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Why everyone is talking values — and why they should be more than buzzwords

4 min read


Lately, I’ve noticed everyone seems to be talking about “values.” From major brands such as Whole Foods, which launched its first national advertising campaign featuring a “Values Matter” tagline, to President Obama, who spoke extensively about values during his 2015 State of the Union address.

While discussions surrounding the importance of values in business and in politics are nothing new, the act of declaring one’s values when communicating with a target audience does seem to be trending.

Perhaps it’s because there’s an undeniable sea change in American business today as a younger generation of business owners takes over with a millennial workforce by its side. That workforce brings along with it a different set of values. As David Brooks put it in a recent New York Times column, they are “part profit-oriented and part purpose-oriented.”

While they remain entrepreneurial and financially motivated, millennials are often equally concerned with the company culture wherein they operate and the global impact of their organization’s output. Simultaneously, leadership books and business philosophies over the past 15 to 20 years have better documented the recipes that create truly revolutionary organizations. Values play an integral role in those recipes, and are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a proven element in success.

As a business owner, I’m often reminded how tightly an organization’s outcomes are tied to its values. Whether it’s during critical moments or more routine and operational moves with seemingly lesser consequences, a company’s values shine through every single choice its leaders make along the way. That’s why no matter how hard a company may preach about the values it represents, actions always speak louder than words.

Personally, as an employer of 1,400 strong, I’ve found that there’s no better way to display my company’s values than through the individuals we choose to hire and employ. Without exception, when it comes time to sit down with a prospective employee, we are focused on uncovering who a candidate truly is and what motivates him or her, versus simply discussing their pedigree or what they’ve accomplished in their professional career. Likewise, any prospective employee would serve themselves well by thoroughly vetting and better understanding the values of their prospective employer.

To that end, we recently went through the exercise of defining our core company values and communicating them to our entire organization at our 2015 kickoff meetings. This year, we’re challenging our employees to embrace these values through their actions and interactions with one another, our customers and even in their personal networks:

  1. Integrity — Consistently act with integrity; actions guided by morality; posses a natural inclination to be honest.
  2. Grit — Show courage, even in the face of adversity; work passionately, day in and day out.
  3. Optimism — Find the value in both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experiences; display a friendly and resourceful attitude.
  4. Innovation — Desire to continually find a better way; bring creative ideas to life throughout our organization.
  5. Caring — Display kindness and selfless concern for others; understand the impact of being a positive force in the world.

Values aren’t a new thing. Everyone has them. Some organizations value profits and driving revenue, other organizations value innovation and creating positive change.

Whatever your values are, embrace them. All business leaders, regardless of value set, should take the time to sit down with their leadership teams to determine what their organization values most and commit to clearly communicating those values and aligning their employees with them.

Asher Raphael is the co-CEO of Power Home Remodeling Group, one of the nation’s largest home remodeling companies with 1,400 employees and $300 million in annual sales. Follow him on Twitter at: @AsherPowerHRG.

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