Your vision for starting your company was no doubt built on a set of values that you feel strongly about. Entrepreneurs, being the visionaries and creators that we are, are great at establishing core values— but many of us create our core values with only positive outcomes in mind.
In the excitement of a new enterprise, and amid the exuberance of early success, it’s difficult to envision the business struggling or being tempted by situations that would compromise core values.
There are many ways to see your core values tested. Certainly, it happens when one of your salespeople brings you an opportunity that is clearly in the gray zone—something that would make you money, but at the same time would compromise everything that you and your company stand for. That’s a time when you really have to stop and think about whether you’re going to take the step. But it also happens subtly, when you’re just not looking, when growth is so strong and so fast that you don’t recognize that you’ve gradually crossed the line . . . until the day comes when you can barely find your way back.
Holding On to Those Values
The best way to hold the line on your company’s core values in the face of temptation and change is to have selected values that are congruent with your personal credo. I believe this, and so do others who have addressed the subject, including Northwestern University’s Harry Kraemer. Says he, in one of his opinion pieces for Forbes, “…becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can.”
So, take the time to really think about what matters most to you and how that applies to your business. Are you motivated by pride of performance, or by winning a competitive battle? Is it building a legacy that spurs you on? Are you socially or environmentally motivated? Or is it something as simple as money or fame that drives you?
These things will influence your company’s core values and predict whether they will stand the test of time.