Why Your Business Needs Core Values: Unraveling the Truth

Have you ever felt like your business is steering you instead of the other way around?

One of the core components of Gino Wickman’s ‘​Traction​‘, which I implemented in my last business, is the Vision Traction Organizer (VTO). This one-page document serves as a sort of ultra-lean, super high-level business plan of sorts. It documents your vision that guides your business by answering the “8 Core Questions.”

Traction is rigid so, I admit, I made some modifications.

In ‘Traction,’ the VTO is a physical document. However, in today’s modern distributed workplace, that’s not super useful. I’m not a fan of investing time and effort in documents that are stored away. If you’re going to bother to write them, they need to serve a purpose, be seen, and become part of how your organization operates and thinks.

I keep my modified “VTO”, which I call my Command Center, as the homepage or Dashboard in ​Notion​, where the whole team works.

The first of the 8 Core Questions is:

What are your core values?

For the first 10 or 15 years in business, I didn’t really grasp the point of an exercise like this.

The idea of coming up with core values seemed to lie somewhere on the scale between a distraction from generating revenue and an unearned vanity play pretending I had a big business.

Today, I know better.

When you do “Core Values” right, they should guide your decision-making. You and your leadership should have them creeping into the back of your mind every time you’re about to make an important decision, or even many less important ones.

You should be able to look at your tasks, projects, decisions, vendors, partners, and answer:

“Does this align with our Core Values?”

Core values aren’t solely your personal values; they’re personal to the business AND reflect your values as the owner.

I believe Core Values are important enough that I implement them at the outset of a business project, and even in my brokerage and M&A practice today, where I am independent and have no direct reports yet.

When you’re adrift or conflicted, or you see an opportunity, or always in your hiring, you can turn to your Core Values and ask – does this align? Does this person or project or situation align with our Core Values?

And then the right answer appears.

I’m not going to rewrite the chapter in ‘Traction’ on Core Values, so I’ll simply say that if you don’t have values identified in your business now, or if you think you have them but nobody on the team knows what they are, then maybe it’s time to revisit that.

But only if you want your whole team moving together in the same direction and you value clarity in your decision making 😀

Here are the Core Values that I established when I decided I would get into business sales and M&A, before I ever even found a place to hang my shingle. Core Values from my previous business were different. Gino suggests you have 3-7, I have 10, what can I say?

You’ll notice that these are each written in a very specific way:

Core Values

  • We always treat business owners and searchers with respect; they are the backbone of our economy and they are the bravest people we know.
  • Projects are a “hell yeah” or a “no” – if it’s not fun and engaging with a high probability of success, then we don’t do it.
  • We always deliver unexpected value. Clients are surprised by how good it is.
  • We are ruthlessly efficient. We know why we’re doing what we’re doing, or else we cut it. As much as possible, we touch things only once.
  • We are always direct but empathetic in communication. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we address them head-on with as much empathy as possible.
  • Work time is always focused time. Personal, political, and social discussions and agendas are for another time and place. If we’re not productive, we stop working.
  • We always work to ensure that our business, and the businesses of our clients, serve the owner, not the other way around.
  • We never have emergencies.
  • We always accept ultimate responsibility for our outcomes.
  • We always remember that honesty and integrity are the cornerstone of our reputation.

There are few things that I could face in business that a reckoning with this set of values wouldn’t resolve. Don’t you agree?

What Core Values guide you in your business?