Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for selecting core values that are right for your business


Real quick now…no pondering, no guessing, no googling or reflecting…Gimme the top 7 core values which are in your values set!  


Look at you! I went and made a garden salad and ate it with a bratwurst and you’re still not finished!


Now, can you imagine being super successful in your business, and with your business, without nailing down your core values?


If you said “no” I entirely agree with you.


You see, the first thing you have to do, if you’re going to make a big impact or win big in business or life, is to become very clear on what your values are. 


And that’s why I want to really help you select a set of core values that will signal to people exactly where you stand and drive the success of your business.


So let’s begin the process and I want you to stick with me all the way to the end. Promise? Lets begin…


What are core values & value sets? 

The big question is: What are values?


Values represent standards of behavior which define how you live and work. They are what you stand for and they inform what you will and will NOT do.


They can also be situational –  meaning that those which are right for your business, might not be right for your life. And having family values does not mean they are right for your business.


But the real issue about values is that if you don’t select them, they select you.  In other words, values exist in your life and business whether you are conscious of them or not.


When you don’t consciously select your values, you are just like a beach ball drifting aimlessly on the ebb and flow of the tide.


For example, you chase after what a friend told you is a great idea. But halfway down the road, you realise it’s not the right one for you after all. So you abandon it and have to start all over again.


So, what’s a better approach than this? It is to be guided by your own set of values, which will serve as a compass in these situations. 


And what is your values set?


When I talk about your values set, I’m talking about that unique set of values which you have determined is right for you and your business. 


Notice that you determine what the final values in your set are, even when you get help identifying them.


What are the benefits of a defined set of  core business values?

By now you realise that when you have a clear set of values to guide your life and your business, you can consciously use them in incredible ways to determine personal and business priorities. 


For example, they can serve as a:

1. Compass to guide the behaviour of everyone in the business. This is very powerful for accountability from the top to bottom in your business.


2.  Benchmark against which to evaluate projects and deals, which the business might want to pursue. When you subject them to your values set, and they don’t match up, you can confidently walk away.


3.  Signal to customers and competitors as to exactly what the business stands for and how it operates.


In essence, you can safely claim that your values set clearly indicates the character and culture of the business.


Why your personal values matter to selecting business values

As a Small Business Leader, any core values you select for your business should be driven by your personal set of core values.


It’s not too much of a stretch to understand that you have to be clear about your own values before you can develop any which support the mission of your business.


In addition, if you are not sure where you stand in term of your personal values, any benefits that would be gained from selecting values for your business, will definitely be undermined. 


How to establish your personal core values set

So here’s the best way I know how to establish a personal values set. This approach works for me and clients in my coaching programmes, therefore I know it can work for you too.


Begin by getting clear about what you stand for. I can’t stress this enough.


When you know what you stand for, you’re in a much better position to decide what you want your business to stand for.


The way I recommend to my clients to get clear on what they stand for is to write your personal “Code of Honour”.


A personal code of honour is a set of rules and agreements which you make with yourself and which you do not break or compromise without good and proper reason.


The activity itself is very simple but the outcomes can be very profound.


What you do, is to make agreements for yourself, with yourself, in these 6 key areas of your life:

  1. Primary relationships
  2. Financial freedom
  3. Business and team(members)
  4. Family
  5. Health
  6. Personal growth


Try to list only 2 or 3 key “agreements” under each area because you want to be able to honour your agreements.


Here are a few examples from my own Personal Code of Honor:

Business and team(mates)

  • I will take at least one action every week to grow my business(es)
  • I will treat team members with dignity, fairness and compassion


When you have your agreements in place for the 6 areas, you would have create your basic Code of Honour. To complete your code, what you have to do is review your answers and write a summary statement of who you are and what you stand for. 


 Now that you have your personal code in place, you’re ready to move on to selecting a set of values for your business.


How to identify relevant core values to choose from 

The best way to select the values you want for your business is to first identify a meaningful collection you can choose from.


To do this you should get help,  so you want to form a group of not more than about 5 persons, which includes you.


The first place to find members for your group is among your employees and if you have at least 4 employees, you have a ready made group.


If you have less than 4 or you are self-employed, then you can tap into your network for help in creating your group. 


However you establish your group, keep the number of persons to no more than 5, including yourself. Don’t forget that you have a dual role in this group – that as a member as well as its leader. 


Now proceed as follows…


  1. Ask each member of the group to list up to 10 values which best represent who they are, i.e. their personal core values. Be sure to include your own.


  1. Then have everybody share their values, from which first of all, you will select the values which were listed by all members of the team. Then you should have some brief discussion about any values which were not common to the group, but on reflection, might be important to your business and its mission. Your ultimate goal is to have a final list of 10- 12 “personal” core values from among the group. Here’s an example for you.


  1. Next, as a group, brainstorm and list the values which you believe a high-performance team should have. You should agree on a final list of  10 – 12 values.


  1. Finally, as a group, list the top 10 – 12 values which you believe would best support your mission/business. Again, you should agree on a final list of  10 – 12 values.


To be clear, you now have 3 sets of values, 10 – 12 per set, in the following areas:

  • The common personal values of your group 
  • Those values which the group believe should exist in a high-performance team
  • Those which the team believes support your mission/business


How to select the final set of core values for your business 

Now comes the hard part.


From these values, YOU, the owner of the business will have to select the 7 – 12 core values which you would want to shape the culture of your business, and guide how you interact with and serve your customers. 


Why only you?


You see, no one knows your business, your business model, the culture you want, the vision you have, etc. better than you. Furthermore, your values have the potential to determine the level of trust between you and your customers. 


Why 7 – 12 core values?


Well, if you have too few, you run the risk of your values not properly covering all the key internal and external areas of your business. On the other hand, if you choose too many, you might be in danger of just overwhelming the business and making the values themselves meaningless.


In selecting the final values set, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What values are absolutely essential to my work environment?
  2. What values represent the primary behaviors I want to encourage and stand by in the business?
  3. Which ones are essential to supporting/creating the unique culture of the business?
  4. Can these values be as valid 100 years from now as they are today?


Here’s something to think about: Many small business leaders seem to get stuck at the point where it comes to selecting values. Don’t get caught in this trap. Get to understand your unique leadership context and let this be an important guide in selection your values. 


Oh! and one more thing. Just remember that slogans and taglines are not core values.


How to make your core values actionable

Making your core values actionable will just about nail the selection process for you.


The best way to do this, is to transfer your “single word” values into  a Values Action Statement which goes to the core of your mission. These statements breathe life into your values and provide even more clarity about what you and your business stand for.


Here’s an example of how you make single values into values statements.

Following the process describe above, Impact Training & Development Services has among its core values: passion, persistence, prosperity and resourcefulness.


When these were transformed into values statements, they became:

  • Passion – to infuse our every action
  • Persistence – the pathway to results
  • Prosperity – for our clients and ourselves
  • Resourcefulness – when we combine imagination and experience


Your next “core values” steps 

Aren’t you happy?


You can now avoid the pitfall of having unclear values or worse, having none at all.


I have done some serious heavy-lifting for you. I’ve walked you through how to establish your personal values set and from there, show you how to establish core values for your business.


Now, all you have to do, is follow the steps and and establish a really strong and powerful set of personal and business core values.


And why wouldn’t you?


You will stand out in a crowded marketplace, even as you place yourself way ahead of the competition.  


And then, when your behavior is aligned with your values, you feel successful, you are confident and your personal influence is high. You are sure what’s right for you and your business and you will easily reject any ideas, contracts, etc., which do not closely match your values.


Just imagine the power and influence you will have when you are so sure what you stand for that you can walk away from a seemingly sweet contract which is not in keeping with your values…


You want to be able to do this…don’t you?


How To Select Strong Core Values That Are Right For Your Business

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!