Like most outfits, we love a solid mission statement. But if that statement only culminated in some wilted poster with a bunch of aspirational-sounding nouns—innovation, honesty, and everyone’s favorite: positivity—that no one looks at, what’s the point?
If a company could swap out its mission statement under everyone’s nose, and if the day-to-day decisions, risks, hirings, investments, and conversations wouldn’t change in the slightest…is that list of nouns really doing much?
Perhaps…but in all likelihood, probably not.
This isn’t to say that implementing core values or forgetting them makes no difference. Even if a mission statement feels dead on the water, at one point in time it wasn’t. Articulated or not, every authentic, unerasable value comes from a company’s history; from that crucible of risk, conflict, hard decisions, repeat success, and leadership style: that’s what makes a company what it is.
Ten points for history.
But when markets shift, when expectations roll back and forth like a skater on a halfpipe, and when digital communication gets everything moving at ludicrous speed, values that don’t guide the way people talk, think, work, and interact are the closest thing to a dead car battery. The potential’s all there, but without the voltage.
So what’s the alternative?
How about values baked into every action, conversation, and decision a company encounters? How about principles that people talk about at the water cooler and then pass off to customers? How about a humming charge that wakes up the battery and powers the whole engine. In the choice paraphrasing of screenwriter David Mamet, values should walk, where bullshit only talks.
What that means is that values that don’t spark some kind of action, invite people into a mission that’s clear, doable, and worthwhile, and build meaningful relationships are the ones worth dropping…like someone’s luggage when the hot air balloon’s losing altitude.
Values that do these things are the ones that punch above their weight. They’re the ones worth pressing into. The kinds that translate to becoming the company where employees want to work, the business partner people want to have… or even the stock people want in their portfolio.
Like most things worth their salt, core values should start with action.
Values Should Prompt Action
“You don’t have a manifesto if you’re the only ones who care about it.”
If you ask speakers like Simon Sinek, the best way to jumpstart the battery is to translate abstract values into concrete actions. Or more bluntly, testing values out by talking and thinking about them in no-nonsense verbs.
How does one embody honesty? Sinek argues.
Try “Always tell the truth.”
Try “Look at the problem from a different angle.”
His point’s rock solid. When values translate to actionable steps that apply to both the routine and the unknown, people gain a sense of what to do. With that clarity comes precision, practice, and soon enough, confidence and social proof, assets that attract people as they accrue.
Is it any wonder that most slogans and catchphrases that become household phrases are actionable?
From “Just do it” (Nike), “Think different” (Apple), and “Open Happiness” (Coca-Cola) on to zingers like Better Call Saul?
The good news is that as it stands, your mission statement or core values list might be more actionable than you think. While it might take more than just swapping out nouns for verbs, thinking carefully about the meaning, payoff and pragmatic application of transparency, thoroughness, and follow-through are one step closer to putting them in action.
What do those things look like in a business deal? In onboarding a new customer? In a merger, an acquisition, or a strategic exit that will kick off a whole new journey. Better yet, if you pick an employee at random and ask them about one of those values, would they have a starting notion of how to live it out?
If it’s actionable—and if you’ve done the hard work of modeling it, relating to everyone in your company, or even having them practice in test-run scenarios so that everyone’s onboard—they probably will. And you’ll be that much closer to CEOs like Scotsman Bob Keiller, who personally modeled, wrote about, and communicated his company’s core values to everyone in the organization…and went on to attract $2B worth of business from clients who liked working with his company because its values were clear, reputable, and followed by everyone.
By the way, that brings us to the second benefit of kneading actionable values into everything you do.
Building and maintaining relationships.
Values Should Attract the Real Currency
Crafting actionable values and finding the right ones isn’t easy…especially when you can always just buy a bigger poster and call it a day. But if we build on Bob Keiller’s personal implementation and Sinek’s distinction between lifeless nouns and actionable verbs, we see another truth come into focus.
Interactions undergirded and driven by ethical values like honesty, candor, and transparency win mutual respect and help build trusting relationships.
Plain enough, people trust people they know.
People want to know and trust trustworthy people.
And in a marketing landscape already stuffed with empowerment messages, trending but ever-changing social causes, and people offering to help in five easy steps, relationships built on mutual respect and mutual value are platinum.
Think of the last time a good friend recommended a movie or a new restaurant. However you responded, we’re willing to bet that movie or restaurant landed higher on the list than the alternatives.
That’s because relationships with people have their own brand of gravitas, their own currency…and as you probably know, that mutual value and respect are fast becoming the currency of the day.
While there’s no magic bullet to building up your relationship portfolio, actionable values that win people’s trust and interest are the place to plant your feet. If your goal is building a company whose values speak for themselves, and one that’s worth being friends with, it’s probably worth rolling up that mission statement and thinking good and hard about what people can do differently.
How We Do It
At Garrington Capital, we’re no strangers to core values.
Like a number of financial companies, we’re proud of what we stand for. We may not have all of them stamped on our website, our mugs, and our marketing materials…but that’s because we’ve done the hard work of examining them back to front.
To give you a taste of the values that have built our relationships with lenders and financial partners across North America, here are a few and how they’re actionable.
“We treat each other with dignity.”
“We are accountable to each other.”
“We communicate effectively with each other.”
And on that note, “we respond promptly and definitively.”
Perhaps our favorite: “we close what we propose.”
While we’re all in on the excitement, risk, and trail-blazing hustle of finding the solutions that get businesses and entrepreneurs the growth capital they need, we’ve thought long and hard about why we do.
We’ve thought about how to do it better, and in a way that builds up everyone we do business with while they chase a dream that will make some corner of the world a better place. Where some just dream big, we act, and our values reflect that commitment to making them happen.
From Our Values to Yours
So if you’re dusting off the old mission statement, or if our thoughts on core values have you thinking you’ll break some new ground, learn from our experience, and keep them actionable.
Model them personally, from leadership to everyone involved, until they start guiding decisions, interactions, and even more of that water cooler (or Slack team) chat.
Done right, your values might make all the difference.
And if you’re looking for working capital, and an alternative solution to traditional lending, give our team a call and see what we have to offer.