Business101: Defining and communicating company values
By Ben Bierman
JOHANNESBURG - A growing body of research has shown that consumers prefer to buy from companies that align with their values.
The trend is gaining popularity and traction with millennials and Generation Z.
Businesses therefore need to consider factors like sustainable practices, social responsibility, and transparency when defining their values.
These elements appeal to a discerning customer who is taking more than price and value when making purchasing decisions.
Here are simple tips on how to define and communicate your business’ values:
Know what your business stands for. The Body Shop, for example, were one of the first global companies to differentiate themselves through values relating to sustainability and cruelty-free testing when it partnered with the UN and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Consider brainstorming as a team to determine which values are important to your business.
Communicate with your internal stakeholders to make your business values stick. For example, if one of your core values is to be solutions-driven, reinforce it in your internal communications and use it as a criterion when hiring new staff. Be sure to recognise and reward behaviours that reflect this.
Live the company values through good and bad. Put your executive team and senior managers through training to familiarise themselves with the values and ensure they too lead by example.
It’s one thing to use nice words, but another to bring them to life in a way that is believable. For example, if you value sustainability, make sure this ethos filters through every aspect of your business. Get your staff on board with office recycling initiatives and evaluate any potentially environmentally hazardous side effects of your manufacturing process, looking at solutions to eliminate them. Promises Make promises you can keep.
Start small and be realistic about what your business can achieve. Consider focusing on one value to start with such as excellent service. And new ones as your business grows. Do not claim to be something you’re not as this will expose and tarnish the brand’s reputation. Branding Consider incorporating the core values of the business into all its merchandise and marketing communications. By telling consumers what your business stands for in a very clear way, you will stimulate an emotional association which will foster loyalty.
Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.