I ran across some articles and sites on startup company values this weekend. One in particular is The Happy Startup School. They explain themselves with the following sentence:

We’re seeing a movement of people that want to start businesses firstly as a lifestyle choice, and secondly to make money.

A lot of what The Happy Startup School discusses resonated with me. But it got me thinking about building a company culture, and the importance of explicitly stated values. The website of any corporation will have a page filled with their values, but the majority of them feel vacuous, lacking authenticity. However, a few companies have well-known values that seem to importantly direct the company. The prime example being Zappos.

Zappos has ten core values which seem to be very ingrained in the company. These values are foremost apparent to customers via their customer service.

In the Zappos story I wonder how many of these values were developed prior to being formalized as their ten core values. Zappos has done an amazing job of creating a company with notable values.

In the technology world I’m under the impression that a lot of companies start trying to build their culture by establishing a set of values. Often this establishing involves the process of writing them down.

The Happy Startup School’s Toolkit states:

Think of your core values as those that, when the chips are down, you believe in so much that if you took them away your company would cease to exist. However, don’t just brainstorm some values only to then forget about them – you need to live and abide by them everyday. You values are how you behave not how you would like to.

If you’re going to establish values that you actually have, rather than simply want to have, where do you start. This seems in part a chicken-or-egg problem.

If you reach to far and employees don’t feel these values present in the company these values may in fact become detrimental. Thus it is definitely and interesting question of how to build a company with strong values.

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