The Hidden Value of Company Values
It was during my seventh year in business when I took a step back, breathed and looked around. Something wasn’t right. Our growth had leveled off. We became average in customer service and product quality. We kept losing talented employees. We even had customer turnover for the first time in our company’s history.
The business I created no longer represented my ideals. What was the cause? There was an obvious problem with our values. As I researched successful high-growth companies for guidance, I started to see the big picture. My message and vision were getting watered down the more we grew. I was no longer directly involved with the hiring and mentoring of new employees. Because of this, people brought their old habits and values with them, changing our company culture in the process. We began to mask issues with rules and guidelines. What’s worse, we were creating the very culture that forced me to leave my old job and start my own business.
The problem rested squarely on my shoulders, and I took the necessary steps to resolve it. Throughout this amending process, I learned an important paradox— the faster a company grows and the more rapidly things change, the more some things need to remain the same. It all starts with the employees. Each new employee should bring talent, value and energy to an organization. They should inject life into the company and complement existing procedures. Your company’s core values have to teach employees how to succeed in your culture. The values must be clear and concise, and the company’s rewards system must enforce them.
How do you know if you have the right core values? Simple. Look around. The people who embody your core values should be the most successful people in your organization. The people who do not embody them should be on their way out the door. That's the approach I take in my business. After all, change is inevitable, but values are permanent.
How I fixed my company culture:
I ESTABLISHED OUR CORE VALUES: I spent seven months with my management team working through our core values, clarifying them, cutting them down to a low number and making them easy to remember. These values had to be versatile enough that they could remain constant in a growing and dynamic company. I then spent months making decisions based on those core values until I verified that the decisions I made were almost always the decisions I would have made otherwise. Once I was satisfied, we released them to the company.
I INTEGRATED OUR CORE VALUES: The next challenge was to get employees to begin living by our set of core values. To do this, we promoted them in our internal communications, meetings and company social events. Employees received a framed set of our values to hang at their work stations. We printed t-shirts with our values on them. We created “Rock Star Awards,” whereby employees rewarded each other for applying core values in “rock star-worthy” ways. We even named our conference rooms after them. From time-to-time I would randomly approach employees and ask them to recite the core values— if they could, then they received a $100 bill on the spot.
I EMBRACED OUR CORE VALUES: Our core values became the guiding force our company was lacking, and they were well received by all of the employees. Very quickly, our culture became less restrictive, which led to easier and more consistent decision making. Once these values permeated our company’s culture, our run rate rose from US$4.8 million to more than US$11 million in 18 months; employee turnover dropped from 35% per year to less than 10%; and overall client satisfaction increased dramatically. Above all, employees were having fun again.
I GOT CREATIVE: To help my company stay on the right track, I created the “Diamonds, Not Coal” core value. Both materials have the same carbon make-up, but one takes intense heat, pressure and time to become something truly valuable. This value challenged us to strive for excellence in everything we do, as individuals and as a company, no matter how difficult it would be.
In our company, there are rules, but not without purpose. We demand results, but not without reward. And most importantly, we have fun. Not at the expense of achievement, but because of it. We live the culture of heart and mind in action. And we’re successful. It’s my dream that every company and every employee has the opportunity to work in a positive work environment. One that provides purpose. One that generates results.
Jason Beans is the Founder and CEO of Rising Medical Solutions and Rising Financial Solutions. He holds 19 years of managed care experience in the workers’ compensation and auto market fields and has an extensive background in medical bill review, care management and finance administration. Contact Jason at
[email protected] risingms.com.