Does Your Business Reflect Your Core Values?

Life as a small business owner is not easy; throughout the entire business lifecycle there are many choices – each of which can make or break your small business. You cannot afford to take anything for granted – you are responsible for keeping the sales pipeline going, hiring the right people, and saving up for a rainy day – all while paying your taxes on time!

And on top of that, you have the burden of setting the tone for your entire business, so that everyone – from team members to clients to partners – understand what you’re about and why they should be connected to you.

It may seem like a heavy load, but it really depends on how you look at it. I mean, it is amazing that we get to work with team members who share our vision and with clients who appreciate what we bring to the table.

As a small business owner, nothing happens by accident. ‘Winging it’ may work for a while, but over time the cracks will start to show. What’s a small business owner to do to make success as likely as possible? There are many things to think about, including your vision, mission, and purpose – but to us, a foundational element to having a successful business is defining and then living out the core values of your business.

What are the core values of your business?

If you are a small business owner, and you can’t answer that question, I advise that you take some time (away from the cell phone) to really think about this. The core values of your business will flow from what is important to you personally, and they likely will be influenced by what you did or didn’t like in your previous life as a traditional employee. 

Ideally, you set these values at the outset of creating your business, but even if you’ve owned your business for years it’s never too late to take a step back and take stock of where you’re at. Here are a few steps we recommend:

Step 1: Take the morning or afternoon off away from your inbox, go to your favorite coffee shop, and think about what’s important to you – what values do you want to infuse into your business? (Note: if your business is a few years old or you’ve already created these values, take some time to honestly reflect on whether or not 1) these values are truly infused into your business, and 2) you want to add or remove any values based on anything that’s changed)

Step 2: If you have employees, schedule a meeting and discuss these values. Do they resonate with them? As an owner, at this stage you need to be willing to truly listen to feedback and consider amending your list a bit. However, don’t throw out your list – remember that you constructed this based on what is important to your core self. Alternatively, if something isn’t resonating it may mean that there are strategic or tactical things you can change to ensure that it will align better in the future.

Step 3: Start to examine each component of your business and assess how well you are infusing these values into them. One way to do this is to see through the eyes of each type of person connected to your business – employees, partners, clients, and even the community at large. (Of course, better yet, you could ask them yourselves!) If you look at the client lifecycle, for example, are you embedding your values in every interaction, from the very first sales call through to the end of your relationship? 

Step 4: Revisit this list every year – both by yourself and with your employees – to see if it is reflective of the atmosphere you’ve created, and/or whether anything needs to change.  One specific activity you could do is review feedback you’ve received from clients over the year. Are you seeing your values reflected back to you in the way that they talk to you?

At Joy Accounting, we’ve done this exercise – although (being honest with you) I think it may be time to go through this four-step process ourselves! Below are the values that we try to infuse into all our interactions:

Honesty – This is foundational to our business. If we make a mistake, we own up to it. If we are uncomfortable with something that is happening, we speak up.

Integrity – We at Joy Accounting do the right thing, even when it’s difficult, and we expect the same from our clients.

Creativity – We are problem solvers, and we can’t help but identify issues and help our clients find solutions to them.

Consistency – We are always there for our clients when they need us, and they view us as an integral part of their team.

Adventure – We love our life outside of work, and we bring that joy to our job. We are all remote workers, and we encourage flexibility in a way that enables our team members to put health, family, travel, and other important things in their rightful places (instead of being an afterthought).

In the spirit of asking for feedback, how are we at Joy Accounting Services doing at living our core values?

Hiring in Washington State: Three Critical Things to Know

If you are a small business owner, you know hiring employees is an important piece of the puzzle. But did you know that laws exist governing the hiring process that make it illegal to ask certain questions to potential candidates? It’s important to educate yourself about these laws to be sure you are complying, keeping both you and your potential candidates protected. Below are some relevant laws in Washington state.

#1 – Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants with criminal backgrounds. This means you are not allowed to include any questions on your application (nor can you inquire verbally) about criminal history until after you have determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. The point of this is to give the opportunity for the applicant to prove they are qualified before ruling them out as a candidate solely based on their criminal background. You can read this law in detail here. (Note that this links to a .pdf and your browser may require that you verify it as a trustworthy source)

#2 – Recently, Governor Jay Inslee signed the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. This new law prohibits employers from seeking applicant salary history from current or former employers. Also, employers are required to set the minimum pay scale for an open position prior to posting the position. Statistics show a woman gets paid less than a man to perform the same job, and this law is aimed at removing this discrepancy.  You can read more about this law here.

#3 – Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. In other words, don’t ask about the applicant’s 23andme results or anything remotely close to that in an interview! Here is a good article that gives examples of illegal questions and offers tips to handle these subjects if brought up by the interviewer. These discrimination laws are enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can read more about these laws in detail here.

Whether you are a small business owner or an individual looking for a job, we recommend taking some time to educate yourself on these laws. While these laws can make the hiring process more complex, we at Joy Accounting are excited to base in a state that is putting guardrails in place to protect individuals from unfair hiring practices. We look forward to the day that discrimination in hiring practices can be done away with so that every decision is truly based on merit, and not on societal bias.