Knowing your core values for small businesses offers the guiding light for the giant pivots you might be forced to make in rapidly changing circumstances. Defining and consistently revisiting these values will guide your growth, lead your management, and sustain your business during times of duress. 

Core values form the foundation of who you are and how you serve, both in business and life. At BizHack Academy, we want to give you the tools to define your core business values so you can be ready for whatever life throws your way.

TL;DR: How to Pivot With Core Values for Small Business

  • Tip 1: Use your core values for small business to create your mission and vision statements
  • Tip 2: Practice the behaviors your core business values preach
  • Tip 3: Using core values helps you pivot during a crisis 
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What are Core Values in Business and How Can You Find Yours?

In the #BizHackLive webinar, “Wondering Where to Pivot? Start with Values,” our guest speaker Jennifer Hudson, President of ThinkBeyond Public Relations, focused on clarifying your true core values and creating a plan to align with them during dramatically changing times. Hudson, who has been helping NGOs and entrepreneurs identify and communicate their business values for more than 25 years, highlighted the importance that core values for small businesses play in the capacity to pivot during uncertain moments successfully.

Hudson said that you can clearly communicate your essence by understanding your core values, which she refers to as the Soul of the Machine. When learning how to write business core values, Hudson said to consider the following concepts:

  • Defining who you are NOT, plays just as important a role as defining who you are.
  • Clearly communicate what you do as well as what you strive to be. 
  • Differentiate your brand by playing up what makes you extraordinarily unique.
  • Your values will inform your team and employees on how to interact with stakeholders consistently.
  • Walk the talk: Customers want authenticity and believability and react negatively if your behaviors and words mismatch.
  • Captaining the ship of your business is your responsibility and yours alone.
  • Define your core values alongside your team to ensure internal alignment.

Hudson also suggested some of the most successful ways to communicate your core values, including:

  • Boldly place your values and mission on your website.
  • Use your values to tell the story of your business with a focus on customer stories.
  • Communicate what you stand for through your social media channels.
  • Publicly recognize your employees who walk the core value talk through awards, company communications, or other creative appreciations.

Use Your Core Values for Small Businesses to Create Your Mission and Vision Statements

Your mission statement is the language that showcases what your business stands for. Hudson said it should stem from your core values and vision to describe what you do, for whom, and to what end. She said using language that motivates and inspires while being believable, clear, and concise. And most importantly, these statements need to directly speak to how you will serve customers, partners, employees, and your community.

Your Vision Statement describes the way you envision your business moving forward. It gives voice to your unique view of the world. Hudson emphasizes that it should balance being believable and ownable while also motivating and inspiring with an idealistic pie in the sky attitude. Like your mission statement, your vision statement needs to be easily understood while directly speaking to customer needs.

Practice the Behaviors Your Core Business Values Preach

Once you’ve defined your small business’s core values, describe the associated behaviors you plan to enact. Set expectations for yourself and the people you work with, and the people you serve. As your business grows and you begin to partner with others and hire employees, you want to make sure you create values alignment. 

You must be willing to attach systems, practices, policies, and budget to your core values. For example, if your company preaches great customer service, investigate if you take the actions to invest in that value by providing opportunities like customer service training for your staff. Customers are looking for authenticity these days and want to see you put your money where your mouth is.

Using Core Values Helps You Pivot During A Crisis 

During a crisis, panic usually ensues, which is why already having a well-thought-out plan to turn to can calmly steer your ship to safety. Consider your core values as the start of that plan.

This is why Hudson said that businesses consistently evaluate their core values to have a guiding light when needing to pivot in times of emergency or vastly changing environments. Hudson recommends exploring ways to align your core business values with current events. She calls this how you “walk the talk” while staying true to your core values.

Hudson identified two case studies showing success and failure in this arena. First, she referenced how Nike created a powerful social justice advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL star who became both an inspirational and provocative figure when he took a knee during the national anthem at an NFL game. The risky move by Nike paid off after going viral and boosting brand loyalty. Hudson credited this to the company’s ability to align its core values of performance, authenticity, innovation, and sustainability with the controversial event.

Hudson also talked about the unfortunate case of Crossfit, where 2,000 licensees disassociated themselves from the brand following insensitive comments by Crossfit’s founder and creator that indicated a complete lack of understanding of racial inequity and the BLM Movement. Its sponsoring company Reebok also distanced itself.

Hudson hammered home that when core values are not defined, staff, partners, and franchisees are left to fill in the blanks. She said that it’s easy to find yourself in a similar situation in a moment of crisis. That’s why she stressed the importance of constantly revisiting your current business environment through the lens of your core values. 

Want more tips? On Wednesdays, join BizHack Academy for our FREE #BizHackLive Webinars and hear experts discuss the latest and best small business marketing strategies. For a list of upcoming events, click here.