Business values

Business values are the concepts that guide your business.

Business values can help you make decisions, foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration and create a positive working environment.

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Types of business values

There are 3 main types of business values—principles, beliefs and standards of behaviour.

Principles are the concepts, such as the following, that you believe are fundamental for your business and its success.

  • Act with integrity
  • Take responsibility
  • Seek excellence
  • Reward collaboration
  • Innovate
  • Be respectful

Beliefs and attitudes are views that you hold to be true and influence your actions.

They can relate to how people should behave, the way managers should act, how work should be done and how staff should treat each other at work. For example:

  • everyone has the right to be treated with respect
  • the business has zero tolerance for bullying and harassment
  • work should be completed on time.

Standards of behaviour for business outline what is acceptable business practice. From a customer viewpoint, these standards demonstrate the business values and outline the type of service they can expect to get when they deal with your business. For example, the business will:

  • minimise its effects on the environment
  • ensure a safe environment for staff and customers.

Steps for developing business values

A clear set of values that are agreed upon and understood by everyone in the business are important for success. If your business is yet to establish a set of values, the following process can help you to identify and develop them.

1. Reflect on your principles, beliefs and values

The first step is to think about your personal principles and beliefs and link these to the values that you have for your business.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I value in other businesses as an employee and as a customer?
  • What values do I hold that will be core to my business?

2. Assemble a team of people to work on value creation

Assemble a team of people that can work together to create and draft the business values.

If your business is trading and has staff, choose people that understand the business culture, demonstrate leadership skills and are key to the business function.

If your business is new and does not have staff, find trusted people from outside the business to help (e.g. mentors, friends and business advisers).

3. Brainstorm your business values

Once your team is assembled, you can brainstorm ideas for business values by doing the following.

  • Identify the categories of values that are most suitable for your business. Common business value categories include:
  • Challenge the team to create impact values—these are values that outline the positive impact the business can have on other people and the environment.
  • Draft your values. They shouldn't be long, convoluted statements— 1 to 2 words or a short phrase is usually enough. You may need to give a brief explanation but avoid making the values too complicated. Simple, to-the-point values are more easily recalled by staff and embraced by customers and stakeholders.

Review your list of potential values

When you have completed brainstorming, create a draft list of values. If the list is long, select the top 3–5 important values you have identified. Aim for a mix of principles, beliefs and standards of behaviour within your selection.

4. Reflect on the meaning of each value

Once you've chosen the values, you should reflect on the meaning of each.

Consider the following.

  • What is this value about?
  • Will staff and customers easily understand its meaning?
  • What assumptions are behind it?
  • What other words, ideas or mental images might be associated with it?
  • Is it relevant to current operations?
  • Will the value help the business reach its identified goals?
  • Will it be relevant in 1, 3 or 5 years?

Include your business values in your business plan

Make sure to include your business values in your business plan (particularly in Section 1, Executive summary).

Learn about writing a business plan.

5. Translate your business values into a set of actions

The final step in creating business values is to convert them into a guiding set of actions or action statements. This helps to ensure that the values are understood and easily used across the business.

The actions that you create for your business should represent and build on your business values. The actions can be customer or internally focused.

Value: Respect

Action statement

All staff will treat customers with respect. In practice, this means staff will:

  • communicate openly and honestly
  • respond within expected timeframes
  • avoid any discriminatory behaviour
  • effectively resolve conflict
  • take responsibility for their actions.

Value: Respect

Action statement

All staff will treat each other with respect. In practice, this means staff will:

  • communicate openly and honestly with each other
  • seek to resolve conflict before escalating
  • attend meetings on time
  • avoid all discriminatory behaviour
  • own their own mistakes
  • respect boundaries
  • avoid any discriminatory behaviour.

Implementing business values

Implementing business values involves turning the values into recognisable actions and behaviours that can be measured and monitored across the business.

The following tips will help you implement business values effectively.

  • Translate each value into a set of measurable action statements.
  • Include value and action statements with job descriptions
  • Clearly communicate and document job expectations for all staff (e.g. create specific key performance indicators around the business values).
  • Link job expectations to regular staff performance reviews.
  • Develop a communication plan for the values. It may be appropriate to create value statements or visual representations of the values and display them internally (e.g. on posters, screensavers or email signatures)
  • Include your values where appropriate in business proposals and capability statements, on your website and in other marketing activities
  • Develop staff induction programs with specific activities to practice and demonstrate the business values (e.g. a procedure for eco-friendly waste disposal or greeting customers respectfully).
  • Reward staff for demonstrating the business values.