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Embedding Values Into A Family Business Culture

We understand the importance of values in family firms – check out Kyler Gilbert’s write up on The Importance Of Values In Family Firms for more – so how can you actually embed values into your family culture? And I mean truly, authentically embed those values.

Often in the strategic planning process that we facilitate with our clients, employees and family members reluctantly complete the prep exercise on Mission, Vision, and Values, viewing it as another ‘check-the-box’ task with little real impact to the business. But then something magical happens. The values become much more than a list of words on the website, and instead become the DNA of the organization and culture, unifying the family and the team at large.

Here are a few steps your family can take to meaningfully embed values into the family company:

  • Establish Or Reconfirm (And Then Document) Your Values. Whether you are transitioning from the third to fourth generation, or a wife/husband team just getting started, it’s essential that your values are well-defined and understood by the family, and that you are in alignment about these values. In each strategic planning session or family council meeting, be sure to revisit the values.

  • Lead By Example. The values adopted by the rest of the organization are influenced from the top. Remember that list of words on the website? They won’t mean much unless they are reflected in the actions of leadership. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, was famously known for living his values and leading by example, in fact “lead by example” is one of IKEA’s company values today! One example is their value of cost-consciousness; Ingvar made it clear to his team that a cost-conscious mindset was central throughout all areas of operations, from design to material sourcing, in an effort to make their product affordable and accessible. Beyond the values-driven operations, Ingvar was also known to practice cost-consciousness in his own personal lifestyle.

  • Make Values-Based Decisions. This is another way leaders can embody their values through action and set an example for the rest of the team. From personnel to diversification strategies, consider your values – not just a financial ROI – when making these decisions. Incorporate values into your decision-making framework and share this framework with your team.

  • Incorporate Values Into Your “People” Plan. From rewards and incentive plans tied to values-related KPIs, and inviting input from your team, intentionally integrate values in your HR strategies across all levels of the organization. A simple way to start this is by including your company values into the performance review process. This can include quantitative measures, such rating each value on a scale, as well as qualitative measures highlighting examples of how they’ve demonstrated company values through their actions. You can also incorporate core values into their goals for the upcoming year.

  • Educate And Reinforce Continuously And Consistently. Values should be well understood by shareholders, the operating team, the Board, and the family council. Rather than a once and done, each of these governing groups should regularly revisit the values. Educate younger generations and new hires on the meaning behind each value. Particularly as the business transitions from generation to generation, with more family members involved, and more distance from the founding generation, it is imperative to pass down the history and significance of the family values to sustain the family legacy.

  • Broadcast Your Values Externally. While it is critical for the internal team and family to be in alignment with the values, your family firm’s values are also important to clients, vendors, partners, and the external community. Yvon Chouinard and his family championed environmentalism as a core value of Patagonia since its founding back in the early ‘70s. In addition to leading by example, the Patagonia brand heavily emphasized environmentalism and their core values in their messaging. This message struck a chord with environmentally conscious consumers and established a loyal consumer base.

Incorporating values into the family and the family business can make a real difference. The values become much more than a list of words on the website, and instead become the DNA of the organisation and culture, unifying the family and the team at large.

About the Author - Celine Casamina is a Consultant at Business Consulting Resources (BCR), a family owned professional services organisation that has been championing successful transformations for 40 years. They provide a comprehensive portfolio of consulting service solutions to help solve complex problems. Find out more here


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