Establishing Your Vision by Writing Core Values

One of the best books I’ve seen that helps entrepreneurs get their vision down on paper is Gino Wickman’s book, Traction. That’s why I’ll be teaching some concepts from the book to scale and grow your firm at this year’s Deeper Weekend conference (watch this video to get a $250 early bird discount to the conference on Oct 25 to 27.)

In Traction, Wickman says “Entrepreneurs must get their vision out of their heads, and down onto paper.” This is one of the most enlightening concepts in business today. The concept of establishing a vision can be daunting at first because it has lived cluttered in the entrepreneur’s head for so long. It can be hard to write down, but extraction of a vision is necessary if you want to build an organization larger than yourself. According to Wickman, the first step in getting the entrepreneur’s vision down onto paper is to write out the Core Values of the business. But before we get to the steps of writing out your core values, let’s look at some principles supporting the importance of your core values.

Core values support your purpose. Your purpose statement is a succinct statement as to what you are mainly about as an organization. This isn’t a long sentence, but it should embody why your company exists. Core values are simply a list of ways you and your team live out the purpose on a day to day basis.

Core values define your culture. Do you want to build a stronger culture? Then you have to write out your core values. Core values are the written embodiment of your culture. This will bring clarity to your team because all they have to do to live out the vision is embrace and follow the core values. The core values will become the definition of who is the “right team.”

Core values help you hire. If core values define your culture, then you can use them as a measuring stick when hiring. Ask possible new hires questions that get to the heart of whether they embrace your core values or not. Give possible new hires personality profiles to see if they line up with your core values. Core values can also help you attract the best new hires when you spell the core values out on your website or hiring forms.

Core values already exist. Wickman points out an interesting thought that your core values are already living in your organization. He says they just get lost in the chaos of the day to day operations of the company. You merely have to rediscover what they are by going through the exercises below.

One final note, if you fail to write down your core values, then you are agreeing to stunted growth in your firm. Stunted growth happens when all team members are not rowing in the same direction. It is true that establishing your vision begins by writing down your core values. Here is how Wickman tells you to do it:

  • Step 1. Get in a room with your leadership team and have each person write down 3 team members that if you could clone them would lead to market domination. Preferably, these names should come from people already in the organization.
  • Step 2. List out the characteristics of these individuals that make their contribution to the company so important. What are the specific reasons you want to clone them? List as many exhaustive qualities about them as possible.
  • Step 3. Your company’s core values are somewhere in that list from step 2! Now it’s time to narrow the list by circling the qualities that are most important to your firm. Mark out the qualities that are not as important, and combine others that are similar. Our target goal for the number of core values is three to seven for the organization. At the end of step 3, you should have a list of about five to 15 qualities.
  • Step 4. Now it’s time to make some hard decisions. Through discussion with your leadership team, decide which qualities among all lists are truly core to your business. You can’t use them all so you’ll have to say no to the ones that are not truly core. Again, your goal is to have three to seven core values that embody your vision.

Now it’s time to tell everyone. But wait! Wickman says to let them simmer for 30 days, and then sign off on them as a leadership team when everyone is fresh. Make final tweaks that everyone can agree to, and then get ready to share them with your team. When sharing core values with your team, it’s important to explain each one, back it up with stories, analogies, and creative ways to drive home the importance of the core value.

And it’s important to tell your team your vision (through your purpose and core values) again and again. As humans, we tend to forget the important things in the middle of the chaos of our work. The leader’s job is to remind your team why they are here and why their work matches the vision of the company.

Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children.

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