Sometimes your core values are tested at inconvenient times. But they wouldn’t be called “core” values if you didn’t take them seriously.
One of those inopportune times popped up recently for me right in the middle of a very important client meeting.
On the verge of landing a large client at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency, I was abruptly asked, “So, who do I call if my website goes down at 2 a.m. on a Saturday?”
“You call me,” I quickly replied.
Then I filled in the client on how I prioritize a proper work-life balance at Thrive. I rarely contact any of my work friends after they finish their days at 5:30 each evening, much less bugging them with a late-night weekend call.
Sure, I could have made the client feel better by saying that you can call any of us. But that would have flown in the face of one of my core beliefs.
A few days later during a team lunch, one of my work friends who was a part of that important meeting – unbeknownst to me at the time – shared the story over some chicken strips and rolls.
“I’ve never been prouder to work for Thrive,” he said. “I’ve never been prouder of Matt.”
‘Relationships matter. People matter.’
The memory is almost 30 years old now. But it still resonates to my core.
The setting is a Target store, where one of my elementary school teachers was shopping that day.
It was one of those moments where you see your teacher outside of school and you just freeze. My mother told me to go over and say hello. But I was shy and refused.
My mother grabbed my shoulders, looked me in the eye and delivered some advice that’s never left me:
“Matt, relationships matter. People matter. You need to go say hello to your teacher.”
That’s now engrained in my business at Thrive. Relationships matter is one of our core values.
Why it’s important for a business to establish core values
Establishing your company’s core values should be a priority for any business. It should be one of your first steps.
How an organization thinks, behaves and makes critical decisions should be the bedrock of your business.
A business’ culture defines an organization’s value and establishes trust with your clients and target audience. Setting strong core values will build loyalty both internally and externally, further promoting your brand.
Once established, core values should be visible at every turn for a company, not only a content page for your website but also a fixture on your walls. From sales and marketing to internal reviews, make your core values a mainstay and part of your business formula. Make sure your employees are well aware of your core values and then make sure they’re living up to them.
Don’t sweat the responsibility of choosing core values
Coming up with core values for your business shouldn’t be challenging. Just think about how you want to be treated and your own values.
Thrive’s culture and values were shaped by my parents and my wife.
I grew up in a positive atmosphere around parents who rarely argued or raised their voice. When starting my business, I knew it would be vital to establish positivity.
As the business owner, however, you must set the tone. Creating strong core values for a company is essential, but it can’t just be lip service either. As the business owner, you have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Be present, greet others with a smile and a hello and find a specific example of someone’s work you can compliment. Encouraging others should always be a priority for any business owner.
One of my strengths is as an idea generator. Give me a dry eraser board and I’ll fill it up with new ideas. But what if I didn’t listen to the ideas of others? What if I didn’t value others’ opinions?
Well, that’d make me a hypocrite and cause me to lose respect with my peers.
Integrity matters at every turn
Another core principle at Thrive is we value integrity. We believe in honesty, integrity and a sincere heart for others when doing business.
We don’t sell you a service you won’t need. We won’t lie to get your business. It’s all about treating people with kindness and respect.
Your customers are smart. They didn’t become business owners by accident. If you sell them something they don’t need they’ll know soon enough, and your churn rate will suffer. They won’t be back.
Be smart, too, and build trust.
After all, how could Thrive stress the importance of online reputation management to companies if our reputation wasn’t on point?
If your company’s core values aren’t providing a proper foundation and structure for your business, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror. Are you practicing what you preach?
More about maintaining a healthy work-life balance
Now back to my mother, who also helped shape one of our values that define our culture of promoting a proper work-life balance.
When I was a young boy, I started calling my mother “Mommy Airplane” because she often flew to other cities to meet with clients for her software business that my uncle was a part of as well.
She quickly realized she didn’t like the tag of “Mommy Airplane.” She told my uncle something had to change. She could no longer travel as much.
My parents are a part of the American culture that would bring work home with them. They worked long hours.
That was my path as well. When starting my business, I worked all the time. I rarely slept, wanting to get the job done to keep the clients happy.
But that didn’t work well for my wife. You see, she grew up in an entirely different culture in Germany. It’s one of the global leaders in domestic products exported, but Germans also know how to unplug. Go to my wife’s hometown in Germany on a Sunday and almost every business is closed.
My wife and I had this ongoing discussion when I started my business in 2005 about how much I was working. Well, let’s call it more of a negotiation.
She did not support me being a workaholic. One time she told me she’d rather us be poor and happy than have a successful business but we lose our relationship. In short, she said the money wasn’t as important as our marriage.
That caught my attention – and is even more relevant today with our fourth child on the way in July – and helped shape our policy of not taking work home with you. Our employees will tell you, it’s rare for one of them to receive a call or even an email after workhours.
Just the other day, one of our employees was stretching himself too thin and working after hours. I called him on a Friday.
“Man, I appreciate your effort,” I told him, “but I don’t want you living here at the office when your wife kicks you out of your house.”
He’s married with kids. I told him it’s more important to be home with his family.
Recently, during one of our monthly meetings, I stressed that “Healthy people make up a healthy company,” urging everyone to make sure they’re making human connections outside of work and getting enough sleep.
Don’t view them as your employees; call them friends
A big part of what drives me every morning is that I really care about our team.
It’s funny, my young kids know that Thrive is my business. But they don’t really understand the concept that I’m the boss.
At my home, everyone at the office are referred to as “my work friends.” I don’t call them my employees at home with my kids.
My son will say, “Daddy, what was that guy’s name who was one of your work friends?”
But that’s how I view it. I see everyone who works at Thrive as friends and not employees. That helps me align our core values and build the right culture.
Many Americans grow up in homes where work is a dreaded part of their life. You know, this type of viewpoint: “Man, as long as I can make it to the weekend.”
Ultimately, I want my kids to see work as a positive experience.
I want to enjoy my workweek and my weekend.
Why not have both?