Put simply, values are what’s important to the company. They’re what you’re all about and why you’re doing it, and they will drive the decisions you and your staff make.
Culture is, on the other hand, how these values manifest themselves in the day to day activities of the people within your company, and will drive the behaviour of your employees. Ideally, and for obvious reasons, your culture will be very closely aligned with your values.
Define your values
It is important to define the values which guide the business, and set these down in a values statement. This values statement will set out the principles and beliefs which will guide your business as it grows, and will be a source of reference for managers and staff to fall back on when the business faces difficult situations where there are no easy answers. Clearly stated values can help your company react quickly and decisively when the unexpected strikes.
A lot of companies are recognising the worth of publishing their corporate values on their websites now and you can easily access these online. For example, you can view the corporate values of Kellogg’s, Microsoft and Coca-Cola, to name a few.
So, what’s important to your company? On a sheet of paper, draw up a table with two columns headed, “Values that are important” and “Why the value is important”. Complete it as fully as you can, and be sure to incorporate it into your business plan.
Nurture your company culture
A company culture is an expression of the common attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour of the people who are involved in your organisation.
The existing culture of an organisation will be expressed in many ways. Some of these may include:
- Through the communication from the management team (do they communicate with their employees well, for example)
- Through the way the employees act (for example, how they behave with customers will be evidence of how ‘customer focused’ the business is)
- Through the way the employees dress (do they show care, pride and attention to detail)
- Through artefacts in the business (such as notice boards)
Cultures can be positive or negative. Whatever the particular culture, it is inherent in the fabric of the business, and once established, is difficult to change. So if you are starting a new business, aim to set the culture you want for your business from your actions at the outset.
Your company culture can be one of the keys to making your business plan work. Make sure that you demonstrate the culture you want to achieve by strong leadership, choosing people who support your values, and develop and promote from within to ensure that you can always rely on your people to do the right thing according to the company culture you wish to foster.