Every entrepreneur, manager, and business organization has a set of business values. The term ‘business values’ (as used in this article) does not refer to one’s morals, ethics, or personal standards; rather, it refers to those concepts, ideas, and beliefs that are held to be important for the success of the enterprise. For example, while we would say that acting ethically is a business value, for now we’re not going to worry about what constitutes ethical behavior – not because it isn’t extremely important; it’s just beyond the scope of our current discussion. We are discussing the things entrepreneurs believe are important to ensure the realization of their business goals.
If we were to poll one thousand business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs regarding their most important business values, there are a few things that would be likely to appear on virtually every list:
- Focus on customer satisfaction.
- Commitment to constant improvement.
- Dedication to innovation and creativity.
- Development of sound policies and procedures.
However, after taking this poll, if we were to look for evidence of these values by observing operations objectively; we would probably be disappointed. In many (if not most) cases we would see a significant chasm between the stated business values and actual execution – the entrepreneur’s performance gap.
A business value; or only a wish?
Many entrepreneurs seem to believe that by merely identifying (and possibly recording and communicating) their business values they have done essentially all that is required to bring those business values to realization. This might be true in those rare cases where business values are already aligned with what comes naturally to the entrepreneur and his organization. For example, if a tech company were to state “commitment to understanding, adopting, and implementing cutting edge technology” as one of its primary business values; given the nature of the entrepreneur and his staff, this business value would be automatically embraced and implemented to the ultimate degree.
In the majority of cases a stated business value will not correspond exactly and neatly with the inherent inclinations and predispositions of the entrepreneur (or the members of the organization). In the previous example, the owner of the tech company might identify “focus on customer satisfaction” as one of the important business values. If he and his staff do not have a natural inclination toward meaningful communication and collaboration with their customers, and if no steps are taken beyond identifying and recording this business value, focus on customer satisfaction will be only a hope and a wish; never rising to the level of a true business value. The organization will suffer from the effects of the entrepreneur’s performance gap.
Turning wishes into reality
Once an entrepreneur has taken the time and effort to identify the business values that are truly important for the success of his enterprise, it is necessary to do more than hope that the business values are embraced as the result of some osmosis-like process. To bridge the entrepreneur’s performance gap, significant and meaningful actions are required – value implementation techniques.
The creation and implementation of value implementation techniques is how a concept stated in a business value moves beyond being a hope or a wish into becoming a major attribute of the organization. Value implementation techniques are evidence of an entrepreneur’s willingness to do more than simply pay lip service to the business values he has taken the time to identify.
Successful value implementation techniques
To be successful in converting a hope and a wish into an actual characteristic or attribute of the business enterprise, a value implementation technique must accomplish the following:
- Communicate the underlying business value to all levels of the organization. If the business values have been identified, but are only known by those who happened to be sitting around the boardroom table at the time they were discussed, then those business values won’t get any traction. Every member of the organization needs to know (and buy into) the importance of the business values.
- Keep the underlying business value on everybody’s agenda. Every staff meeting, policy meeting, performance review, or strategy session must be conducted in the context or the pertinent business values.
- Implement the underlying business value in everybody’s day-to-day activities. For a business value to make significant impact on the outcome of a business’s operations, its influence must permeate how the tasks and duties of every member of the team are performed.
One true test of the success of a value implementation technique is its limited life span. If the underlying value has been effectively instilled, it will as a matter of course become part of the organization’s DNA. The particular business value will naturally become the normal way of doing business and techniques will no longer be necessary.
No phony baloney
For a value implementation technique to be successful, individuals involved with the value implementation technique must have already bought into the importance of the underlying business value; otherwise the value implementation technique will be perceived as being manipulative and gimmicky. We’ve probably all had the experience of telephoning a business and having a receptionist half-heartedly answer with a scripted greeting:
“It’s a wonderful day at blah blah enterprises. How may I provide you with excellent service?”
It’s obvious that management has identified customer service as one of its important business values. They’ve attempted to implement some value implementation techniques:1) they made sure the phone was being answered by a live human; 2) they provided a scripted greeting intended to communicate a service oriented atmosphere to the customer. If however, the receptionists (and all other personnel for that matter) have not bought into the underlying business value, the value implementation techniques may do more harm than good.
Bridging the Gap
For an entrepreneur to successfully bridge the gap between business values and actual performance, the following steps are necessary:
Identify, record, and communicate one’s basic, foundational business values. These are the concepts, ideas, and beliefs that will lead to the success of the business. It’s important that these business values exist not just in the entrepreneur’s head.
- Communicate the business values to every level of the organization.
- Sell the importance of the business values and get everybody’s buy-in.
- Design and adopt value implementation techniques.
- Monitor the effectiveness of the value implementation techniques and modify them as needed.
- Recognize when business values have been adopted to the point where techniques are no longer necessary.