I’ve always been perplexed as to why one business seemingly with all of the facilities and ingredients of another can often perform quite differently.

I’m reminded of an annual survey conducted by Business Fitness Pty Ltd who publish a report annually that bench marks the financial performance of several hundred accounting practices around Australia under the title “The Good Bad Ugly®”.

My consideration on the reasons for the difference between a business that might be referred to as ‘good’ and one that is referred to as ‘ugly’ is that the difference comes down to 3 things:

  1. Knowledge and Expertise,
  2. Systems and Efficiency, and
  3. Culture

I don’t have any research that determines what the relative percentage is for each item but I have a gut feel that ‘Culture’ plays a much bigger part than you might think.

Expertise (Collins dictionary):      the skill, knowledge, judgement etc. of an expert

Efficiency (Collins dictionary):    the production of a desired effect with the least effort or waste

Culture (Kerry’s definition):         the intangible element (that produces tangible results) of the way in which people interact with each other in a specific environment.

An important element of culture is ‘values’ both at the corporate level and the individual level.

Now what do I mean by ‘values’. These are those things that are important to us in life generally, in the business sphere as well as health, relationships etc.

In his book ‘Building The Happiness-Centred Business’ Dr. Paddi Lund, a dentist practising in Capalaba, Queensland, details how he changed the culture of his business. At last report, Dr. Lund works only 2 – 3 days per week, making just as much if not more money, than most other private dental practitioners.

If fact, according to Dr Lund he has people virtually queuing up to become a patient of his just because of this fact, the culture in and of his business. I recommend you buy the book which is listed under ‘Books I Recommend’.

So let me start by asking you this question.

Have you ever taken the time to elicit your values in business and if you did, did you reveal them to your staff when they were employed by you?

My guess is that most readers have not and therefore are unable to tell their employees.

Had you have done this you would have been able to give a very clear picture of what sort of standards of personal conduct you valued most in employees and if the employee themselves were not ‘on the same page’ (as the saying goes) as you then a lot of conflict could be avoided.

Let’s say for example you top 5 ‘values’ in no particular order were:

  • Honesty,
  • Fun,
  • Supportive,
  • Integrity, and
  • Cleanliness

and a particular team member had as their top 5 ‘values’:

  • Money,
  • Respect,
  • Flexibility,
  • Recognition, and
  • Creativity

The immediate observation is that none of them were a match for yours.

Now that in itself is not necessarily a problem. What must be recognised though is the differences and how to meet those values, both ways.

Let’s take an example of a conversation which you could have with Amanda when being interviewed for a customer service role.

‘Hello Amanda, may I explain a little about the culture of ‘Best Taste Pizzas’ (BTP)?

‘At BTP we value differences in individuals and so that our business is in harmony for all who work here, we like to understand each others career/business values.

As the owner of BTP my top 5 business values are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so by knowing this you’ll appreciate the things that I see as most important whilst you’re working here.

Similarly as the owner of BTP if I know your highest values I can help fulfil those for you so that you can feel happy and confident in the workplace.’

Imagine what Amanda is thinking now, hopefully it’s something like this.

‘Wow, I’ve never worked any place where people cared what I felt was most important in my career. These people must really care about their staff and better still, I now know exactly what my boss is looking for from me in terms of my service to the business and my employer.’

What we are left with is a totally motivated employee who knows exactly what’s important to the boss and the boss knows what’s important to her.

So the probability is that Amanda will have a perpetual smile on her face and establishing great rapport with her (your) customers who will in turn feel the same way that she does about BTP and all of this leads to one thing, happy customers are likely to buy more and to buy more often. The result being that you get higher turnover which hopefully leads to higher profits (all other things being equal of course).

Can values change?

Yes they can and so it is important to ‘check in’ with each other (employer and employee) on a regular basis e.g. annually to make sure that you are still in step with each other. People’s circumstances change and so what was important last year may not be as important now.

An example of this could be that Amanda is now not so focussed on money in her life; her car has been paid off so she is less focussed on her pay rate than she was when she first started. This is not to say that she doesn’t still think money is important but it may not be as high in her priorities now. As her employer you should still ensure that she is properly rewarded for her contribution to your business.

Similarly your values may have changed because business conditions have changed and you are now more focused on money and efficiency than before. It will be important to let people know that these two things are high level values for you now as the owner of BTP and their support in fulfilling those will not only keep you happy but will benefit them by having peace of mind from continued employment.

So values are a two way street and conflicts and unfulfilled values is often the cause of conflict both in business and in relationships.

I don’t have the space to go into the other areas of values e.g. formation periods, sources, evolution, resolving values conflicts etc. so in closing let me give you this simple exercise to do.

Write down as many business values as you can identify on a piece of paper in single words or short phrases of 2 – 3 words, the first thought that comes into your head. Your list may be as long as 25 – 30 values or shorter but I would think that most people will come up with at least 10.

When you‘ve done this, turn the page over and take a break for a moment or two to clear you mind. Then turn the page over and just off the top of you head, mark the MOST IMPORTANT value at this time with a number 1 then continue through the list until you marked off the top 10 values. You may be surprised that the one you thought of say 8th in the list may be your No. 1. This is not uncommon.

Remember, it is the differences in people that can make all the difference in your business so value them and get those ‘differences’ to work for you.

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