With the right set of values, your start-up can stand out against the competition and create loyal customers, happy staff, and long-term success.
Many people care about what a business stands for as much as the products or services it offers.
According to a LinkedIn survey opens in new window, two-thirds of Brits say that it’s important to work for a business that shares its values, while another study opens in new window revealed that 82% of people won’t shop with a company whose values they disagree with.
By defining your values, you can decide what’s important to you and help instil your employees and customers with the confidence to choose your start-up rather than a competitor.
Whether you’re launching your start-up or want to take your business to the next level, our guide can help you define and communicate your company values.
What are company values?
Company values – sometimes known as corporate values – are a set of principles that a business lives by.
These values help you create a unique identity, shaping the types of products and services you offer and how you interact with customers and employees.
Company values are similar to business objectives but play a slightly different role.
Business objectives opens in new window are specific, measurable goals that you work towards, whereas company values provide direction that shapes your objectives.
Company values are often more people-focused – guiding behaviours and approaches adopted by employees and the business.
Examples of company values
Your company values should be a unique reflection of the aspects of the business you find most important, but it can be helpful to see examples of the types of principles that existing businesses use.
Company values are often single words encapsulating positive traits, such as ‘flexibility’, ‘innovation’, and ‘honesty’, but they can also be phrases or statements.
A business will often have several company values, and there are no specific rules on what they should cover, as you can see from these examples from famous brands.
- we strive for excellence
- we welcome and cherish our differences
- we are in this together
- we engage in civil discourse
- the courage to shape a better future
- leverage collective genius
- be real
- if it is to be, it’s up to me
- committed in heart and mind
- as inclusive as our brands
- what we do, we do well
- accomplish more together
- have a positive impact
- make it even better
- have a good idea and be bold
- be the best you can be
The benefits of company values for start-ups
As a start-up, defining your company values is more than a corporate formality – it can have clear positive impacts as you build networks and expand your operations.
These principles serve as a roadmap for your business, who your customers opens in new window and suppliers opens in new window are, how you manage employees opens in new window, and the strategic decisions you make.
Beyond these, there are some specific benefits that start-ups might gain from defining their company values.
Strengthen your company culture
Your company values are the foundation of your culture, defining the behaviours and attitudes that are to be encouraged.
For example, you might prioritise creativity, teamwork, and innovation – or you could highlight the importance of accountability if you want your team to take the lead on certain projects.
When you start your business, you’ll be tackling the majority of tasks alone or working closely with a small team, so you’ll probably shape the company culture in your own image.
But as you expand, you can use company values to direct employees on the ways they should act.
Read more about the challenges of expanding your business opens in new window.
Stand out against the competition
A clear set of values can help you stand out from the crowd and provide a clear vision for your business.
It can help you attract customers opens in new window who share your values – such as selling cost-effective services or producing quality products – and encourage them to stay loyal to your brand opens in new window.
One of the more influential values among customers is environmental sustainability, with one survey opens in new window finding that 80% of the British public are willing to pay more for sustainably produced products.
Learn more about how to create an ethical start-up opens in new window.
Clearly defined company values can also help you attract talented employees opens in new window who identify with your goals.
This can lead to increased job satisfaction, heightened productivity, and a long-term commitment to your business – which can reduce turnover and foster a stable, dedicated workforce.
Guide your decision-making
Your company values can help you decide what to do when your business is at a crossroads, or you have a tough decision to make.
For instance, you might wonder how to expand your market reach opens in new window or meet changing customer demands.
By referring back to the company values, you can be sure that your decision is consistent with your core beliefs.
How to define your company values
Your company values should reflect the things you believe are most important in running your business.
These should be specific qualities that you want to be remembered for rather than basic practices that any good business should follow.
For instance, you might consider why a customer or employee would choose you over a competitor opens in new window.
Is there anything that you’re especially proud of? Are you targeting a particular type of person or a particular type of product?
You can be as creative as you like with your company values, with many businesses having four or five that reflect different aspects of their culture.
Discover more advice on creating your brand opens in new window.
How to communicate your company values
To get the most out of your company values, you should consider how to communicate them with your team and with customers and suppliers.
One way to do this is by integrating your values into everyday workplace activities and leading by example.
For instance, if one of your core beliefs is teamwork, you can foster that in your day-to-day behaviour by encouraging employees to get involved in projects and collaborate.
You might also consider explaining your company values to your employees, why they’re important, and how they can demonstrate them.
As your team grows, you might consider documenting your company values in an employee handbook opens in new window so that new starters can quickly get up to speed with the company culture and understand what’s expected of them.
Incorporating company values into your external communications, such as your company website and marketing materials, could also be beneficial.
This can help strengthen your brand and encourage potential customers to choose you rather than a competitor.
Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
- Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
- First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
- Entrepreneurial behaviour opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.