Imagine driving with no lines in the road, how would you know where to drive? What if there were no signs for exits, stops, etc? How would you get somewhere efficiently or safely?
Think about how many additional decisions you’d have to make every time you were in your car. Painted lines and street signs are some of the purist and easiest to understand examples of regulations that guide us.
When you are starting a business or creating something of your own, figuring out what’s right, best and most effective for you and your business can be one of the hardest things. There’s no template on the shared drive to use, there’s no one from senior leadership providing guidance on your work or prospects. There’s no painted lines or street signs……it’s just you.
How will you know if someone is a good fit for your team if you don’t know what your culture believes or values?
How will you know which clients to pursue if you haven’t stated why you exist and who you exist for?
How will you know if a potential partnership is right if you can’t tell someone else what you stand for?
Regulating yourself is so much harder than it seems when you start out. So how do you make decisions and make your own “rules”?
One way to create a guide for your business, something you might consider a “set of rules”, is to create Brand Values. Brand Values are meant to drive your organization, as well as drive the people in your organization (even if that’s just you!) They are intended to see you through the good times and bad times. Values are meant to help people, both internally and externally align with your organization.
We don’t often think of seeking a guide or working towards alignment as rules, but they are, and creating brand values is not only a way to provide insight to others, it’s a way to regulate yourself and your business. Here’s an example that happened to me last year, just four months into running my own business.
For background, my business provides brand strategy and communications consulting to non-profits and small businesses doing good. At the core of who I am and who I want to work with, there needs to be some element of social impact or goodwill.
A friend let me know they referred me to someone who had inquired about brand marketing support, I thanked them graciously because at the time neither of us knew what the business or work was. Upon learning what it was and that it was strictly for-profit and not even a product with human interaction, my friend said,
“Before connecting you, I wanted to make sure this aligns with your values and your business goals?”
The pause that you immediately feel after reading that is a good one, it’s meaningful, just like the question. This is a question we should be asking ourselves every day before every interaction. “Does what you are doing or who you are working with align with your values?” Sure you might be eager to take on new clients and it’s easy to think that any paying client is good for your business, but that’s not the case. By creating my own brand values and being intentional about the mission of my business, I knew the answer to this question was NO. What’s even better, is that because I’ve written these values down and shared them with others, I wasn’t just relying on my gut or instinct in that moment. I had the guide I’d created, and also a friend to hold me accountable.
I have a favorite quote from Roy Disney that reaffirms this idea and it says, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” There is resource (time and money!) value in intentionally taking the time to determine your brand values. But there is also soulful value in a sense of knowing what to do, that you can’t attribute hours or dollars to.
So if you haven’t already done so, work with someone to determine your brand values or do it by yourself. Write them down and share them with others so they become the painted lines and street signs that you need to find your way. The time you invest in this effort, will save you much time, worry and wonder in the future.
Previously written for and posted on Going Concern Advisory