Using Core Values to Guide Your Business

core values As a small business owner, you’re faced with lots of decisions everyday. Is this Instagram photo on brand? Should I give the refund? HTML or plain text newsletter?

Your decision-making process becomes much simpler once you connect to your core values.

When your core values inform your work, you feel more like yourself, and get respect, attention, and cash from the kind of people you most want to work with.

Getting cozy with your core values is a great way to reconnect with your intentions, visions, and beliefs. And these are among the cornerstones of purpose-driven work.

I dip into this kind of examination on a regular basis for the sake of clarity, finding my marketing edge, and reinvigorating my passion for what I do. If you ever hit a slump in your work, you can come back to this work for a boost.

When you think of values, you probably flash to a couple traditional words like “integrity,” or “respect.” All well and good, but I find thinking about values in that way a little floaty and disconnected from anything actionable.

We’re interested in the values that drive your work. You’re purpose-driven, after all. So let’s see what’s doing the driving. We’ll look at this from two different angles:

  1. Your core beliefs
  2. Your core guides

Your Core Beliefs

We all have beliefs about how the world or art or business works.

What do you believe?

That hard work pays off? That everyone deserves to feel beautiful? That mischief is magic? That college is overrated? That letterpress is the only way to go?

To start out, jot down a list of 6-10 things you believe that are related to your work.

Now that you can see some of your beliefs on paper, answer these questions (write them down):

  • How is your work already a reflection of these beliefs?
  • Are there any ways in which your work feels out of alignment with your beliefs?
  • What adjustments could you make to your work to better incorporate your beliefs?

I’ve used my core beliefs to help write my about page, prioritize tasks, create new offerings, and refine my branding. Once you gain more awareness around your core beliefs, you’ll find them subtly influencing almost everything you do.

Check back next month when we’ll dive into part 2 of your core values: your core guides.

Have questions about identifying or using your core beliefs? Let’s chat about it in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Using Core Values to Guide Your Business

  1. I love this! I recently went through a similar exercise after reading Todd Henry’s new book Die Empty.

    He has you think about a “code of ethics” for your business and then challenges you to remember this code of ethics as you write your to-do list, interact with others, and plan for the future.

    I agree that understanding these core principles of who you are impact your business in ways you never imagined!

  2. It’s as if you reached into my head; I feel I may have been drifting away from my core values over the last couple of months, my feet don’t feel like they’re on the right path right now and I haven’t been able to put my finger on why. This has given me much to think about this week. Thank you! I’m looking forward to the next part, next month.

      1. Well, I definitely believe that everyone deserves to be surrounded by beauty, even if their idea of beauty differs from someone else’s. I’m primarily a ceramicsist (although I also dye yarn, and dabble in soap-making), and I believe in making things that are both functional and beautiful. I believe that keeping a whimsical, or child-like (but not childish, if that makes sense) view of the world keeps your heart open to surprising things. I believe that everyone has a story, and most people just want to be listened to… and that’s a really important one. I find that it’s easy for me to apply that to conversations with customers, but how do I apply a willingness to … to just listen to people, into my work? That’s where I’m stuck right now.

        Whoa, did I get chatty, or what? :-)

        1. Your willingness to just listen to people may not show up in a ceramic piece, but it can definitely show up your online presence. Your blog could feature customer photos of how they use your pieces at home, you could offer custom pieces based on what’s important to your people (for graduations, anniversaries, etc), and it will influence how you communicate on social media. Your beliefs in the beautiful and whimsical could determine how you package your pieces for shipment. Think of ALL the things you do that are related to your work, and see where there’s more room for your core beliefs to shine through.

          1. Thank you so much, Laura! You have definitely given my mind something to chew on, and my metaphorical feet feel a little more on path because of it. I appreciate your time (and insight)!

        2. Lorena, so true! We do all want to be heard – that’s the basis of starting a small business, right? To have a voice? The balance is finding your voice while still listening to people and their view of the world, too. Something to think about!

  3. It’s so interesting how huge the difference is between going ‘oh I know what my core beliefs are’ and ACTUALLY writing them down! Now I’ve done it I can see immediately that a} I am already doing quite a few things that reflect them {encouraging!} and b} I could introduce more specific examples, stories and demonstrations to make them even clearer and more useful to the people who need what I do. {Thus giving me more blog post/course/offering ideas.} Great exercise! Look forward to next month. :)

  4. I’ve actually been doing a lot of this subconsciously lately, so it was completely refreshing to (re-)read this, Laura! I’ve realized over the past few months the importance of being intentional with how I represent my brand, and ultimately myself. Thanks for the reminder, Laura!

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