Once upon a time, I used to spend hours a day hammering out business strategy. I read Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur. I interviewed potential employees, approved new products, designed magazine ads, and wrote telemarketing scripts. I lived between laptop and blackberry. The business my husband and I started from our cinderblock apartment in college eventually grew into a company that did things like selling nationwide to high schools and colleges and sponsoring Team USA at the World University Games. Along the way, we gained a lot of practical experience in manufacturing, supply chain, import/export, and marketing. But most important were the things we learned about ourselves and each other, managing people and relationships, and juggling work and family.
We were in the midst of gearing up for a major hiring time when Tony and I sat down to clarify the core values for our company. When it comes to elegance and effectiveness in product design and marketing, my idol is Steve Jobs. But my favorite HR and customer service model comes from Zappos, the online shoe seller driven by its legendary company culture. For Zappos, the key is a set of simple core values that form the framework for everything they do.
It took us several weeks of brainstorming, discussing, and refining to really come to understand what were the core values we wanted for our own company. And once we had written down our final creation, we realized that these were also the values we aspired to in our decisions as individuals and as a family. Now that we had them in black and white, it became easier for me to articulate how and why I made my daily choices, and more clear how I should act in difficult situations.
Although our business didn’t survive the economic downturn, our values did. We still refer to them occasionally as we face challenges at home, work, church, and in life in general. I thought you might want to see them, and I wanted to remember them myself. So I went and dug the whole list out of an old business plan. Here they are in all their original glory of young idealism:
- The right way is the best way. Always do the right thing. Have integrity. Doing the right thing will always produce the best results.
- Every time you set a goal and achieve it you become more powerful. By setting and achieving a goal you gain two things: skill and confidence in your own abilities. With each goal accomplished, your ability to set and achieve more demanding goals increases.
- The ideal is always possible. Relentlessly pursue the ideal. Never Settle. The right choice, the best choice is always an option. If you think you only have bad options, keep thinking till you can see the good ones.
- Be vulnerable. Be honest in relationship communication. Have the courage to trust people with what’s really inside of you. Share your feelings. Be yourself. Be open.
- Discover your passions. Decide what is authentic and real for you, and let it move you. Uncover your personal mission. March to the beat of your own drummer. Follow your dreams.
- Make good promises. Set people’s expectations correctly. Don’t lie to people about what you can do. Be careful what you promise, and then keep your promises.
- Focus on the one. Solve problems by focusing on individuals, not groups. Individual acts of kindness are the most powerful way to make a difference. Don’t be overwhelmed by the “big” problems in the world. Change the world by caring for the one.
- Build people up. Do an anonymous good turn daily. Give sincere praise. Encourage people by valuing their efforts as well as their accomplishments. Believe in people–in their goodness, in their talent. And help them see themselves for what they really are.
- Establish lifelong relationships. If whenever you meet someone, you expect to be friends for life, it will change the way you handle the relationship. Take the time, make the effort to build good, lasting relationships with everyone in your life.
Do any of these particularly strike you? Or do you have other core values you think of as your own? If you could condense your beliefs about moral and effective action into one short statement or a few, what would they be?