Contributed by Kym Huynh, an EO Melbourne member, EO Global Communications Committee member, and co-founder of WeTeachMe. Kym is fascinated by entrepreneurs and their journeys, so he asked EO members from various chapters to share their experiences. Read his earlier posts on what EO members wish non-entrepreneurs knew about entrepreneurs and how they define success.
In this third installment of Kym Huynh’s Leadership Toolkit series, Kym asked successful entrepreneurs from EO chapters around the world, “How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?” Here’s what they shared:
Never underestimate the power of simple words and simple ideas
When I took over my family business at age 25, my father’s advice to me were these three ideas: honesty, hard work and integrity. At the time, I considered them “not profound” due to their simplicity.
However, I find myself referring to and using them when I conduct staff interviews as they encapsulate the qualities we look for in team members. Those who don’t conform to these values aren’t a natural fit, and leave accordingly. These values are our guiding principles. I discovered that as time progressed, they become embodied in our mission statement.
— Ai-Ling Wong, EO Malaysia and founder of The Decorateur
Values help clarify ambiguous questions
I refer to values whenever I have a question in need of an answer, whether personal or business. Asking whether the matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction.
When I first learned about the importance of values in the workplace, I thought that it was OK if a decision ticked three out of the five values boxes. I soon learned that if something does not tick all five boxes (assuming there are five values), then the answer is no— no matter how attractive it may seem or how many people try to convince me otherwise.
The importance of values is a lesson for which I will be forever grateful.
— Andrea Grisdale, EO Italy, founder and CEO at IC Bellagio
How you act in business should extend to your personal life
Values, and how we choose to act according to them, are incredibly important.
Being home during COVID-19-related lockdowns, my children have had the opportunity to see how their dad works. Through proximity, they listen to my calls, how I speak with others, how I listen to others, and how I treat people. It is therefore important to me that how I am with people is how I am with my family—ie, that I treat them with respect and in accordance with my values.
— David Fastuca, EO Melbourne, founder of Ambisie and Locomote
Clear values provide decision-making filters for everyone within the business
Knowledge of core values, authenticity, and “being impeccable with your word” are the three most important traits I look for in business and personal relationships.
Values need to be known and embraced by everyone within the business. A great litmus test is to call the business reception and see if the person answering the phone can share what the values are, and what they mean.
At Zenman, we use our core values as a filter when hiring new team members, and as a reference when conducting quarterly reviews.
A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.
One cannot build a castle with a weak foundation
I consider values to be the foundation in business and in life. When one has lack of clarity or a lack of awareness in their values (a weak foundation), one cannot build a castle.
Pinpointing my values took many years. I gravitated toward positive-sounding words that sounded great, but never quite hit the mark. It wasn’t until my fifth attempt that I stumbled upon a framework that worked: Reflect back on times when you have been incredibly incensed, and consider why you felt this way. It will hint at a core value that was infringed.
— Kym Huynh, EO Melbourne, founder of WeTeachMe
Values provide a guide so that everyone can be successful
Values are the foundation of our businesses, and provide a guide for how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone (employees, customers and the business) can be successful.
We bring our values to life by:
- Screening people for our values so that our hires are values-based
- Onboarding people with our values
- Celebrating when people live our values
- Coaching people in real-time when they don’t live our values
A great tool we use in making sure our values are brought to life is to keep track of all stories that are aligned with our values, and to share them far and wide in our businesses.
— Ron Lovett, EO Atlantic Canada, founder of Connolly Owens
Values are the basis of any business
Our values—fun, integrity, respect, service, and trust first—are known and practiced by all staff.
I have a saying: “If you are not in business for fun and profit, what the hell are you doing there?” As a value, we try and ensure that employees enjoy their surroundings and the people they work with, but we also expect them to do a fair day’s work so that we make a profit. The same saying goes slightly differently for the employee: “If you are not in a role that you enjoy and learn, what the hell are you doing there?”
The backbone of all our values is “respect”. At a new employee’s induction, we stress this value, and generally this is the value we quote when firing an employee. For example, if an employee steals from the company, it is not showing respect for the company. If an employee hits another employee, it is not showing respect for a fellow employee. If an employee swears at a supplier, it is not showing respect for the supplier.
This post originally appeared on Kym Huynh’s Leadership Toolkit blog and is edited and reposted here with permission.