When is the Best Time to Mention Your Core Values?
Allow me to share a story about a great meeting with the owner of a potential partner business. The part of the meeting that stood out to me the most – although the whole meeting was a success – was one of the last things he mentioned to me as we buttoned things up.
We talked about his business and my business and exchanges the usual nicities. After we talked about how we could work together to bring the best all around service to our respective clients he brought up one more subject that doesn’t get raised in many business meetings. All too often the subject is left out on purpose, or it is spoken of in such a well scripted and mechanical way that it becomes transparent and meaningless.
With a hint of nervousness, he said “…we run our business on Biblical principles.” He then stated that he and the co-owner of his business felt it was a good idea to mention that to prospective business relationships in light of some of the requests he has received in their history to be a little less than ethical in their services.
We had talked vaguely about one instance, and laughed a bit about it. Because he is the expert and I am familiar with the industry and the services, we agreed that even if he DID do the deed, it would not have achieved the results the honest approach would have. The client was told that as well. Nonetheless, this business owner sitting across the table from me appeared to take that kind of experience as a prompting from his Higher power to be up front about the core values that make up the culture of his business. After sleeping on this encounter I am moved to ask this question.
When is the best time to mention your core values in business circles?
In a world that demands so much political correctness this question becomes even more challenging. Few of us walk into a business meeting wearing our core values on our clothing, around our necks or visibly tattooed on our bodies. In the years I have worked for large corporations, I have been cautioned to adopt the core values and ethical standards of the company that provided the paycheck and leave the rest at home. Fortunately my behavior at work spoke audibly enough that those with which I worked closely knew my personal convictions and in most cases there was great mutual respect. For that I am thankful.
When hired on at the small company that would years later become part of a large corporation, the core values were mutual and attractive to both myself and my employer. That was easy. I was in a position to shield and protect my bosses from unwanted solicitations and the like, and only one time did one of them ask me to simply say he ‘wasn’t in’ if a certain person called. I humbly apologized for what may seem defiant but told the boss I would not lie for him. We worked out better responses for the callers and life went on. Over the years the group I worked in developed a strong respect and we all became friends. We even became somewhat protective of one another’s convictions.
Today I am in business for myself. Still in the building stages, every client and business relationship is crucial. Our mortgage and dinner table depend on it. When networking and meeting new prospects I have asked myself, “Am willing to stay quiet and take whatever work I can get even if it rubs against my personal convictions? I am willing to trust the Spirit that formed the convictions within me, and walk away from potential business? The answer to those questions is critical to how I run my business and critical to the success of the businesses for which I provide services.
Part of what I do is consulting small businesses in their marketing strategies. A huge part of a consulting project is learning the core values and the purpose of the business, and helping covey those messages to their future customers. These things are a direct reflection on the business owner and will build or destroy the trust that largely determines the success of the business.
I don’t have a direct answer to the question of when the best time is to mention your core values in business circles. I can say, however, that it is important to mention them – period. For my clients I recommend that their core values be introduced quickly and obviously – and tastefully, on websites, in social media, and peppered throughout the marketing strategy. Then I pray. I pray that all of my clients and business partners will be given wisdom and power to demonstrate those core values, whatever they are, in everything they do; thereby creating continuity that is unquestionable.