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?