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Practice Management > Building Your Business

The Best Ways to Build Your Firm's Core Values

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The world we live in today craves authenticity.

Whether you spend five minutes or five hours online, it is immediately apparent on social media that the brands who embrace this idea, and who advance the idea of being yourself to their customers, are the leaders.

You can see it in advertising campaigns like Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Instead of using models, they focus on real people of all backgrounds.

This follows that we don’t want to work with people who we perceive as fake. However, if you want to live authentically, you need to understand yourself.

Even before you can hire staff or attract clients, you need to understand the central values that shape your firm’s approach to life.

This begins by identifying your core values, which are what you want others to say about you when you aren’t around. Are you positive, trustworthy, honest?

These values are not necessarily representative of who you are today, but rather, aspirational. They are about who you want to be.

When building your list of core values, start by thinking of adjectives and stop once you get to four or five. You just need a list that is refined and targeted.

Align Personal, Professional Values

Now align your business values with those personal values. What will your business look like.

When it comes to core values, personal values transcend to firm values. As the firm founder, you are looked to as the leader and vision setter; if your values do not align with those of the firm, disruption will result.

Aligning personal and professional values is about much more than writing down a matching list, however. Actions must match words.

When plotting the firm’s values, begin with the same process as choosing your personal core values. Think of five adjectives that describe how you want to be known.

Keep in mind that firm values go beyond you, and affect partners, employees, and clients. Each person involved with the firm has to align with the values set.

Measure Progress

Make core values personal to the team for them to resonate.

You also must measure how well they are taking hold within your firm. To do this, engage your team. Present the values to them and don’t just read them — ask your team for their commitment. Have your employees rate the values and how well they identify with each so you can know where misalignment may occur.

If you don’t measure your values, you won’t know where you stand, and you risk disruption inside and outside of your business.

Discuss the Values 

Core values cannot be something you are silent about as a firm owner. Don’t be shy about communicating them; talk about them regularly with your team, and also discuss them with your clients.

When your team is more closely aligned with your values, you’ll often see happier and more empowered employees.

You’ll also attract clients who are a better fit for who you want to serve.

By looking through your core values lens, you can measure yourself, your team, your business, and your clients through a cohesive perspective.

This act of building a business will help bring clarity to everyone who’s involved with your firm and keep your employees and clients pointed in the right direction.

Jarrod Upton is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company. He brings over 16 years of experience in management strategy, client experience and operations consulting to advisory firms. He can be reached at [email protected].


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