How to Run a Company That’s Aligned With Your Values

Women business owners share how creating a values-aligned company can ultimately bring you long-term success

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As a business owner, having a set of values and executing on that set of values are two very different things. Setting values is usually exciting and inspiring, while executing on them requires hard work and commitment. Add in managing a team and customer acquisition, and it’s clear that running a successful, values-aligned company is no easy feat. Even so, many founders are setting an incredible example of how to do just that.

To show what’s possible, I tapped into the Dreamers & Doers collective to learn how 18 women business owners are leading their companies to success with strong values and an unwavering commitment to them. Their responses provide a glimpse into the positive results that can come from investing in a values-aligned company.

Get Those Who Wholeheartedly Believe in Your Values On-Board

Your customers, users, or community should believe in your core values just as much as you do. It’s what makes your brand and community that much stronger. Oftentimes you will have to pass on growth opportunities that do not align with your values. You may have partnerships or investors that seem like great opportunities at face value, but after some digging, you realize it won’t be authentic or aligned. I have gotten comfortable with listening to my intuition and saying no, and it has done me wonders.”

— Ashima Sharma, Founder of Dreami

Clearly Define Your Values and Ideal Partners

“An essential aspect in running a values-aligned company is ensuring that each value is clearly defined in word and in practice, and that human beings are regularly reminded and held accountable to those values at all times. I have a tendency to want to work with everyone, and I have realized that when there isn’t alignment on values, the work we do together is almost always harder and less effective. To address this, we are hyper-focused on our “ideal partner” and are intentional about communicating about the way we work and our expectations for working relationships from day one.”

— Marissa Badgley, CEO & Founder of Reloveution, LLC

Build Your Company With Long-Term Goals in Mind

“As a startup founder, it can be hard to reconcile values and financial decisions at times. As long as you can keep the lights on, build for the long term. Keep your customers as your North Star, and your authenticity will shine through.”

— Annelise Hillmann, Co-Founder & CEO of FRONTMAN

Only Work With Clients Whose Values Align With Yours

By practicing what you preach, you’ll set an example that self-awareness is a strength, not a weakness. There’s sometimes a tradeoff between revenue and values. If I have a team to pay alongside a potential client with dubious values who requests my high-end services, what do I do? It’s tough to make that decision. Fortunately, I’m now in a position where I can choose to work with a client or not. But when I’ve been broke, I’ve taken on work I wouldn’t do today.” 

— Allison McGuire, Founder & Creator of The McGuire Method

Connect Your “Why” to Your Company’s Values

When you are first starting a company, you often are reacting and working quickly with what is in front of you. It took a lot of time to step back and connect the dots as to why I started my company and how my values were impacting and shaping the work we were doing, the talent we were attracting, and everything we did.”

— Jolene Delisle, Founder and Head of Brand Creative of The Working Assembly

Separate Yourself From Your Company

Getting clear on your values—and embedding them into your business strategy—is more about choosing what to say ‘no’ to than what to say ‘yes’ to. Your mission and vision may change as the business evolves, but your values will guide the way. As a heart-centered entrepreneur with ‘service’ as a value, it’s been challenging to uphold clear boundaries and stay within project scopes. I’ve had to learn to separate myself from my business, and create strong processes that serve our clients, the business, and myself.”

— Robyn Hounjet, Founder & CEO of Studio Co.Creative

Put Intentional Thought Behind Choosing Your Company’s Values

Give the value component some good thought. Here’s why: a third of your life will be spent at work so the opportunity to be purposeful about it matters. Ask yourself: what are the values I want to fill my day with? If you’re intentional about the DNA of your company, it’ll be much easier to incorporate it into your day-to-day, hire the right people, make the right choice, and establish meaningful relationships with your clients.”

— Xochitl de Groot Ivory, Co-Founder & CEO of SoChill.io™

Lead With a Heart-Centered Approach

Our internal business mission statement is ‘Every interaction exudes warmth.’ What that means to me is that from the first time our clients call the studios all the way through check out, each interaction leaves them with the warm, cozy feeling of being held, seen, and respected. We also want warm interactions that come from a true place of care. One challenge we’ve had to overcome is getting new hires out of the normal mode of more transactional responses and into the heart-centered place of connection with our team and customers. Having clear communication, honest conversations, and lots of support during the on-boarding process has really helped with this.”

— Rachel Beider, CEO of PRESS Modern Massage

Explicitly Display Your Values

Values-based leaders should continuously assess how each value shows up in every situation. My biggest challenge early on in running a values-based company was finding partners who resonated with our values. I reminded myself that these values were core to creating the successful business that I wanted and was more explicit about those values in everything I did. This made my values not just a feel-good, personal, nice to have but a critical reason for the success of my business.”

— Yewande Faloyin, Founder & CEO of OTITỌ Leadership Coaching & Consulting

Find Ways to Clearly Communicate Your Values

“If you’re looking to run a values-based company, I suggest knowing your target customer first. Running a values-based business means that you communicate your values to the client, and they experience those values in our service. One of our values is ‘helpful’—this means that we often sneak out of scope in order to support our values and be helpful to clients. Often clients don’t see this as a value, so we have added a resource—a project manager—to reiterate the value when we go above and beyond. It’s like a values translator who can identify where the client’s getting more for their money, and it keeps them coming back for more.”

— Lauren Doyle, President of The Booster Club

Give Your Company Relatable, Human-Like Qualities

As small business owners, we have an upside in the sense that we can literally create a brand that is an extension of our personal values from the very beginning. Your key values will also help you stand out among your competitors. My main advice is to not be afraid to give your brand human-like qualities that make it relatable and empathetic.”

— Far Momin, Founder of She Plants Love

Put in the Effort to Uphold Your Values

When short-term priorities get in the way of values, it’s easy to veer from the culture you’re trying to create. For example, an espoused value might be to empower and uplift—but on a tight deadline, everyone becomes a micromanager. Internally and with clients, we address the intangibles that set values up to succeed, coach for clear and thoughtful communication, and do our best to model core values every day. Sometimes, that means speaking up when values get blurred or taking ownership before things go awry.”

— Ellie Hearne, Founder of Pencil or Ink

Lead With Intentionality From the Start

There are trade-offs for everything. In our case, instead of growing quickly, our business model favors long-term goals and relationships. Sustainable growth takes time, and grace and spaciousness are essential parts of that. In my view, running a values-based company isn’t actually challenging, per se—it just requires a lot of intentionality. It feels easier to create a values-based culture from the start because then everyone on your team has actively sought out that type of environment. So our biggest challenge is really holding ourselves accountable to those values, while unlearning other ways of working. Of course, as a CEO, everyone always seems to need something, and I get frustrated and overwhelmed like everyone else. If I don’t take the space to slow down and be mindful about how I engage, I likely won’t be upholding our values. So the biggest challenge for me is accepting the reality that being a values-based company takes time, space, and intention.”

— Kellie Wagner, Founder & CEO of Collective DEI

Go the Extra Mile to Bring Across Your Values

Our core values are transparency and accessibility. Our mission is to provide legal services that do not feel scary and are an added value to our clients. We do this through transparent billing, prompt communications, and a commitment to education as well as by honoring these values for our employees as well as our clients. We check in to make sure each business decision aligns with these values. The biggest challenge has been going against the norm in the legal industry. Many of our clients have had difficult experiences with attorneys and it takes extra effort to overcome their preconceived notions.”

— Jamie Lieberman, Founder and owner of Hashtag Legal

Keep Your Values at the Forefront When Making Decisions

Make sure you’re making decisions based on your values—whether that has to do with which suppliers you choose, who you hire, or how you market your business. The only way to run a values-based company is to constantly remind yourself of your values and how they play a role in achieving your mission or vision. Running a values-based company means you may not always follow trends or do things the same way as others in your industry.”

— Ada Chen, Founder & CEO of Chuan Skincare

Trust Your Gut and Your Values

Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Avoid looking at what others are doing too much and tune into your gut and your values to create what is meaningful to you. Running a values-based company requires a lot of patience, which can be a challenge for eager and passionate people.”

— Olivia Bowser, Founder and CEO of Liberate

Carefully Analyze Opportunities But Trust Your Gut

Focusing on our mission makes seemingly difficult business decisions much easier, whether it’s changing our offerings to anticipate artists’ needs as the art world undergoes a seismic shift, determining affordable pricing or choosing the organizations and experts with whom we partner. The biggest challenge is having to say “no” so often. There have been business and partnership opportunities that could have improved the company’s bottom line, but were not aligned with our mission or would have diluted our mission. When making these decisions, I believe it’s important to analyze the opportunity and run the numbers, but the answer comes from a gut feeling about whether the opportunity best serves artists.” 

— Melinda Wang, Founder of Ninth Street Collective

Be Realistic and Mindful of Your Own Time

Mindfulness is a key value that is often absent in the venture capital world. We believe creating deep empathy for the founders, their team, our own team, and co-investors allows us to foster a collaborative ecosystem to help us build a better, more equitable world. As a venture capital fund, we’re still subject to prioritizing returns to our limited partners. This means that while we want to help everyone, we do have to be mindful of our own time and resources to double down on the most promising companies. To overcome this, we have a community with resources that any founder of any stage can turn to for help, which operates as a nonprofit.”

— Jessica Karr, General Partner of Coyote Ventures


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