What are your business’ 3 fundamental values?
We all have values, and it’s better to establish yours right from the launch of your start-up in order to stand out.
You have your hands full with the development of your business. On top of that, you’re asking yourself questions about your mission and your core values. Great! Choosing three fundamental values for your business right from the start is a key to success!
“Values are a defining characteristic of businesses, whether, for their products, services, reputation or notoriety, and they are an essential element for start-ups,” believes Manaf Bouchentouf, Director of the National Bank | HEC Montréal Accelerator.
He singles out Netflix, which conveyed, from the beginning, the fundamental value of trust in its work teams. Concretely, this translates to greater employee autonomy, but with the obligation of obtaining results.
Closer to home, the National Bank | HEC Montréal Accelerator supported ÉAU. The company develops vertical aquaponic farms that produce vegetables, fruits, and fish year-round. It goes without saying that the team relies on social values to produce healthy, local food. But another non-negotiable value is the inclusion of the community and all its various socioeconomic levels in its projects.
Agreeing from the start
The Accelrator’s coaches always advise quicly identifying the basic non-negotiable values that will be expressed through the organization’s culture. That way, values can foster the success of the company rather than become a source of conflict between the founders.
“It is essential to limit yourself to three overarching values that the company will refuse to compromise on, because if you have too many, you will be unable to move forward,” notes Mr. Bouchentouf.
La Pépinière, a company founded in 2014 that is behind the development of many community spaces in Montréal, such as the Jardins Gamelin, the Village au Pied-du-Courant, Les Jardineries and La Petite Floride, has always been guided by strong values.
“Creativity, because imagination and spontaneity are very important to us,” explains Raphaëlle Bilodeau, Director of La Pépinière.
Then harmony. “Because our goal is to develop spaces in neighbourhoods where nothing feels forced,” she adds. “And finally, determination because our projects are not easy to carry out and they represent impressive feats every year.”
Integrating your values in your operations
Once the main values are identified, you must communicate them loud and clear.
“Within the company but also outside of it,” states Manaf Bouchentouf. “A start-up that relies on strong values is always interesting for the clientele as well as for partners and even investors. In particular for angel investors who themselves are often entrepreneurs who like seeing strong values in their younger counterparts.”
Then, words must be put into action.
“It is important that values are translated into concrete decisions, even if sometimes they are not necessarily the most profitable in the short-term,” states Manaf Bouchentouf. “Ideally, they must also be integrated into employee evaluation methods and in the pay plan to ensure they are put into practice.”
Growing without compromising
As the business grows, chances are good that the solidity of its values will be tested. This happened at La Pépinière, which experienced phenomenal growth, going from a team of 5 in 2015 to about 40 today.
“Last year, we questioned a lot of things because people didn’t really understand who we were and what we stood for, something we ourselves weren’t very clear on,” notes Raphaëlle Bilodeau. “We were faced with the dilemma of whether or not to accept certain projects.”
So, the team gathered in a cottage for a few days last winter during a quiet period to develop a strategy. The objective was to take stock, reflect, and reposition. Coaches were also on hand to help them move forward.
“It was really helpful,” shares Raphaëlle Bilodeau. “This year, we are much more definite and the entire team is on the same page. If we are contacted for a project that doesn’t fit with our mission, we share this with potential clients and suggest that they contact us again if they are ready to modify their project, for example, to make it more inclusive.”
Values can create pressure on a business, notes Manaf Bouchentouf.
“At times, we need to work hard to maintain these principles when interesting business opportunities that are not completely in line with our values arise,” he shares. “But, relying on creativity and innovation, entrepreneurs can often find a way to align their values with their business opportunities.”
For La Pépinière, staying true to their values turned out to be a guarantee of success. The company has no shortage of projects with its numerous current initiatives in Montréal this summer and the addition of La Place du Marché in the Southwest. And this is not counting a project in Québec City at the Saint-Roch Marina.
However, team efforts are ongoing to take reflection even further. And that’s as it should be.
“Once a business is launched on strong, non-negotiable values, it is then important to determine what the long-term goals are,” states Manaf Bouchentouf. “Where will your company be in 20 years? As an entrepreneur, you must continuously reassess.”
Edited on 25 October 2017