Company Values

A year or so back my dad hired a builder to have a look at the roof of his house, and one of the first things the chap said was:

“I’m as honest as the day is long.”

Now if somebody feels the need to provide his own character reference immediately on meeting you, there’s a good chance he’s as dodgy as they come. I was recently reminded of this when somebody mentioned company values, which I’ve written about before. Every company has a set of values these days, presumably in the same way every tradesman who turns up at your house, takes a look, and sucks air in through his teeth is honest.

What amuses me, though, is company management see fit to assign these values to themselves. I don’t know whether they all sit around a table and come up with them, or they subcontract the job to a marketing firm, but every outfit ends up with pretty much the same set. A company’s values are therefore more about how the management want others to see them rather than a reflection of what the organisation is actually like.

If they’re going to make values a central part of a company’s image, management should really ask their customers, partners, and employers their opinion of what they might be. Instead they persist in assigning flattering values to themselves. There’s a good reason for this, and my dad’s roofer would probably recognise it.

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23 thoughts on “Company Values

  1. I too have immediate suspicions of anyone who volunteers their virtues without anyone asking them. Most entertainingly you can see it with celebrities (actors or sitcom writers) who in their twitter bios or in tweets tell everyone that they ‘care’ and ‘give a shit about the world’ or that they are a ‘good person’. I find those that say those things rarely are and other motives work within them.

    I know you and this parish probably dont like him, but there is a good stewart lee bit about a certain mobile phone company and its company values: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2firijxQOo

  2. but there is a good stewart lee bit about a certain mobile phone company and its company values:

    Heh! Thanks!

  3. The corollary has been my experience of absolute honesty being requested / demanded of me, by individuals who each in their way turned out subsequently to be the least honest people I’ve ever encountered.

  4. I’m sure that in most cases the poor sod who is lumbered with writing that drivel cuts and pastes and barely paraphrases from the websites of similar companies.
    Who would want the soul-destroying job of starting to compose this dross from scratch on a blank sheet of paper?

  5. One of the ads that appeared for me on this page under this article, Tim, was “Considering a career move to HR?”. Rather fitting…

  6. Regardless of how a company arrives at their stated values, who uses it? Would you work for, hire, or invest in any company based upon some set of values they’ve listed on a piece of paper? Would you even believe it?

    The fact that a company goes to any great trouble about this indicates that they might think the useless is worth doing. This might not be the image they’re looking for.

  7. I’m also suspicious of anyone who volunteers stuff like this straight up. Like if a girl goes on a date and the guy says “I’m not one of those violent guys who hits women”, she should run a mile.

    And it always struck me as odd that Google’s motto (now dropped, I note) was ‘Don’t be evil’. Why would you even need to say that? Shouldn’t it be taken as read?

  8. Well, they do say “The more he spoke of his honour the faster we counted the spoons.”
    Tangentially, I do intensely dislike being referred to as “My friend.” by people I’ve only just met. It’s inevitably an indicator they’re furthest from a friend & determined to do me over.
    On second thoughts, maybe I should welcome it as being such a reliable signal. But it’s so difficult to restrain the urge to punch them very hard in the mouth…as a gesture of friendship, of course.

  9. I used to work for a company which had “boundarylessness” as one of its corporate values. I think they paid some consulting firm a fair whack to come up with that. Generally it is a coalition of the worthless – involving HR, marketing and external consultants – that produces this dross.

    I do wonder whether all these ‘values’ are so similar because it is natural for firms to have similar aims, or whether it’s just because it is the same type of wankers dreaming them up.

  10. The corollary has been my experience of absolute honesty being requested / demanded of me, by individuals who each in their way turned out subsequently to be the least honest people I’ve ever encountered.

    Yes, and now I think about it, that doesn’t just apply to honesty.

  11. I used to work for a company which had “boundarylessness” as one of its corporate values.

    *Thumps head on wall*

  12. Tangentially, I do intensely dislike being referred to as “My friend.”

    That happens a lot in the developing world. It’s infuriating.

  13. Why would you even need to say that? Shouldn’t it be taken as read?

    Exactly.

  14. On your dad’s builder the statement implies that the builder was hired, this is important as the value proposition is a marketing technique and done properly it works, that’s why organizations use them. So there was no need for your dads builder to say that, once again in sales when you get the deal you immediately shut up. They are also part of branding which is also important in marketing, this is all and only about generating a sale, post sales it doesn’t matter.

    I have considerable experience in vision, mission and value setting including marketing and branding and done well it works. The trick is to understand what sales copy is and how it works, so that rules out most engineers for starters.

    Right now in my current mob where I hold equity I am particularly proud of our mission (its really mine) which is on most of our marketing documents and is written with the express purpose of convincing our would be client that we will add value to their organisation if they buy from us. It is a single sentence with a total of twenty three words which also butters up to our shareholders and staff as well, I want them to feel loved as well. I just googled searched it and it comes up as the top listing in the world so I can’t share it with you!

    But I could do one for your organisation if you were interested in increasing your market share and revenue.

  15. Right now in my current mob where I hold equity I am particularly proud of our mission (its really mine) which is on most of our marketing documents and is written with the express purpose of convincing our would be client that we will add value to their organisation if they buy from us.

    Nothing wrong with this, or even having values, if they actually reflect the company rather than being meaningless guff some consultant dreamed up.

  16. Like most on here I’ve always been cynical about companies signalling virtue and so was a bit surprised to learn from the Freaky guys there’s something in it

    Like a lot of things in business – meetings for example – they can be good, but often turn into something carried out for the sake of it which have little or no bearing on the task at hand.

  17. No need to spend cash when there are a load of Mission Statement generators for free on the internet

    Ahahaha! Brilliant!

  18. “Nothing wrong with this, or even having values, if they actually reflect the company rather than being meaningless guff some consultant dreamed up.”

    If we can accept that they are solely marketing material, which is all that they are, then they should only reflect your clients needs as they are the target audience, which may not necessarily be a reflection of your company. It someone say they don’t like it, even an employee, it really doesn’t matter as they are making the mistake of thinking that they are the client.

    Your client only wants to know what is in it for them?

  19. Tangentially, I do intensely dislike being referred to as “My friend.”

    That happens a lot in the developing world.

    It’s a pretty good indication that someone is trying to fleece you.

    Chinese and Japanese companies often have highly amusing values and mission statements, mainly due to translation difficulties.

  20. BiND; that is a great link to Freakonomics.

    Slightly surprised that the research they are discussing is so recent.

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