Bottom Up, Not Top Down
How focusing on core values can help optimize your business strategy
By Chad Perce
Values beget value.
We at iMethods have found that if our internal relationships are strong and we stick to our values, then our external performance is better and our work is more fulﬁlling. Clients value this consistent service, thus generating more opportunities for growth.
So our mission is to serve our internal employees, consultants, clients and community. This approach has served us well, leading us to annual revenue growth of 292 percent over the past three years — to $6.1 million in 2011 — while maintaining a successful placement ratio of 90 percent.
Our experience isn’t unique. Companies with world-class employee engagement have 3.9 times the earnings-per-share growth rate of counterparts with lower engagement, regardless of industry, according to research from Gallup Inc. The ﬁrm also has found that engaged workgroups are more productive and proﬁtable, and experience less absenteeism and fewer safety incidents than disengaged peer groups.
Engagement is a byproduct of culture. We have diligently built and preserved a culture that supports individual growth, healthy relationships and the highest good for all concerned.
Here are lessons we have learned, some more painfully than others, in building a culture that has helped us establish strong internal and external relationships.
Values Come First. More than just a plaque on the wall, the following core values are the foundation of our business culture and performance:
- Ardent service. We take an authentic human interest in employee and client success.
- Tireless eﬀorts. We encourage an energetic and cheerful drive to succeed.
- Truthfulness. We believe transparency and truth are vital.
- Delivery of positive results. We follow through for our clients, candidates and company.
- Constant learning and development. We believe in continuing education and open exchange of information among clients, candidates and employees.
- Community. We seek positive relationships in the oﬃce and beyond.
Our employees, job candidates and clients all know we espouse these values and hold us accountable for acting accordingly. Delivering upon your promises builds trust, which in turn breeds loyalty.
Bottom Up, Not Top Down. My business partner and I founded the ﬁrm with these values in mind in 2004, and lived by them when we were the sole employees. But we codiﬁed the values based upon the input of the employees we’ve added as we’ve grown our team to 20 members.
If you are going to ask employees to act in a particular way, you should ensure that they share your ﬁrm’s values. Retreats, meetings and daily interactions are all opportunities to discuss values and unite the team in common pursuit of your ﬁrm’s values and goals.
Be Deliberate. We could recite our values to employees every day but learning by rote is not as eﬀective as learning by example.
Employees nominate one another for internal awards based upon our core values. When one does something that exempliﬁes a value, we share the example with everyone, thereby encouraging others to act likewise.
We also discuss our values with everyone who visits our oﬃce, whether they are a job candidate, prospective client or community leader. Furthermore, each visitor receives an oﬃce tour. In fact, a tour of our oﬃce is even available online at www.tinyurl.com/imethods-tour.
The tour emphasizes cultural highlights, such as oﬃce spaces dedicated to individual learning, personal goal-setting and ﬁrm-wide visioning. It even includes an opportunity for the guest to sign one of six pillows representing our core values. Visitors pick the pillow whose value resonates most with them, thereby emotionally connecting them to our ﬁrm.
Consistently communicating, living and focusing upon our values have helped our ﬁrm build proﬁtable and productive relationships with our employees, candidates and clients. When values come ﬁrst, business follows.
Chad Perce is CEO and co-founder of iMethods, an IT staffing and consulting company specializing in healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.