establishing core values establishing core values

Establishing core values for your business with Jay Steinfeld

Establishing core values and business success.

In this interview with Jay Steinfeld, founder and former CEO of, 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 versus business goals 

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.


Core values in action 

Our values at 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.


What’s more important – functional skill or core value? 

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.



Core values, communication, and employees 

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.


Core values: dos and don’ts 

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:    

  • Vague values
    Your values need to help employees understand how to behave. If your values are vague, you won’t accomplish that goal. Again, the expected behavior needs to be clear.
  • Values don’t align with reality
    Your values need to be true to your company. Sometimes people establish values based on what they want their company to be (an aspiration), but not on how they are operating in reality. You have to change the value to match the company or you can use it as a wake-up call to change your company. Then you have set up protocols to operate according to those values. 
  • Copied values
    You have to do a lot of introspection to establish values and you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes people just copy values from other companies because they like them or because they sound good. But you have to live your values.
  • Untrackable values
    Going back to an earlier point, you have to set up protocols to help employees live out the values. You must also have a process to evaluate whether that is happening or not. 
  • Too many values
    Too many values can be confusing for employees and more difficult to measure.


Tips for creating core values

  • Be honest about how you expect your company and employees to operate
  • If you already have a company, evaluate your successes and failures and look for common threads
  • Run your core values by people who know you and your company well; people who will be honest with you. Sometimes, what you think is a core value isn’t one. For example, I initially thought being a pioneer was a core value, but with more introspection and talking it through with people I know, I discovered what I really wanted us to value was experimentation.


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, Founder and Former CEO,

In this article series, we will explore the reasons why it’s important to define why you are starting your business, how to define your core values, how to build a team from the ground up, and how to retain employees.

— Jay Steinfeld, Founder and Former CEO,

About Jay Steinfeld

Jay Steinfeld founded and was the CEO of, the world’s number one online window covering retailer. Boot-strapped in 1996 for just $3,000 from his Bellaire, Texas, garage, 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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