team work or you don’t take suggestions from staff and stakeholders? Unless you beliefs are hinged on a value system, just writing the value statements won’t breathe life into them. You have to believe in them to embrace them.

2. Ethics and Law

The challenge with legalities is it is determined at the point of accountability at law. Some things may not be out-rightly illegal but can be unethical. How much do ethics drive you? We are so much used to news about liquor that makes people blind and kills others. That liquor is made by a business man who cut corners. Recently there have been features about how toxic our fruits and vegetables are, they are all produced and sold by greedy business people who prefer shortcuts. There are business people that will sale you fake things without your knowledge, what is worst, they sell them at the price of originals. If you must sell fakes, just let your customers know so that they can make informed choices. Otherwise you are just a common thief not a business person. Do you employ the right people at the right terms? Are your production systems sensitive to the environment and humane or just exploitative? I know people who won’t ride a certain taxi company because they don’t pay their drivers well. I know guys who would refuse to take certain coffee because the company isn’t fair to the farmers. I have seen guys resist some companies because they don’t pay taxes. Its time customers also exercised their power in holding these ‘entrepreneurs’ accountable.

3. Productivity

There are as many value as there are people. You don’t have to have a litany of values. Most are related and complementary. A good value statement will have between 3 and 5 values. Now choose the ones that will closely mirror yourself and your biz. Most importantly, they have to lead to growth of your biz. Ensure that they are well disseminated to your stakeholders. Your staff need to know them by heart as they are the face and the backbone of the biz. They say that habit is next to nature. Let everyone memorize them, let them implement them in every aspect and before you know it, they will be flowing in the biz without need for enforcement.

4. Live it

Having values and living them are different things. You must make provisions for the values to come to life. Values won’t just happen, it will take resources to do that; time and money. You have to be thinking of the long term interest of the biz and its vision to commit to the values. We are killing far too many businesses for an economy that wants to grow. Some businesses die not because of market factors but just that they aren’t guided by values. You exploit your staff and they leave you soonest they find options. Some businesses die just because some key staff exited. You exploit your customers and they leave you once they find options. You exploit your suppliers and they die and you die too. Otherwise, they will bid their time and when you need them the most, they will be happy to hit the last nail to your biz. Just see what is happening with the collapse of the big retailers in Kenya.

If you have customers being bitter at your biz then there is something wrong with your values. You need to re-evaluate before you find yourself looking for other customers. You need to know whether you customers are excited doing biz with you or if they just tolerate you.

If you are an entrepreneur and would like some help in building your vision, Mission and Values statements please don’t be afraid to ask. There are people who would be willing to help even free of charge. Your success is the success of everyone.

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