Corporate values: get it right

What are good and useful values?

Research based insight from Adrian Kimpton / Sable&Hawkes.
A 3 minute read.

As a spoiler I believe I’ve cracked this. Having spent a long time researching and working in values based brand communications I reckon I’ve nailed the perfect values that any business anywhere will ever need. There are just two of them and if you want to know what they are give me a call.

But for now – we’ve done the research, crunched the numbers and double down the digits and this is an introduction to recent work we’ve completed on corporate values.

The scene. Set.

Comunicating your values to the world in a way that comes across as meaningful and authentic (and ideally distinctive) has always been an issue for businesses.

My first problem with values and values statements is they are often characterised by hackneyed expressions, lacking in freshness or meaning. And the more common the values the more unconvincing and trivial they sound.

There are some however, who have worked hard to capture the nuances of their particular culture. Build-A-Bear take a good run at it with:


The point is, they’ve tried, they looked in to speak out, sought out whats important and added just a little of what makes them, them. Which is after all, the point of values based communication. To give us, the outside, an inkling of what drives this business, these people and something of what it might be like to interact with them.

From A1 to Zyzzyva.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, if you go from A1 to Zyzzyva there are an estimated 171,146 words currently in use in the English language (apologies to all other equally meritorious languages). Which brings me to my second values-related buggaboo. Why is it that with such a field of choice we can all pretty much second guess what words will crop up relentlessly in pretty much every corporate ‘About us’ text.

Frankly, if you tell me again your honest and professional, value teamwork and integrity or strive for innovation and excellence well I might just suspect you’ve not put your best efforts into this venture.

It does beg the question, is everyone really the same, does everyone really hold the same characteristics and behaviours so dear, or has there just been a crushing lack of interest, insight and/or effort put into this? I suspect we know the answer.

So what makes for a good, useful set of values?

Circling back to where we started for a moment. To make this process worth going through, your values need to be just that, yours, look inside for those meaningful, authentic and if possible the distinctive glimpses into your corporate culture. This is who we are, this is how we behave. But for the love of that is holy work at it. Trite is a good word. Look it up, its not a value but it sums up perfectly most corporate value lists you’ll see.

And I would urge anyone going through this process to think hard about values such as integrity, honesty, teamwork and excellence. Most of us would consider these to be minimum standards of professional behaviour rather than anything useful and appealing. A bank telling me their honest, or an architects that they are professional is a bit like turning up at a party and announcing you’ve not kicked any puppies on the way over and expecting a round of applause.

So yes, there we are. Like our friends at Build-A-Bear, look inside, reach and learn. Alternatively get in touch and maybe I’ll let you into a that secret of ours, and the only two values you’ll ever need …