Core Values: How Steady are the Foundations of your Business Culture?

For a business to be able to stand firm no matter what scenario it faces, it must be built on strong core values.

Published April 6, 2020

How steady are the foundations of your business culture?

For a business to be able to stand firm no matter what scenario it faces, and boy are we all facing some challenging new scenarios right now, it must be built on strong core values.

As a Scaling Up coach, one of the first activities I assist businesses with is to revisit their existing core values or to establish new ones. Identifying core values is an incredibly worthwhile exercise because it gives a business confidence in who they are and assists them to operate authentically.

The most important aspect of core values

When I’m conducting corporate coaching, I often come across business owners who have structured their core values based on how they want to be seen to act towards their customers or their investors. And, whilst their efforts are admirable, they’re misguided. That’s because a core value is about understanding the essence of who you already are as a business internally.

Core values are the beating heart of your business, your DNA. They need to reflect what’s important to the business founders. The beauty of strong core values is that they can be used to ensure a business employs people who demonstrate that they share the same way of thinking. Core values are also excellent in helping to evaluate employee performance because they act as a clear reference point from which to appraise behaviours.

How do you define your business’ core values?

Before you begin formulating your values, remember that they need to go beyond being mere words. They need to be demonstrable actions – your way of business life, if you like. Creating core values can take time and effort to get right but consider the exercise a labour of love. After all, they’re the values that your company will live by.

Here are my top three business mentor tips for establishing core values:

  1. Less is more. Stick to somewhere between three and five broad values. Make them simple to understand and easy to remember. For example: ‘Value teamwork by always demonstrating “we over me” thinking.’
  2. Refer to them regularly. From sales and marketing materials to internal reviews, link behaviour back to each core value and make sure to acknowledge great examples of individual effort to live up to them. Recognition is always important.
  3. Make them visible. Display your core values everywhere. From your sales and marketing materials, your website to the wall behind the reception desk, advertise values prominently. Being ‘visible’ also means acting out those values, from executive management all the way down.
Validity of core values

To test the authenticity of your core values, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. If an employee didn’t adhere to this value, would they lose their job?
  2. Would the company be prepared to forgo a business partnership or a potential business gain to stand by that core value?
  3. Is the business team already actively demonstrating that core value?
Are core values worth it?


As a business coach of many years’ experience I know that a company operating from a firm foundation of clear core values is one busy building a strong company culture. Working in a culture that is healthy and energetic leads to more engagement, constantly improving operations and better client connections – all of which are needed now more than ever!

Want to get into it?

Feel free to access the tool I use as a Certified Scaling Up Coach to help my clients gain real clarity around their Core Values. And please, if you need some help in this area feel free to reach out.

What might they be …

Scaling Up Tool - Clarifying your Core Values

Scaling Up Tool - Clarifying your Core Values



Jim Collins: Good to Great