In this interview with Jay Steinfeld, founder and former CEO of Blinds.com, we cover what core values are, how they can help your business be more efficient and profitable, and do’s and don’ts to consider while establishing them.
According to Jay, his small window covering business took off as soon as he understood his core values and started leading his business based on them. He believes establishing core values is such a valuable task for any business, that he even wrote a book on the subject: Lead from the Core: The 4 Principles for Profit and Prosperity.
Core values and business goals are not one and the same. A business goal is what you are trying to accomplish, while a core value helps define the attributes and approach to how you will reach your goals. Core values are what your company culture is based on and what helps create synergy across your company.
Our values at Blinds.com were to: evolve continuously, experiment without fear of failure, express yourself, and enjoy the ride. When we interviewed new candidates, we would ask them behavioral questions to see if they exemplified our core values. If their answers didn’t match our core values, we wouldn’t hire them. It didn’t matter how great their functional skills were. They simply wouldn’t fit in. Core values help create alignment within your team. We used the core values during employee evaluations and I would host a one-hour session on the core values during new hire orientation.
You need both. We looked for people with skills to do the particular job, but core values served as a tie breaker. You will find lots of people that have done that type of job before, but only a few of them will also have the right combination of values you are looking for.
Employees want to feel secure. Clear communication supports that. Core values provide clear guidelines to employees on how they are expected to behave. When you hire based on your established core values and those values are clearly communicated, you increase the chances of better employee retention. Your company also gets easier to manage.
Good core values lead to better employee retention, profitability, and make management a lot simpler and more fun. But just because you establish values, doesn’t mean they are automatically going to work. You can pick values that sound good or are good in general, but are wrong for your company. Based on my experience and observation, establishing the following kinds of values won’t work:
Once you establish your core values, be sure to set up mechanisms to help employees act on the values and managers evaluate performance.
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Jay Steinfeld founded and was the CEO of Blinds.com, the world’s number one online window covering retailer. Boot-strapped in 1996 for just $3,000 from his Bellaire, Texas, garage, Blinds.com was acquired by The Home Depot in 2014.
Jay remained as its CEO and later joined The Home Depot Online Leadership Team. Jay teaches entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Jay’s book, “Lead from the Core: The 4 Principles for Profit and Prosperity” is a Wall Street Journal Best Seller.
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