How do you know if you are living your corporate values?
Corporate values are an important part of a company’s culture. How can a company put its values into practice?
The term “corporate culture” originated in the 1980s and became a part of the business lexicon in the 1990s. This term grew into a whole cottage industry around helping companies define and build a company culture that matched their overall business goals.
My company, Peritius Consulting, spent a great deal of time focusing on our culture over the last 10 years. Throughout that process, we understood that there was a commonality among the type of people we hired: shared values. So, we defined four values that do a great job of defining who we are.
Fast forward: COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has done a number on many companies’ corporate cultures. Cultures were often built on the model of in-office employees—Foosball, pool, and ping pong tables for the companies striving to gain younger recruits; catered lunches; comfortable furniture and lounging areas; some even offered napping spaces!
If your company’s culture is built around a model of being together, the pandemic has put a dagger through that.
So how do companies create or maintain a culture in other ways? There are multiple ways, but I have found that our values have helped us maintain our culture. My company’s values are accountability, flexibility, collaboration, and humble confidence (more on these below). These four values have become ingrained in everything we do and therefore, has allowed us to maintain a productive, yet fun culture when taking part in social activities are not an option.
Our values aren’t just words on a poster in our conference room. They are practical, active guidelines we use every day with our team and our clients.
Using our values to measure our team
Many smaller business owners might have heard of “traction.” It is a business process that shows businessowners how to best manage all of the aspects of their business in order to be set up properly to grow. This process helped us through developing our values and then putting them to use. Our team must have and exhibit all of these values.
Accountability – Taking ownership and not “passing the buck.”
- Flexibility – Understanding there is seldom a straight line to the finish line and knowing how to handle change.
- Collaboration – Working with our clients to understand their needs and finding an ideal solution—we are not the consultant that “knows it all.”
- Humble Confidence – Possessing the confidence to reach our clients’ goals and the humility to know that getting to the right answers means asking the right questions and listening.
All of these characteristics make up our team. When we find that we have hired someone that isn’t flexible with the client or is overly confident with no humility, it is often a good sign that they may not be the right fit for us or for our clients and that puts the relationship at risk.
Using our values for hiring
Our hiring process can be extensive. We use scenario-based questioning to understand if the candidate fits our values. We have been doing this for long enough to know that if someone is too confident without listening skills, or lacks empathy or humility, it’s a red flag that they may not be able to follow our processes and succeed with our clients. They may have a phenomenal resume with a great deal of experience that matches what we need but if we don’t see that they align to our values, we won’t make an offer.
Using our values to evaluate our clients
I grew up with the old adage that “the customer is always right.” So, I’ve treated our clients that way. My team has also always treated our clients that way (accountability and collaboration). But what happens when the clients don’t reciprocate?
Recently, we assigned a number of consultants to one of our clients. The client praised our work and told us we were a preferred partner of theirs. So, one of our high-end consultants was coming to the end of their engagement and part of our process was to give the client first right-of-refusal to extend the consultant up until the last 30 days of the contract. At that point, we would need to begin looking for other assignments for our consultant. The client told us there were no additional requirements for the consultant, so we presented our consultant elsewhere.
About 15 days before the end of the contract, the client came back and said they wanted our consultant. I said that we’d have to wait at this point because we were already in discussions with another prospect. At that point, the client reminded me that we had other people there.
While I make the practice well known with my clients, I felt that my other consultants were being put at risk and though I felt that my policy was fair, this client held my feet to the fire. So, I conceded and allowed the consultant to remain with the client. I “burned” the other client instead although I gave them another consulting resource and made financial concessions to compensate for the inconvenience.
Watch for red flags
Going forward, this client refused to talk to us or negotiate with us. The minute the client refused to communicate with us (even though they still wanted our consultants) I realized that they didn’t recognize or share our values, so it made no sense to continue the relationship. Keeping them satisfied at our own expense didn’t strengthen our business relationship, if anything it weakened it. We can work with a client that doesn’t agree with us. We can collaborate. We can make sure that we understand the issues and be as flexible as possible. However, when a client or business partner cannot respond in kind, we are left with no option but to terminate the relationship.
I fired my first client.
This is not for everyone mind you. It isn’t easy for any small business to lose a client. Yet, this client didn’t value our services and didn’t align to how our values drive us.
Values support success
While this may seem small, I believe in having our consultants know that we are all in this together. Whether they support the company, or the company supports them, we all have the same values that drive our company culture.
Not everyone is willing or wants to force their values on their clients. While I don’t expect our clients to have our same exact values, I would assume that they want to hire us because of our values. If the client doesn’t appreciate those values, we probably won’t succeed with them!
Written by Laura Dribin. Peritius Consulting’s Laura Dribin highlights her key learnings from 2021 to help companies improve their values.
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