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Company Values: How to Define Them for Your Business

Have you ever visited a business where you intuitively understood what the company stood for and why it was in business? Perhaps you could immediately feel that the company cared deeply about its customers or employees. Or maybe the business had a clear and obvious mission to improve the world in a meaningful way.

You may have even worked at a business that was very intentional in how it treated its employees, customers, and community.

It’s not a coincidence when a business makes a clear and obvious impact. In many cases, it’s the result of a very deliberate process to define the philosophies and ideals that form the foundation of the business.

Those philosophies and ideals are known as the company’s values. Whether you’ve defined them or not, your company has values. Those values shape the company’s culture, reputation, and even its relationship with employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

What are company values for your business? Have you defined them? Have you shared them with your employees and customers? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to influence your company culture and even win customers and retain key employees. Below is a guide with everything you need to know to get started on creating your company’s values.

Company values defined

Your business values are the foundational philosophies that guide your company and your employees. They’re the ideals on which you operate. They can reflect how you treat each other, how you treat customers, or even some change or improvement you want to make in the community or the world. There are two main types of company values:

Core company values. Core company values are values that are deeply ingrained in your business and your employees. It’s important to note that you have core company values whether or not you’ve defined them. Often in companies that have not defined their values, core company values evolve naturally through employee interactions and behavior.

Core values of a company can be positive or negative. One of Google’s core values is to “Focus on the customer and all else will follow.” That’s a positive core value.

However, let’s say you’ve never defined or communicated core values to your employees. They may have developed a culture of indifference or even animosity towards customer issues. That’s a negative value that has developed on its own.

If you don’t define your core values, your business and employees will develop them naturally, and they may not be the core values that you want.

Aspirational values. These are values that may not exist yet in your business, but nonetheless are values you hope to foster and develop.

For example, Whole Foods has a value to practice win-win partnerships with suppliers. This is a value that was not fully in practice when the value was defined. Rather, Whole Foods decided to make it a value and revamp their supplier practices going forward.

Your aspirational values could be in how you recruit and retain employees or give back to the community or even hit sustainability goals. They can be anything you and your team feel is important, just be sure that they align with your employees ideals. You need employee buy-in to turn an aspirational value into a core value.

The importance of company values

At first glance, company values may seem like they’re just words written on paper. However, when the full organization buys into the values and puts them into action, your values can have a real impact on your organization and your bottom line.

How important are company values to a brand and a business? The results of one Deloitte survey tell us that 94% of executives believe that a strong workplace culture is important when it comes to business success. But that’s not the only statistic that reinforces the importance of business values.

94% of executives believe a strong workplace culture is key to business success

According to a 2020 workplace study, 75% of respondents said it is “very important” to work for an employer who has core values. The same study found that 62% of employers had core values. However, of that 62%, nearly 16% of the employees said the companies don’t put their values into action.

Another study found that companies with highly-aligned cultures and values see 30% higher growth and 17% higher profits. A LinkedIn survey found that workplace culture is so important that 26% of employees would forgo a higher title and 65% would take reduced pay to avoid a bad workplace.

This is just a sampling of some of the many surveys that show the same thing over and over again: culture matters. Culture impacts your ability to recruit and retain talent. It impacts how your business is viewed in the community and by your customers. It touches every aspect of your business.

You can shape and align your culture by defining your company values. Those are the points that guide how you and your employees conduct business.

How company values help your business

We’ve discussed how company values can impact employee retention and your bottom line. Surveys show that culture and values have a direct result on profitability and employee happiness.

But why is culture so important? What’s the connection between your values to your bottom line? There are a few important ways in which your values affect every aspect of your business.

Employee satisfaction. There are few things more corrosive to a business than a workforce that is indifferent or even antagonistic toward the company’s success. However, it happens more frequently than most would like to believe.

The term “quiet quitting” has become popular in recent years. It’s the idea that rather than outright quit their job, unsatisfied employees should do the bare minimum in their role and nothing more. It stems from dissatisfaction with their employer and their role within their company.

While the term “quiet quitting” may be new, employee indifference is not new at all. Since the beginning of work, there have been businesses that get more production and enthusiasm out of their employees than other businesses achieve.

What’s the secret? Culture and values. Your values give meaning to the work. Consider Nike’s core value to “dare to design the future of sport.” It’s not just about selling shoes and apparel. Nike’s aspirational value is to design sports as a whole. It’s bigger than the company itself, and it’s a value that resonates with the company’s employees, many of whom are former athletes and sports fans.

Defining your values is a good first step, but you also have to turn them into reality with your employees. This starts from your employees’ first days on the job. The best way to enhance and maintain company culture is through onboarding.

Then you have to follow through with your own leadership. You can’t simply preach the values to your team. You have to walk the walk and show that the values are very real. If you don’t act with the same values, your team will see you as being disingenuous, which will undermine the entire point of having values, hurt employee engagement, and actually damage your culture long-term.

Company reputation. Your culture and values don’t just impact your team internally. They also affect your business’s reputation externally in the community and with potential customers. Your values create your culture, which heavily influences the customer experience.

Let’s go back to Whole Foods. One of their values is that they “Care about our communities and the environment.”

If you’ve ever shopped at a Whole Foods, you know this isn’t just words on paper. Community and environment are central to the Whole Foods experience. The food is organic and sourced from local vendors. Most of the packaging is sustainable. Whole Foods gives millions of dollars each year to local food banks and other community organizations.

This value is so important to the Whole Foods brand because their customers share many of the same values. Their customers are willing to drive a bit longer to Whole Foods to get all organic food. Their customers are concerned about food scarcity and helping those who are less fortunate. The value statement to care about community and environment has a direct impact on Whole Foods’ bottom line because it speaks directly to their target market.

Your business may have a similar direct connection to the community. This applies to small businesses as much as it does large corporations.

If you’re a local sports bar and restaurant, it may make sense to support local youth sports as a part of your community efforts. If you’re an accountant, you may want to support financial literacy in the community. There are so many ways to get involved. The important thing is to define your values and intentions and then make them a reality through deliberate action.

Examples of company values

Not sure where to start with your company’s core values? Below are some examples of company values to help spark some ideas.

examples of company values


Teamwork and the idea of togetherness is a common company value. It may be important to you that your team works together well and is accepting of ideas. Volkswagen simply says that “Together” is one of the key principles of work at the company. Slack emphasizes the idea of “Solidarity.”

A value about teamwork can encourage collaboration. It can also reduce team conflict and help members work through differences in a positive way.

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly common parts of many companies' core values. Diversity and inclusion refer to a company’s commitment to representing all forms of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more among its workforce. Nearly every major company references diversity and inclusion in its values, mission statements, and more.


Accountability or personal responsibility can be important values, especially if you’re a business that allows employees to work with a degree of independence. If you have employees who work remotely or have flexible schedules, it’s important for them to take ownership of their responsibilities and hold themselves accountable.

Customer care

Are you in an industry where service is important? If so, then you may want to define your company’s attitude and approach to caring for customers. For example, Uber and Amazon both reference “customer obsession” in their values. It’s not enough just to care for customers—those companies want their employees to be obsessed with making customers happy.


Innovation can be an important company value if you’re in an industry that requires the development of new products and solutions. Innovation is key in tech, pharmaceuticals, and other forward-thinking industries. Netflix and Apple both include innovation as one of their core values.

Giving back

Giving back, or community involvement, is another very common core value. It’s almost as common as diversity and inclusion. Being a good community member and contributing to charitable causes is one of the most effective ways to positively impact your company’s reputation.

Whole Foods has made community involvement one of its four core values. Microsoft and Google are examples of other large companies that value community involvement and giving back.


Sustainability is the idea of using environmentally-friendly products and processes as much as possible. For many companies, sustainability has become a key value. Ikea recently changed their core values to prioritize sustainability and become more environmentally efficient.


Learning is a common core value because it encourages employees to continue to evolve and develop their skill set. You could reinforce this by offering educational opportunities and even by paying for their continued education.


Integrity is an important value to include if you want to prioritize honesty and ethics. This could be especially important if you’re in an industry where the public places a certain amount of trust in your employees. For example, integrity and ethics are very important in finance and healthcare businesses.

How to identify core values for your company

What should the core values of your company be? First, it’s important to narrow your scope. Google has 10 core values, which is on the high side. There are many values that may be important to you, but it’s difficult to truly implement more than a handful. Your goal should be to identify those values that are the most important to you, not simply any value you can think of. Below is an effective process for developing your core values.

how to identify core values for your company

Consider your organization’s goals

What are your company’s goals? Making money is obviously a primary one, but think bigger than that objective. How do you want your company to be perceived in your industry and your community? How do you want your employees to represent your business?

You may want to be known for your community involvement, your high ethics and integrity, and your commitment to diversity. If so, that’s a good start on your value list. If you’re in a service business, a hyper-focused approach to customer satisfaction may be appropriate.

Discuss it with your closest advisors and trusted employees. Ask them what values they think best represent the business, or what values should represent your company.

Write a purpose statement

A purpose statement is a written statement of what you want your company to be. State it in the present tense. For example, you could say “We are a company that goes to any length to keep our customers happy.” By using the present tense, you make it an active principle that is in effect right now, rather than something you aspire to be in the future.

Make your company values unique

Be unique in your values. Yes, there are many values that are common among many businesses. However, the way you word them can be unique to you. For example, Uber doesn’t just say that customer service is important. They say that their company and employees are “customer obsessed.” That conveys a unique and more concerted effort to keep customers happy.

Keep core values simple and easy to remember

Simple is better. Your employees aren’t going to remember a lengthy paragraph about each value. In fact, some companies, like Volkswagen, simply list single words as a list of core values. Use whatever is most effective to help you and your employees remember the value list.

Refine your corporate values over time

Core values should change over time as your business and work culture change. Twenty years ago, diversity and inclusion wasn’t a common value. Neither was sustainability. Now, those words are everywhere. The only constant in business is change. Stay open-minded about how work could evolve in the future.

Define company values to drive long-term success

Company values are more than just words on paper. They define your company’s soul and belief-system. When you create values that are genuine and authentic, and then implement them with purpose, you can have a real impact on your company’s culture and bottom line.

Work with your team to identify the values that best represent your business and the type of company you aspire to be. Then engage your team to incorporate those values into their day-to-day work and their approach to business. Over time, you’ll see real improvements in all aspects of your company.

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