In the dynamic world of startups, success is not solely measured by the brilliance of your ideas or the efficiency of your operations. It’s also about building a strong foundation of core values that guide your company’s culture, behaviors, and decision-making processes.
This community guide is a deep dive into company values for startups: what core values are, why they are important, value statement examples, and practical steps for defining and implementing them in your startup.
Whether you’re a founder or an executive, understanding how to establish and promote core values is crucial for fostering a thriving and purpose-driven organization.
What are Company Values?
The core values meaning lies in their ability to define the essence and character of a startup. They reflect the collective identity and aspirations of the organization, capturing what it stands for and the principles it upholds.
Core values go beyond superficial statements; they are the underlying beliefs that drive actions and behaviors. When core values are well-defined and lived by the team, they become the foundation upon which the startup’s culture and success are built.
Company Values are the Foundation of Your Team
“Core values are the foundation and framework to drive organizational behavior, both internally and externally. They should be easy to understand, set expectations, and provide a foundation for accountability. I have found garnering team input and buy-in when developing your values will drive adoption later. Well defined and lived out core values will create a healthy organizational culture that can sustain your organization through the good and the bad times.”
Brian More, CEO at Nanovis
Core Values Guide Actions and Team Behaviors
“A key to success is having a great culture and trust. Setting Core Values helps create and maintain both. The Core Values should guide the actions and behaviors of the contributors even when no one is around. Core Values are more than a mere list of desired traits. They should be special to your company and team. Our Core Values are 1) tactful truth telling 2) be open minded 3) do what is best for the client 4) contribute to our community.”
Kathy Kinder, Managing Director at Liftbridge CXO
Core Values are a Reflection of the Team
“Every company develops its own culture and way of treating people (employees, customers, etc.). I think it’s important to let that develop before defining your values. Values should be a reflection of the team and company as it is and as it aspires to be, not a prescriptive set of commandments no one looks at.”
Matt Tait, CEO at Decimal
Based on these team values examples, there are several ways for how to promote core values in the workplace. Keep reading to learn why are team values important, and methods for creating your own team’s values.
Why Are Company Values Important?
At the heart of every successful startup lies a set of core values that serve as a compass, guiding its growth and shaping its identity.
“Set values that support your mission, and vision. Identify what collective traits ring true for achieving that mission/vision. Build a team that embodies those traits and regularly celebrate how they personify the core values. Don’t be afraid to evolve core values over time. As your company and team grows, so does the culture!”
Emily Myers, VP, Account Management at TextUs
The importance of core values in the workplace is high. Each startup is unique, and often one team values are different than another.
Company values provide a framework for decision-making, helping you align your actions and behaviors with a shared purpose. They establish a strong company culture, attracting and retaining top talent who resonate with your values. Moreover, core values foster trust and cohesion within your team, empowering them to work collaboratively towards common goals.
Importance of Core Values in Leadership
Core values play a crucial role in leadership, setting the tone and direction for the entire organization. Leaders who embody and promote the core values serve as role models for their team, influencing the overall culture and behaviors.
“Values create direction and choice. They’re like a GPS system for our energy. They’re not things we “should” do. They help us choose what to do next. My clients are adopting things like self-management, empathy and belonging. Knowing better begets doing better.”
Mandy Haskett, Leadership Consultant at ADVISA
By consistently demonstrating the shared team values in their own actions, leaders inspire and empower others to follow suit. Effective leaders align their decision-making and strategies with the company’s core values, creating a sense of purpose and direction.
How To Write Core Values
Defining your startup’s core values list and company values statement begins with introspection and reflection. Start by identifying what matters most to you and your team. Consider the principles and beliefs that you hold dear and that you want your company to embody. Think about the qualities you aspire to have as an organization and the impact you wish to create. These insights will help you craft authentic and meaningful core values.
Reflect on Your Company’s “Why”
“It is all about the founding team and the WHY of your company, particularly in the early stage. Start by clarifying your startup’s mission and purpose, who you are or want to be as a team. By doing so, involve your team, be authentic, be concise and most importantly be actionable.”
Alexander Hounsou, Co-founder/CEO at noonclass
Consider Including Aspirational Values
“Defining and implementing values is such a rewarding process! I recommend considering the different “types” of values (as defined by Patrick Lencioni, there are aspirational; permission-to-play; and accidental values) and the ratio of each you would consider ideal. For example, you may want 1-2 “aspirational values” to help your team drive towards achieving your vision – even if those values are an ideal future state (and not the current reality).”
Gabby Popowitz, Sr. Director of Talent & Culture at Boardable
Follow a Process
“I would recommend that all the founders/leaders of the company read the book “Traction” by Gino Wickman. In the book Wickman lays out the value of core values, how to find your values and a whole host of other helpful ways to run the business. We did that and I can attest to the power of identifying and hiring to core values. Our ability to do that one thing consistently has made a huge difference in the acceleration and stability of our business.”
Brian Wolff, President & CEO at Parker Technology
Focus on What Is Working
“Don’t let what didn’t work about your last gig be the only driver as you define your new startup’s values. While past experience certainly has much to teach us, building core values solely from workplace trauma can be a recipe for reactionary disaster. Look more closely at what did work – it probably wasn’t ALL bad when you get under the hood. And when in doubt, focus forward, leaning into advice from trusted people who understand people at least as much or more than they understand business.”
Heather Jackson, CEO at iXplore
Talk to Your Customers
“Talk to your customer base and seek to understand what values they are most attracted to in the industry. Ask them why. As a startup, you can find your core values by often filling the gaps or blind spots of the competitors. You might be surprised by the rapport and trust you will gain from your customers by simply asking their opinion.”
Jason Bobay, President at Recovery Force Health
Wait for Core Values to Organically Emerge
“I think it’s silly when startups say, “These were our core values from day one.” We waited 1 year at The Juice. We focused on hiring high quality individuals and then let our core values organically emerge. It was crazy how aligned the founding team was after working together for 12 months. It feels more true and more personal now.”
Jonathan Gandolf, Founder & CEO at The Juice
To write effective core values of a company, keep them concise, memorable, and action-oriented. Use clear and concise language that resonates with your team and stakeholders. For example, instead of simply stating “Integrity,” you could express it as “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” This creates a powerful and relatable statement that inspires everyone to embody the value.
Work With Your Team to Create Shared Team Values
Creating core values is not a one-person task; it requires the collective wisdom and perspectives of your entire team. Involving your team in the process of defining core values fosters a sense of ownership and empowers them to live by those values.
Encourage Team Members to Share Their Ideas
“Start by involving everyone in the process. Encourage your team to share their ideas about the company’s mission, vision, and principles. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and belonging and ensures that the values are truly representative. Also aim to keep values clear, actionable, and authentic, resonating with the reality of your work and team. Then be sure to integrate these values into daily operations, decision-making, and recognition to foster a value-driven culture.”
Meg Hovious, Founder at Here
Host a Team Values Workshop
“Brainstorm and work with your team through a session (or few!) to establish those Core values. Think about what matters most to your team and your customers. Our team did so over a few hour session, utilizing the Traction: EOS Method. By having them contribute to the process, you’re able to bring diverse perspectives, foster a sense of ownership, and receive input from the team as a whole before finalizing your values.”
Jeff Biberdorf, Director of Sales & Marketing at Fontus Blue
Get Agreement on Company Values From Your Team
“Keep it REAL – Make sure the whole Senior Team agrees, buys in and pushes each other to demonstrate the values with their teams. If you’re all pulling together, clear values will help you focus & move faster.”
Rhonda Rodenbaugh, VP of People and Administration at REIN
By involving your team, you not only gain a diverse range of viewpoints but also foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration. Together, you can co-create a core values statement that truly represent the essence of your startup.
Questions To Ask To Determine Company Core Values
To identify and determine your company’s core values, ask yourself and your team the following questions:
- What do we stand for as a startup?
- What principles and beliefs guide our decision-making?
- What behaviors and qualities do we value in our team members?
- What impact do we want to have on our customers and community?
- What makes us unique and sets us apart from others in the industry?
What Impact Do You Want to Drive?
“What unique impact will you & your team drive in society? From answering this, you will be able to derive the values that act as a beacon for your team and your market strategy.”
JohnGabriel Nguyen-Truong, CEO & Founder at Xphera
By reflecting on these questions, you can uncover the core values that are authentic to your startup and aligned with its mission and vision.
How to Put Core Values Into Practice
Once you’ve gone through the process of creating core values, it’s essential to infuse them into every aspect of your startup.
Begin your core values implementation plan by integrating them into your hiring process. Evaluate candidates based not only on their skills and experience but also on their alignment with your values. During onboarding, emphasize your core values and provide examples of demonstrating values in the workplace.
To truly embed core values into your startup’s DNA, ensure they are reinforced in your day-to-day operations. Sharing a list of core values, how to promote values and practices, and creative ways to display company values may help. Incorporate values into performance evaluations, employee recognition programs, and team meetings.
If you are introducing core values to employees at a large company, it may make sense to host a team values and behaviours workshop or a team values exercise. Encourage open discussions about how core values examples are being demonstrated and provide opportunities for employees to share stories and examples of living the values.
Create Space for Team Members to Recognize Each Other
“Keep it simple, practical, living and breathing. The worst thing you can do is create the core values, and it becomes a historical artifact (poster on the wall or on Google Sheets). The best thing you can do is create rhythms for people to engage the values, and “catch each other” living into them. Give space for teammates to share this publicly, whether it’s through Slack or team meetings.”
Daniel Fuller, Partner at FullStack
Apply Company Values in Training and Decision-Making
“Defining company values? Be authentic. Values should echo your firm’s core beliefs and aspirations. Involve your team in the process—it builds ownership and reflects collective ethos. For implementation, regularly share these values, integrate them in training, and use them in decision-making. Thus, values aren’t mere wall declarations but guiding principles for your company culture and strategy. Authenticity and consistent practice are crucial.”
Emily Finkelstein, Founder & CEO at VentureXpert Advisors
Evolve Core Values Over Time
“Wait to define your core values until after you have have some results to show your success in collaboration. PureInsights waited over a year after we founded, had revenue and were cashflow positive to ask “what values got us here?” You might not have to wait that long and, when you are ready, it was one of the most exciting and insightful conversations we had in the early days! Values change over time, such as moving from the initial founders to your first hire so keep revisiting them.”
Rick McGlinchey, Co-Founder at PureInsights
Live Out Your Core Values in Every Aspect of the Business
“When defining your values, look around. The best values are universal, not unique. Draw from the best role models you can find (companies or individuals) and put your own twist on it. When it comes to implementing, just constantly reinforce them in every aspect of your business- customers, suppliers, employees, etc. And don’t just talk about them, live them.”
Joshua Hollingsworth, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg
The workplace values examples and core values examples for business below can serve as inspiration for creating team values of your own.
Company Values Examples
Core values can vary widely depending on your startup’s mission, vision, and culture. Here are a few examples of company values and examples of core values in the workplace that can inspire you:
“One of our core values is Continuous Learning: “…We will learn from our mistakes and share feedback. We will pursue outside learning opportunities to stay sharp and fully engaged.” It resonates with me because it makes learning actionable, not a passive experience we write into budgets for professional development. Further, it encourages our team members to learn, report back, and implement new ideas. We all get to benefit from each other’s learning experiences.”
Lauren Littlefield, Director of Marketing at ADVISA
“Healthy obsession is a common theme I hear amongst innovators. It is a step beyond passion. If we’re going to solve the complex challenges facing our world from health to climate it will take a special kind of focus and collaboration across industries to see it through.”
Ray Fraser, CEO at Vital View Technologies
Be Kind, Curious, Yourself – and Play to Win
“Be Kind, Curious, Yourself – and Play to Win. I think these values represent a good duality between caring about yourself, your colleagues, and your customers, and also bringing the energy and mentality needed to push a start-up forward.”
Rory Billing, Founder & CEO at The Fan’s Place
Commitment to Growth
“Our company’s core value of “Commitment to Growth” represents our dedication to continuous improvement, learning, and embracing new opportunities. It encourages innovation, adaptability and fosters resilience and perseverance, turning setbacks into learning opportunities in life and early stage companies. Our commitment empowers us to remain at the forefront of industry trends and providing innovative solutions -ultimately, driving our success.”
Steve Iskander, Founder at Intrepid Finance
Company values are often the foundation upon which successful organizations are built. They define the culture, behaviors, and direction of the organization, creating a shared sense of purpose and guiding decision-making.
By understanding the meaning and importance of core values, involving your team in their creation, and aligning them with your leadership, you can build a startup that thrives on a strong foundation of values.
Embrace the transformative power of setting and implementing company values, and watch as your startup flourishes and makes a lasting impact.
We hope this guide to company values from the community will help you explore different company cultures in the Unvalley—or even create your own company values.
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