Company Core Values Aren’t Just Something for Your Website—But It Takes Effort to Make Them Meaningful
This year, ArcherPoint is celebrating 20 years in business as a Microsoft Dynamics Gold ERP Partner for Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central. We’ve grown from three people to a team of more than 133 team members in the United States, Canada, and India. It’s a time to be proud, but it’s also a time for reflection. How did we get here surviving and even thriving through turbulent times? We believe one of the cornerstones of our success as an organization is our core values.
Look at any organization’s website and you’ll find a mission statement, value statement, or some combination. However, I think it’s fair to say that most employees don’t know their company’s mission or core values, and that these statements often just languish on a page, not having any real impact on the organization they represent.
At ArcherPoint, we believe that’s not an indictment of mission statements or value statements; most companies sincerely want a mission and values to guide them. The problem more likely is in the way those statements were defined or perhaps failure to weave those statements into the company culture. When we set about defining our core values in 2011, we wanted to make sure they meant something and would continue to mean something every day we’re in business. We believe we accomplished that, and we believe those values have kept us here and on track all these years.
You Have to Break a Few Eggs
So, how do you create lasting, meaningful, actionable core values?
Not without breaking some eggs, it turns out. For example, we started with a very democratic process. We surveyed every employee in the company, asking them for their ideas. We received probably 100 different ideas, so we had to figure out a next step, which was to look for common themes in those ideas. We came up with 10, with ideas like “teamwork,” “integrity,” and “customer service.”
Those are great values to have, but the problem with those values is that they are values that any employee should have. We had come across the work of Patrick Lencioni, in which he speaks to permission to play values, which represent minimum standards of behavior rather than differentiators. Would you hire someone who didn’t operate with integrity or focus on the customer? Those values, while admirable, failed in three other areas:
- They did not represent what makes us unique as an organization, In fact, 55 percent of all companies have “integrity” in their mission or value statements, 49 percent have “customer service,” and 40 percent have “teamwork.”
- The second thing those suggested values failed to do was provide enough depth to breathe life into them. They felt two-dimensional, flat—and ArcherPoint is anything BUT two-dimensional or flat. (As an example, our CEO and co-founder, Greg Kaupp, wanted “fun” to be one of our core values.)
- And finally, those values were not memorable. They were words on a wall (everyone is familiar with that motivational office art). How can you expect your people to live by your core values if they can’t even recall them?
Back to the Drawing Table
So, we went back to the drawing table. Lencioni also discusses other types of values, but true core values are intended to be deeply ingrained principals that guide our actions. This is what we keyed on, and we set to work. It was not easy—but this was not something to be taken lightly. Core values are our compass, so they deserved time and attention.
We used everything we had learned in our discussions:
- What are our goals?
- What makes us unique?
- What will make those values memorable?
- And finally, how do we craft those values so they are sustainable, so they have life now and down the road? We determined that each value had to have enough detail so that there was no mistaking what that value was about and that there needed to be some tension embedded in each one for them to really come alive.
The Results: Three Core Values
The result of this hard work was three core values that we believed truly embodied what ArcherPoint is all about in everything we do, both internally and with our customers and partners:
Delighting Clients with Amazing Work that they are happy to pay for and rave about to others.
Building an Enduring Tribe distinguished by collaboration and always putting the good of the community, clients, and colleagues above self-interest.
Learning and Always Challenging ourselves to build a better business and helping our clients to do the same.
These seemingly simple statements have a lot going on under the surface. To create that tension in each value, we included specifics to clarify what they mean. For example, “Delighting clients” can mean anything. You can delight a client by tearing up the bill or sending them candy. So, we added “…with amazing work that they are happy to pay for and rave about to others.” That phrase brings the value to life and leaves no room for doubt as to what it means. With “Building an enduring tribe,” we clarified that this should be done while also putting others first—above self-interest.” It’s where the rubber meets the road for each value.
We knew these “tensions” would make those values challenging to stick to, but Lencioni’s statement is the best response to that concern:
“… coming up with strong values—and sticking to them—requires real guts. Indeed, an organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.”
Or, as one of our team members shared, this quote from Marcus Buckingham: “Your true values are like diamonds – they reveal themselves only when they’re under pressure.”
Withstanding the Test of Time…Until Recently
These three core values had served ArcherPoint for 10 years. We checked very regularly (I’ll discuss how in another blog post), and they still stood strong…until 2020.
As we all know, 2020 and 2021 were turbulent times, not only with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also major events which highlighted deep racial inequality and systemic oppression in our world. We have always been inspired by Disney, which has, for 50 years, had 4 “Keys”—or values. In late 2020, they announced a fifth key around Diversity and even put it at the center of the other four.
This, we felt, needed to be addressed in our core values—not because we felt we were doing a terrible job but because we knew we could do better, and we wanted to take a clear stand. Embracing diversity, inclusion and belonging is something that needs to be said clearly; it should not be an “accidental” value. We wanted to be more up front for many reasons; the business world has a long way to go, and ArcherPoint wants to be part of the solution, to be actively involved. So, we needed a core value with a tension to make it specific and actionable. In 2021, we officially added to our Core Values:
Cultivating Inclusion and Belonging with an environment that welcomes and honors diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and origin.
We’ve had a lot of success throughout our history as a company, but we’ve never been prouder than when we added this core value and have proceeded to take meaningful actions around it.
Creating Your Core Values is Just the Beginning
It took a lot of work—and more than once—but we feel our core values are solid and meet all the criteria we set out to meet. But the work doesn’t end here. These core values need to be kept alive, meaningful, and actionable every day; in everything we do. That’s why we also put specific processes in place aimed at doing just that.
Join a Team That Lives Its Core Values
Did the core values discussed in this blog post appeal to you? Would you like to work for an organization that actually lives them? We are always looking for talented people, so we invite you to explore opportunities with us.