How Core Values Shape Expectations, Influence Growth and Unite a Culture
I attribute the creation of Loffler’s Core Values to a bit of fate.
About seven years ago, the business was growing rapidly. Along with steady organic growth, we had acquired seven companies in four years, thereby expanding into new related businesses. Although we were growing and profitable, it was getting harder to keep an eye on all the moving parts, especially since we had hired a few hundred more people. I had a gut feeling we needed a common cause to help unify our team.
And then the phone rang.
I received a call from Tom Whelan, the President of Nemer Fieger advertising, and he invited me to lunch. While we were eating and chatting, he gave me a copy of the book Traction by Gino Wickman (Entrepreneurial Operating System, 2007), which his company was using at the time. That night, I started reading the book. With each passing chapter, I became more excited by how we could put it to work in our fast growing business. Traction outlines many tools for business leadership, and the ideas and frameworks in the book made sense for Loffler.
Receiving the book was that bit of fate I needed to unify my company.
I realized my growing company needed a succinct way to define expectations. Traction pointed me toward Core Values as a way to do that. We already had our mission statement in place, which focused on exceeding expectations of our clients, employees, partners and community. Exceeding expectations is a mission we still stand by today, but at that time seven years ago, we needed to take it further. We needed to define our expectations and then stick to them.
The mere existence of Core Values in an organization means they have taken the time to give weight to expectations, they wish to foster their company's growth and they want to encourage employees to be the best in their space by creating real expectations they can work toward.
Our Core Values were created during an offsite retreat over several days. We brought in an outside facilitator to help us list, grade and test them. We chose the key standards that we felt made an individual fit and be valued in our company.
We knew we had to do more than just create them in order for them to work. If you want people to live up to your expectations, you need to state them. Clearly and regularly.
We now use them everywhere:
Included in slides projected at company meetings
Inserted as constant reminders in our employee badges
Taped on the outside of my office door
Bound into proposals we give to clients
Promoted regularly in our vendor relationships
Listed on our website
Provided on our new employee applications
Printed on our review documents
Posted in our conference rooms and around our departments
Two Problems We Solved by Investing in Core Values:
1. Instability that Accompanies Growth
Expanding a company means stretching employees. And with stretch comes tension and uncertainty.
We’ve acquired 16 companies in the past 14 years. Many of the company owners wanted to make sure that their employees were taken care of and treated with respect. Because we placed high importance on Core Values, those company owners knew the standards we live by, and that made them feel good about Loffler.
In addition, one of the first things new employees look at when joining our team is our Core Values. They show what everyone at the company represents. Core Values can help alleviate fear that accompanies change and clarify our expectations of new employees – and their expectations of us, which creates common ground.
2. Hiring the Wrong People
The advantage of sharing our Core Values with prospective employees is that they attract people who share similar values and make them comfortable with the environment of the company. In a tight job market, that can be that extra key reason, besides the job itself, someone decides to join our team.
If someone applies to our team who does not exhibit our Core Values, they may realize they’re not a good fit for a job with us. And that's great, because we prefer to add people to our company that are going to be valuable team members and help us build a winning and positive culture.
We have built our Core Values into our employee interactions. This has made them a foundation of our workforce.
We hire to them when we bring on new team members.
We measure to them when conducting employee reviews.
We promote to them when a team member advances in our company.
We coach out of the business with them when someone is not a good fit.
With nearly 500 employees, we believe that our Core Values are more important now than ever before. They are still working for us and have evolved with us over time because we fine tune them each year to keep them relevant and fresh.
Maybe reading this post will be a bit of fate for you and usher you down the road of creating Core Values at your company.
Read Next: Work Hard and Don't Forget to Dance
Jim Loffler is the founder and CEO of Loffler Companies. He started the company in 1986 with dictation machines, expanding to faxes, copiers, IP Phones, IT managed services and much more. Today, the company employs over 600 team members in 18 locations in six states, and focuses on long-term relationships. Jim is proud of the many awards Loffler Companies has received over the years, including ten years as one of INC 5000 magazine's "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America." Loffler Companies is also the official technology partner of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Lynx, Minnesota Wild, St. Paul Saints and the University of Minnesota athletic department. In 2018, Jim was named one of Minnesota’s Top 500 Business Leaders. Jim has been married for more than 40 years to Darcy, his junior high school sweetheart. They have two children, four grandsons and one granddaughter. In his spare time, Jim enjoys golfing, boating, cooking, photography, music and traveling.