“People do not do business or cooperate with those they don’t trust. Your values come across in everything you do”
The Grid: Most entrepreneurs have emerged from a corporate, where they somehow imbibed, by osmosis, the core values or fundamental beliefs of the organization. Many would have viewed them with cynicism, no doubt, if management didn’t live up to the value statement.
When entrepreneurs start their own entrepreneurial journey, articulating core values for the business can take a back seat because there is a lot of other stuff to think about. At what point do you think entrepreneurs need to get the values for their startup, this unwavering guide for right and wrong, in order?
Dr. Constantine: Well, first of all, the size of the company shouldn’t matter. Business ethics and governance define the way your company operates in relation to society and has a far-reaching impact on your reputation. Understanding, communicating and living your core values is crucial and guides you when faced with a conflict of interest and other challenges. It’s a requirement in starting a business and the only way to build your reputation. It is not something to can “afford” or ‘get’ over time.
We can learn from Warren Buffet, who once said, “If you lose money for the firm I will be understanding. If you lose reputation I will be ruthless.”
The Grid: ‘It’s best to do one thing really, really well’….or, ‘Fast is better than slow’ are a couple of Google’s core values. I think most of us can see these reflected in our interface with Google for search, for instance.
For the startup entrepreneur, as they hire people and form partnerships, or face roadblocks in the business, the need to establish, communicate and live their values becomes necessary as a cornerstone of decisions that drive strategy and form the underlying culture of the company.
The Grid: For the busy entrepreneur, what is the downside of leaving the values of their startup to chance?
Dr. Constantine: Ok, first of all, we need to understand that one company’s core values do not relate to all. Whilst this might work for Google, I would argue that for some companies, it is better not to ‘do one thing really, really well’ but to focus on what I call ‘the ideation process’, which is where you collect as many ideas as possible and screen them for fit. Sometimes ‘quantity’ is better than ‘quality’ at the beginning of a venture.
That said, for the busy entrepreneur, in an era of social responsibility, increased regulatory requirements, environmental focus, you will go out of business if your values are left to chance. This lack of forethought will catch up with you.
People do not do business or cooperate with those they don’t trust. Your values come across in everything you do. The way you communicate; the way you write; the controls you put in place in your business and how you handle adversity. You cannot ‘talk your values’. Your business must live them.
The Grid: Startup core values usually reflect the personal values of the founder. Is that approach too limiting given that the founder now needs to manage a team and relationships with diverse stakeholders?
Dr. Constantine: Well, I have the same values I had from when I started but I have learned a lot since. Our core values are at the heart of what we do. It’s exactly who we are, what we stand for and who we work for. It’s all about fairness, integrity and being responsible.
In a way, the market forces the hand of the entrepreneur to be clear about values. It is also highly likely that you will get impacted, in a positive way, that is, by doing business with others.
Along the way, you learn the values of other companies and they get embedded in the way you do business because you are now part of an eco-system of relationships, expectations and industry standards. You quickly learn what is fair in the market.
You get inspired by the competition or modify your behavior based on listening to your stakeholders, be they your employees, customers, investors or the broader community. In a way, the market ‘shakes you down’ and you come to learn that strong core values are not only crucial but good for business.
This is an extract from an interview with Dr Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker, Author Innovator and Founder of StudySmart.
Dr. Constantine has delivered over 7,000 hours of professional training in specialist areas including Strategy, Business Acumen, Human Resources, Corporate Governance, Business Ethics and Strategic Leadership.
Interview by May Khizam, Founder & Chief Strategist, The Grid Media Ltd
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