Core values are principle-based statements about how your company does business. They guide everything from long-term strategy to daily operations. Together with mission and vision statements, core values are the bedrock that makes up your brand identity. Learn more about what core values are, why they matter, and how to write them. Download our free template to get started.
The Role of Core Values in Business
Core values are essentially the beliefs, traits, and principles that best define your business. They act as a set of guidelines designed to help your company achieve its mission and realize its vision. While your vision statement covers what you want to become, and your mission statement answers why your business exists, your values determine your “how,” or how you’ll achieve your goals.
Key takeaway: Core values guide the behaviors and actions your team takes to achieve your business’ mission and goals in order to build a strong brand.
What Core Values Are vs Mission & Vision Statements
Core (aka corporate) values are the third point of a triangle that makes up brand identity, along with mission and vision. They explain the “how” of your business—outlining how you’ll achieve your goals and the behaviors and principles your team will embody. In contrast, your mission determines your “why,” or your purpose, and your vision depicts an ideal result of “what” you want to become.
These three pillars should work harmoniously for your business’ best chances of success. Your company values should be tailored to your mission and vision and outline the specific traits, behaviors, and beliefs that help turn your goals into reality. This is also why the core values you write shouldn’t be generic or vague, but well-defined and detailed to serve your business’ priorities.
Core Values Template (Free Download)
As you follow the instructions below for defining what your company’s core values are and how to create them, download our free core values template. Use it as you complete each step below for how to write core values for your small business.
How to Write Core Values for Your Business
Now that you understand what core values are and the role they play for businesses, follow along with the steps to create value statements for your company. First, download the free printable core values worksheet above, and then follow the steps below.
1. Canvas Potential Core Values to Include
For those worried about how to write core values for a business, the good news is there are already hundreds of common values to choose from. Creating core value statements for your company comes down mainly to choosing the ones most relevant to your business, and customizing them accordingly.
With that, the first step to creating them is to familiarize yourself with the myriad of potential values you can anchor on. Doing this will help you form your core values more easily later on. While there are hundreds of potential values that might apply, here are some common core values most relevant to small businesses in general:
These only cover a small portion of the hundreds of potential core business values. Use them as a starting point, then continue tweaking them to best serve your business’ interests in the following steps. For more inspiration and insights, read our list of core values examples for small businesses.
2. Identify the Values Most Relevant to Your Business
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with potential values, identify the ones most relevant to your business. This step is where you’ll start zeroing in on the specific principles and morals that best define your business’ identity and fit in most naturally with your mission and vision.
Answer Questions About Your Business
One way to more easily identify the most relevant options is to ask and answer questions about your business. Specifically, here are some guide questions to answer:
As you answer these questions, be as specific and comprehensive as possible. Consider every operation involved in running your business, from the top level to the front lines. For example, say you owned a small cafe business. Here are some examples of how answers to some of these questions might look:
- How would you want you and your team members to behave in your daily operations? I want my team to operate the cafe honestly, to treat all customers equally, and to prepare coffee of excellent standards and quality.
- What parts of your company culture are most helpful in achieving your goals? Our staff’s teamwork and efficiency, and our commitment to upholding our products’ quality.
- What parts of your company culture bring out the best in your team members? Our team’s friendliness and respect for one another.
- What makes your business different from others in your field? We focus on fostering connections with our customers.
These answers will then become the basis for forming your core values. In the next section, you’ll see how to turn them into a list of core values.
3. Make a List of Your Business’ Core Values
With your responses to the questions above, you’ve essentially created the first draft of your company core values, which you’ll further edit and refine into a well-defined list. The next step in terms of how to write core values for your business is about organization. From your answers to the questions above, identify the specific core values that stand out, then write them down.
For example, using the same cafe example above, here are some of the values that stand out most from the answers:
You’ll notice the values you identify are more specific, unlike the general values listed in step one. This works well as the more specific your statements are, the better they can help you reach your business goals.
Align Values With Your Mission & Vision
Before you further define the core values of your business in the next step, you’ll first want to ensure that they integrate seamlessly with your mission and vision statements. Ask yourself if the values you identified also guide you toward fulfilling your mission and vision, then edit them accordingly. Ideally, you want all three pillars to be working in harmony together.
For instance, using the same cafe example above, let’s say your business mission statement was to create enduring connections with your customers through high-quality coffee, and your vision was to be the most preferred cafe in your community. If your answers above help fulfill those goals, then edit them accordingly.
4. Add Details & Customize
Now that you have a list of core values, the next step is to define them further, add details, and customize them to your business. Core values are most effective when tailored to your business and its needs. Therefore, define and detail your list as much as possible. To do so, simply write a short sentence to accompany each value.
For instance, using the same cafe example, here’s how you might define the core values list from the previous step:
- Operating honestly: We interact honestly with customers, co-workers, and the community.
- Treating all customers equally: We serve all customers equally, with zero discrimination.
- Teamwork and efficiency: We work together as a team to provide the most efficient service possible.
- Commitment to quality: We follow established procedures and use only high-quality ingredients to consistently serve the best quality coffee.
- Friendliness and respect for each other: We are friendly with each other as a team and respect each other’s differences.
- Fostering connections with customers: We create positive connections and a memorable experience with customers before they leave the door.
Take time to craft and define each statement so that they are specific and easy to understand. And always keep your mission and vision statements in mind to ensure your core values stay aligned.
5. Gather Feedback & Edit
Before writing final versions of your value statements, gather feedback. Feedback is essential to any creative process. It will help you fully refine your list and ensure that every team member can easily understand what each statement means and how it applies to their role in the company.
This is especially so for core values in business since they apply to many different types of stakeholders, from your internal team to its customers, vendors, investors, and the community. Here are a few guiding questions you can ask others to gather feedback about your drafted core values:
Get feedback from several people—ask your team members, business partners, target audience members, or other fellow business owners. Then, edit and refine the final value statements according to their feedback.
6. Finalize, Write & Implement Your Core Values
After undergoing feedback and revisions, your core values are ready to be finalized, written, and used in your business. Your values are a fundamental part of your business identity and company culture. Share them with your team and implement them within your operations and even in your marketing strategies.
Here are other ways to implement corporate values into your business processes:
- Recruiting and onboarding talent: Use core values as a guide when finding and evaluating the right people to join your team. Include them as part of your onboarding and orientation processes for new team members—this helps build the right company culture in the long run.
- Employee evaluation: Corporate values can also guide employment-related processes like performance reviews and promotion decisions.
- Your website: Your website is your small business’ digital location, where many potential customers will visit to learn more about your business. Including core values in a specific section of your website (such as an “About” page) tells people what you care about, what they can expect as customers, and helps to attract those who share the same values.
- Company documents: Core values are a staple of every company’s identity. Include them in organizational documents such as contract letters, company handbooks, presentation decks, and vendor agreements, among others.
- Marketing materials: Core values are some of the most human aspects of your business, and, therefore, the most relatable. This makes them a great asset for marketing your business. Whether for content marketing blogs or social media promotions, draw from core values in your marketing content.
- Press documents: When journalists write stories about your business, they’ll need some background information for context. This is where core values come in—they give context to your business’ identity. Include them in press documents like press kits or press releases.
Tips for Writing Good Core Values for Your Business
Core values differ for each business. But a few best practices remain true when creating them, such as tailoring them to your business and keeping your wording simple. Here are a few more tips to remember when crafting core values for your business.
- Tailor to your business: The definitions you add to each of your core values are what differentiate them from those of other businesses. Make sure your core values aren’t generic or vague (e.g., using single-word values like “equality” or “teamwork”). Instead, define and tailor them specifically to your business and to help you realize your mission and vision.
- But keep them simple: This mostly applies to the language you use. Because your core values apply to multiple audiences, they should be understandable to everyone who reads them. Use simple, everyday language, keep your sentences concise, and avoid complex words.
- Express what makes you unique: Your core values are some of the most human parts of your business and are a great way to tell the world what makes you unique. Whether it’s an advocacy you’re helping or a cause you’re devoted to, include these principles in your core values list.
- Keep them achievable: Your core values are meant to be practiced and embodied in your everyday operations. For this reason, they should be easy and achievable enough for your team to understand and carry out.
- Adjust them to shifting priorities: Your core values shouldn’t be set in stone. As your business grows, your priorities will likely shift and evolve. As such, revisit and edit your core values every few years and adjust them as needed to best serve your priorities.
Statistics Showcase the Importance of Core Values
Core values are also important to businesses for several reasons. For one, branding statistics show that shared values account for 64% of brands’ customer relationships. Here are a few more statistics that underpin the importance of core values to your small business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are good company values?
Good company value statements are specific in explaining how the value supports the business’ mission and vision. Examples of good company values are integrity, professionalism, diversity, equality, teamwork, and trust, among many others. However, what comprises a good company value differs for each business—the best are tailored to an individual business’ priorities, mission, and vision.
How do you choose a company value?
To choose a company value, use your mission and vision to identify the principles, behaviors, and characteristics that will steer you and your team toward fulfilling those objectives. Create a list from the values you identify, then add details to tailor them specifically to your business’ priorities.
What do core values mean?
Core values encapsulate the ethics, traits, and behaviors a company prioritizes the most. They are guidelines for how to fulfill the business’ overall mission and vision. Core values are valuable because they set customer expectations and act as the business’ moral compass, ensuring that the entire company operates in a humane and moral way.
Core values are an essential part of any business’ identity and culture. They act as the human foundation of any organization and guide the behaviors and decisions that lead teams toward their goals. Good core values are well-defined and tailored to each business’ mission and vision. Now that you understand what core values are and why they matter, download the core values template above to write value statements for your small business.