Developing and building strong values set the tone for a business, and that tone can direct a company’s culture and growth for years to come. Mission defines your goals and product provides a channel through which value is delivered to your customers, but neither provide direct scaffolding for how your team will operate, and what principles they will depend on to execute on your mission and build your product. Values do just that: They are the guidelines for behavior and action, establishing a unique culture for your team and therefore a singular brand personality experienced by customers, investors and external stakeholders.
At Hatch, we invested a good chunk of time and energy into developing our values early on, and we’re constantly referencing them as we build our product, interact with our customers and collaborate as a team. Our seven values are 1) team first; 2) err on the side of empathy; 3) maintain a growth mindset; 4) be helpful; 5) be optimistic; 6) be results-oriented; and 7) no idea is too crazy.
But drafting the values isn’t enough. In order for values to be truly ingrained in your business, they need to be lived everyday. Here, I’ll walk you through a few things we learned from our process of creating and living our values:
Develop your values together
Values shouldn’t be mandated. You can’t just tell someone that they should value constant collaboration when they’ve always been partial to independent work. That change won’t happen overnight (and that person might just end up leaving your company for one that shares her values).
Building values should be a collaborative process. At Hatch, we built our values together with a few simple steps:
- First, we all whiteboarded a giant list of values.
- Then, everyone wrote their top 10 in order.
- We compared our lists, and came up with our 7 core values.
- Once our list was finalized, we discussed what each value meant to us.
Through that process, we were able to identify values that resonated with us all.
By involving everyone on the team, founders may find that your values (and therefore culture) differ from what they would have independently imagined – in the best way possible. In our case, one of our early hires placed incredible emphasis on “growth mindset,” something that neither myself nor my cofounder would have thought to include. But because of this contribution from our phenomenal product designer Ramzi Nahawi, our culture has been defined by a focus on constant personal and professional development. These priorities are even now integrated into our performance reviews, and we are positioned for even greater success as a company.
Hire around your values
At Hatch, instead of a “culture-fit” interview we have a “values-fit” interview. Our values drive our culture. During a recruit’s final on-site, we ask situational questions to assess whether they share our values. If our values don’t resonate with a recruit, they’re not a great fit for our team.
And once a new hire joins our team, we send them our values deck (a list of our values with a breakdown of what they mean to us). On their first day, we spend 20 minutes walking them through that deck, and telling them more about how we live those values every day.
Post your values everywhere
Don’t give anyone an excuse to forget the values that drive your culture. Post them on your walls. Post them on your website. Post them on your Google Drive. Post them on your forehead. Make it easy for yourself and your team members to reference them.
We have our values hanging on the wall of our office, and they’re referenced at least once a day. For example, a team member will often point to those values as they pitch a controversial suggestion and precede their statement with “no idea is too crazy.” Those values are posted as a constant reminder of our cultural tenets.
Integrate your values into everything you do
With any challenge or any department of our business, we always let our values drive our decision-making. When it came to our approach to customer service, for example, we translated each value to better understand what they mean for our account managers. Whenever we’re stuck on a problem, we look up to our values and let them guide us through.
Revisit and revive your values regularly
At our two-day company offsite two months ago, we all sat down to discuss our values. We talked about whether they still resonated, how they evolved and how we would live those values even more effectively in 2018. We also made some changes. None of those changes were huge. They were mostly revisions to our interpretations of each value. But I fully expect that one day we’ll slash a value or add one. During that conversation, we used our values as a lens through which to brainstorm improvements to the product, growth strategy, and customer service.
Values will likely change as our company does, and we’ve elected to leave room for that evolution. To that end, we’ve made a commitment to a “values realignment” conversation twice per year, where we can continue facilitate that dialogue.
If the people are the heart of our company, our values are its pulse, providing the drumbeat for everything that we do here. We depend on them to help us guide decision-making, drive alignment and build a more cohesive working environment.
And if this all sounds good to you, we’re hiring!-30-
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