Increasing your Value through Values

The CEOs of Seventh Generation, Beryl Companies, SPUD, Zappos, and Jeld-Wen Development inspire me to help more companies increase their values by embodying their values.

Our business and personal values determine the way we run our lives and “how we do things” at work.  They are defined as the unique ways of being that guide our decisions, form family bonds, and define our communities.

Your values may fall into several categories, such as:
• Health and wellness
• Financial
• How we treat others (community, family, employees, suppliers, etc)
• Contribution (to community, family, planet, clients, etc.)
• Service (to community, clients, employees, church, etc.)
• Achievement
• Recognition
• Quality (products, work environment, communication style)
• Professionalism
• Fun
• Decision-making style
• Learning environment
• Sustainability

When I work with companies, I have discovered that the most effective organizations invest a significant amount of time establishing their values.  When they do this, they find an almost immediate increase in profitability.

This method of doing business was evident when our firm worked with a Jeld-Wen Development, a large real estate developer.  CEO Jerry Andres approached us because they were facing new pressures to sustain growth. They had launched several key strategic initiatives:  Three new communities in the Western United States and Mexico, a new brand, and companywide reorganization.  This was a lot of change for a 400-employee organization to absorb. Teams began experiencing unsteady progress towards their five-year, multi-million dollar “Big Audacious Goal.” (BAG).  That’s when Andres enlisted our help to ensure the leadership team was prepared to face these changes.

By conducting interviews and surveys with their key executives, I quickly discovered that they lacked a clear understanding of the company’s core values – a situation that was causing some costly project communications breakdowns for new employees and managers.

In addition to completing leadership surveys and consultations, I helped the client refine their core values. Together, we built a strategy to get the entire organization to adopt these values. According to Andres, “We once had 23 core values which we called our Operating Principles. Now we have four.  Today, the company’s four key values are responsibility, quality, and value, golden rule and relationships.  Everyone can remember and recite them.”   These values form the foundation for Jeld-Wen Development’s success.  According to Andres, “To lead a successful company you have to articulate as clearly as possible what your vision, mission and core values are.   I used to be a football coach, so I like to tell people I’m still coaching, except the game is different (Cascade Business News, 2007).”

Jeld-Wen’s experience is not unusual.  According to Edgar Schein, a noted organizational development professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, most other management consultants he has interviewed and studied consider shared values to be critically important for healthy organizational development and sustenance.

Some compelling research further encourages us to take our values seriously.  In their seminal book Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and John Heskett surveyed over 200 companies across more than 22 industries for 11 years (beginning in 1990).  They found that firms with a strong corporate culture based on a foundation of shared values outperformed the other firms by a huge margin in the following areas:

–Revenue grew more than four times faster
–The rate of job creation was seven times higher
–Stock price grew twelve times faster
–Profit performance was 750% higher

This research supports one of the many reasons why I guide companies toward reaching consensus on values. Establishing agreement on certain basic, action-oriented, guiding principles regarding how they’re going to do business helps an organization create a scalable framework of discipline and decision-making.

What 4-5 core values will drive your business growth this year?

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