Today’s post is inspired by the excellent speech given by Professor David Clarke, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Bristol University at my daughter’s Graduation Ceremony. His speech was based on the university’s values and their relevance to the new graduates as they leave the university to make their way in the world. It got me thinking about values in a business context.
So many large companies have their mission, vision and value statements but they don’t always inspire staff or customers. I wonder how many employees would be able to share their organisation’s values with us without reference to a corporate brochure. This is sad because values are key to communicating what an organisation stands for to all the stakeholders. When values are well thought through and appropriate they should be motivating and differentiate one organisation from another.
Why have a values statement?
When you operate a one man (or woman) band it is relatively easy to live by your values. They will be personal. They will matter to you. However as soon as you start involving other people in the delivery of your business these values can become diluted. Without a clear understanding of your brand’s values your representatives may operate to their own value system. Their values might be perfectly sound but if they don’t match yours it can weaken your brand identity in the mind of your prospects.
Marketers have long talked about the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), the thing that makes one business stand out from another in the minds of customers. Finding a USP in an increasingly competitive marketplace can be hugely difficult but we can differentiate ourselves through the values we adopt. For instance one stationery supplier may care more about competitive pricing and fast delivery whereas another may be more concerned about the environment and sustainability. These different values can be clearly communicated to prospects who will make their choice base on what matters most to them.
What are your values and how do you communicate them?
How much thought have you given to your values? Could your staff or customers explain what they are? If not perhaps it is time to join me in giving the matter a bit more thought. I will be refining my value statements this month and will then share them here and on my new website. I’m going to explain my values in my blog post here on Monday August 5th and I’d like you to hold me to account so if they are not here then I want you to ask me why!
Why not share your values here as a comment to help inspire other business owners to think more deeply about theirs. To get you started here are Bristol University’s. I don’t think you need as many as this, between four and six is typical but you might only want one really strong one. It’s up to you, the key is that they should be easy to communicate and to get buy in from your staff and customers.
Bristol University’s Values:
- truth – we seek and are inspired by truth, which we pursue for its own sake;
- excellence – we strive for the highest quality in all we do;
- innovation – we welcome the challenge of the new and value the creative and entrepreneurial;
- ambition – we have high aspirations for the University and all its staff, students and alumni;
- responsibility – we aim to make a positive difference to the wider world and the future;
- independence – we encourage independent thinking and cherish academic and institutional autonomy;
- collaboration – we are committed to teamwork and to partnership with others;
- transparency – we want to be accountable for our decisions and actions;
- diversity – we view the diversity of our staff, students and alumni as a great asset;
- equity – we believe in the equitable treatment of all.