Why Company Values Matter

I've experienced many transitions in my 30+ year tenure at FrazierHeiby. We've found success in a variety of leadership styles, business models and management tools. Throughout those changes, our culture and strong set of values have been constant threads connecting our team members, clients and partners. It's an obvious part of our relationships that you can almost touch.

Though we may think our firm values are obvious, openly defining and sharing them is important to help others understand and appreciate what we care about and how they will be treated. Clearly stated values also provide a measuring stick for making business decisions: who to hire, what type of clients to seek and how to serve them. Values define how we will treat all with who we do business.

Gary Petersen writes in Forbes about his perception of corporate values in terms of hiring, behavior and the heart of culture. He hit the nail on the head when he said, "the best way to hire and keep smart, curious, problem solvers is to already have an office filled with like-minded people who share the same values."

That's a simple statement with a real lesson. We've learned from not staying true to our values in the past. We have hired associates who we suspected were not an ideal fit, and we've chosen to work with clients that are misaligned with our beliefs. In both cases, the short-term gains were not worth the long-term challenges.

We recently completed a "values exercise" with all FH team members to create a new, tangible documentation of our values. There is no single approach to creating or expressing values, and some companies successfully present them in ways that range from highly creative to explicitly operational. We all agreed that our values should be simple and easy to understand, remember and share. We're even toying with the idea of making a "values wall" as part of our new office feng shui.

You don't need to look far to find the complexity that we tried to avoid. Kellogg's presents their vision as six simple words, but they expanded them to include secondary explanatory statements and more than 30 behavioral guidelines. It reads a bit like an employee policy manual and misses the opportunity to express a fresh and open attitude.

Our end product looks similar to Coca-Cola's values summary: six key words with simple and somewhat aspirational descriptors that help guide the decisions of an international giant without defining specific behaviors. It's exactly what you expect from the highly competitive and creative brand.

It would be interesting to know how most companies arrive at their publicly shared vision and value statements. Are they driven by management, fostered by an employee team or drafted by the creative department?

Our process was highly inclusive and began with lists of each team member's own values for FrazierHeiby. After comparing, we found significant overlap - a very good thing - that proved that we were all on the same page. The process also generated a few unexpected observations about who we are and what we believe. Our conversations about our values will be ongoing and we will continue to refine how we express what we believe. However, the core of those beliefs is unchanging. That is the platform on which our success has been built, one that makes me quite proud.

If you've read this far, you are one of the first to see our newly defined company values.

Strategy: the foundation of our work

Passion: showing that we love what we do

Impact: making a difference that matters

Trust: being real and accountable

Creativity: curiosity, fresh ideas and fun

Collaboration: teaming up for even better results

If you've been through this process or are considering it for your organization or team, please share your thoughts with us. We'd like to learn from your experiences, too.