I had a fantastic call with a leader of a SME business today. We hadn't spoken before and so I was listening to the journey she took her £15 million SME business on during the last 5 years. As Managing Director, this leader was tasked with delivering double digit revenue and profit growth for the company's new owners, a US venture capital company.
The company was an old traditional English business that had established itself as a market leader in its industry. Supply premium products to the global textile industry, it had a loyal customer base supported by a very long serving workforce.
That said, to succeed with its growth targets, the company needed to reinvent itself and that meant a bottom up approach.
The first thing the Managing Director did was to underpin her business strategy with the development of an innovative, collaborative and quality led culture. This meant starting with the identification of core values to communicate to everyone the DNA of the company. It took a lot of hard work and close involvement with all employees and a big investment of time over a 2 year period. Of course there were a number of employees who protested at this perceived change as the "company was performing fine without them", however, this was to make the company stronger and healthier for the future.
As part of embedding the core values, everything was tied into them. From hiring new employees against them to assessing them in performance appraisals, they were front of mind in everything the company did.
The result has been the creation of a very robust, high performance culture where employees support one another and also their customers. It also drove them to achieve all the demanding financial targets set for them by their VC owners.
I loved hearing about this journey as many companies are not brave enough to change their culture, especially when they have already been so successful. Establishing core values is such a powerful tool to create a successful foundation for a business.
Core values are much more than a few nice words posted on your career page or a motivational poster slapped on an office wall. Core values inform and reinforce your company’s culture, strategic direction, new hiring, and customer interactions. For example, a core value of “support,” signifies a culture of shared responsibility and communicates that employees have each other’s backs. “Innovation” might suggest business goals relating to growth, technology, or new products. “Inclusion” tells potential new hires your company is a welcoming and safe space, and “reliable” indicates a responsive and consistent relationship with your customers or clients.