Politics always divides opinion. People may not agree on much, especially in today’s climate, but a quality that most people seem to admire when they see it in their politicians is ‘values’. Someone principled who stands for something more meaningful than just being a capable politician. It even better if you happen to agree with them…
Well, businesses are no different. They too need a clearly-defined set of values and to stand for something more than simply the product or service they sell. The only difference is, in business, you don’t have to command a national majority: just enough of the attention of those within a niche interest group. More on that here.
I mentioned this in my last post as a ‘take away’ from the book ‘Build A Brand In 30 Days‘ by Simon Middleton but I feel like it’s important and deserved some reiteration.
It’s true that every business needs to differentiate itself from the competition. It’s also true that nearly every business or business owner set out with a greater ambition for their project than just ‘make money’. (Note: if you own a business and that was your only motivation to get going, you might want to pick up a copy of Middleton’s book to see what you’ve been missing.) Why then, do so few – particularly small businesses – manage to break out from the homogeneity?
Find yourself some values
This is where the value of values lies. Every business has or should have, a clear vision of where they want to go: a change they seek to make in the world. If you don’t, think about why you started out and reconnect with it. From that vision should stem your values. These are the things you will not compromise in making that vision a reality.
Now, ‘great value’, ‘great customer service’, ‘delivery on time’, ‘quality product’ is going to get you nowhere. Ask yourself the question ‘as opposed to what?’. If you’re left feeling stupid, you’ve opted for things that are too bland and will never help you stand out. Dig a little deeper and focus on more of the ‘why’ and less of the ‘what’ of your business.
It might be worth drawing others into this exercise*. It requires some pretty honest reflection about who you actually are, as opposed to who you like to think you are. You might not like what comes back initially, but it’s a start and you can always adopt new values, provided they don’t become empty promises.
This is the important bit
What stops a value becoming an empty promise? Living it out in everything you do. Every decision. Every customer interaction. Every piece of communication. These values you commit to are what define your business: you need to own them, reinforce them with behaviour, stand by them, obsess over them and defend them when necessary.
This is THE critical part of becoming a strong brand. More on that in a future post.
* Like I’ve said, I’m not an authority on this. I’m simply going through the process of learning and sharing what I’ve picked up as I go. There’s a great exercise in Middleton’s book on how to go about defining your values, and a checklist to make sure you’ve picked the right ones. Do the work and you’ll see the reward.