Core values can shape the image of your business

The day I signed the contract to become a business owner was a blur. After a year of negotiations and attorneys, I finally was in charge. 

I spontaneously turned to a small group of staffers who had gathered to congratulate me, and I spoke from the heart about why I had risked my financial future to buy a boutique niche business. It wasn’t until after that I realized I had just created my company’s core values. I wrote them down, and 15 years later, while they have been wordsmithed a bit, they are still my north star.

While they may not be as compelling as Tom Cruise’s memorable quitting speech in the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire,” every firm should have clearly spelled out core values that align with the owner’s beliefs. 

Here’s what I shared that day, and why these core values are still so important to me.

  • Mutual respect. If you ever feel like a co-worker, a client, your boss or a vendor doesn’t value you or what you do, you have my permission to walk away or hang up the phone. I will back you up. We will only work with people who we trust and respect, and who treat us the same. 
  • Family first. I will always work to provide jobs that give you the flexibility to spend time with the people you love. If we each have each other’s backs when a family obligation conflicts with a work assignment, we will have loyal employees who will take care of our clients.
  • It’s more than a job. I know we all live and breathe Northeast Ohio every day, and I want our clients to feel that passion in everything we do. Never do anything halfway. Always expect to blow our clients’ minds. 
  • People over computers … always. Nothing trumps a high-touch experience. Computers are just one tool. Having real live conversations with actual human beings is what we strive for. It’s what will enable our company to stand out from the competition. 
  • Listen more than you talk. Our job is not about us. It’s about our clients, the candidates and their families relocating to Cleveland and leaving behind everything and everyone they know. The day we create for them to explore our region has to show them we are listening and that we care. It needs to be authentic. 
  • Discretion is our middle name. Our work gives us access to highly confidential information. I have to be able to trust each of you with your discretion. 

To make core values work, you have to be willing to take a financial hit based on them and to hire, fire and reward with them in mind. Every time I think about editing my core values, I get this strong feeling in my gut that stops me from doing it. If the thoughts I blurted out that April afternoon in 2004 were superficial enough to be changed, how could they possibly have been the guiding principles for me through all these years?

Margy Judd is president and owner at Executive Arrangements Inc.