Our recent articles describe why you need a clear, complete and compelling Vision. Vision has two parts: The Core Ideology and the Envisioned Future. The Core Ideology spells out who you are, describing your character as an organization, by specifically looking at why you’re working toward that particular goal, and how you’re going to behave along the way. The Envisioned Future spells out where you’re going, your big goals and dreams. It also provides clarification about how you’ll know when you get there and what life will be like for you and your company once you arrive. Collectively, this Vision allows you to live in the present with hope. You’re able to remember the reason you’re working so hard and why it matters.
You must first and foremost run a company out of who you are; that’s a foundational aspect of being a Passion & Provision company. That sense of identity is defined through your Core Ideology.
Your Core Ideology defines the heart and soul of your business. It answers the questions:
- What is your character as a company?
- What core principles and values will you hold on to tightly as you grow and change?
- What’s non-negotiable about how you operate your business?
- What are you doing as a business? (Phrased as a simple, straightforward statement.)
Many areas of business must change and adapt over time, but your Core Ideology should anchor you in the midst of those changes. These principles should never change, even if it means you have to abandon your market or decline to step into an area of possible growth because it conflicts with who you are as a company.
You have to define your Core Ideology first before you envision a future. Why? Because identity needs to be formed before direction is chosen if you want the best and most efficient path to a Passion & Provision company.
To understand the importance of starting with identity, imagine a team of people who want to create an entertainment company. Now, imagine that they skip the Core Ideology and go straight to their Envisioned Future, picturing themselves on the Vegas strip. They start making calls and doing the legwork to set up that location for their business. Then after all that work, imagine that they get around to forming their Core Ideology and realize that they have a value for wholesome entertainment. There goes the Vegas Strip BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), right down the sewer.
The Core Ideology provides boundaries for your company to help direct and fuel its growth. It’s made up of two components: your Core Values and your Core Purpose. When taken together, the Core Values and Core Purpose will form the crux of your business leadership: they’ll provide the ideology that directs every move.
You can think of those two boundaries—the Core Values and Core Purpose—as the two banks of a river, funneling your direction forward and channeling your power. Historically, when engineers have strengthened the boundaries of rivers prone to flood by building up levies, the surrounding communities have experienced more prosperity, more efficiency, and greater usefulness of their resource.
The Core Values and Core Purpose are like two banks of a river, funneling your direction forward and channeling your power.
We can testify to this personally: several years ago, one of our elderly neighbors told us that he remembers when there was a foot of water at our house, decades earlier, because of the Sacra- mento River flooding. We live ten miles from the river. Flooding isn’t an issue in our neighborhood anymore because of the engineering changes that have been made to raise the banks of the river.
The boundaries create more power, safety, and allow for more development. The same is true when forming the boundaries for your company described by the Core Ideology.
The boundaries of your Vision’s Core Ideology are formed by your Core Values and your Core Purpose. When implemented properly, they can enhance your business’s efficiency, prosperity, reputation, longevity, and power. They keep the right things in, and they keep the wrong things out. Let’s take a closer look at both.
A few years ago we had a doctor as a client and had recently rebuilt his website. One day the website’s traffic completely disappeared. He called up our office manager and began railing against her. He accused us of being incompetent, untrustworthy, and unethical. “I don’t know what you people are doing out there,” he raged, “but you are wrecking our business!”
Our office manager got off the phone with our client and her face was white as a ghost. She’d felt attacked and shaken by his accusations. Normally when a client experiences an issue like this, there’s a first step of looking into the problem: was it an issue with Google? Can we manage an easy fix? What happened? But this client had jumped straight to the assumption that we were incompetent and untrustworthy, and he yelled as much into the ears of our office manager.
Trust is one of our Core Values at Half a Bubble Out. If this client didn’t trust us, then we didn’t have anything to build on. The client had also violated a second Core Value of ours: kindness. He’d gone after trust, and he’d done it in a mean way. For us, that was a deal-breaker.
Within an hour, we shot him an email and explained we would no longer be working with him. We told him that his treatment of our employee was completely inappropriate, and we wouldn’t allow anyone to treat our staff in that way, and therefore we’ve determined our business partnership is no longer a good fit for either one of us.
Did that mean a loss in revenue? Yes. He was a significant client, and we had come to rely on the income he provided. But despite what we gained from him in profit, we knew that his breach of our Core Values would lead to a negative net value in working with him. So, we fired him.
This particular story has a happy ending: our client called us after receiving the email, apologized, and acknowledged that he’d flown off the handle. He said he hadn’t meant what he’d said and asked us if we would take him back. We agreed and we were able to repair the relationship as well as his website. We dug in and discovered that the website issue was due to a surprise update that Google released that rocked the internet world at that time. And ironically, his traffic loss was because he had engaged another company before us who actually had been unethical in their SEO practices. The update that Google released effectively uncovered this and shut his website down. We were able to have several more years of a fruitful business relationship—during which, our client never again violated our values of trust and kindness.
Your Core Values articulate the deeply held principles that guide your business’s operations. In that way, they also act as boundaries; they form one side of the river’s banks when creating your company’s Core Ideology.
Without Core Values in place, a situation like what we just described with a lucrative client could have led us to make all kinds of unhealthy compromises. What if we hadn’t had the clarity of our Core Values and decided that we couldn’t risk losing this client? How would our office manager have felt if we did nothing to push against the treatment she’d received? How would that have impaired our trust as a staff? And what kind of treatment would we have continued to endure from the client if he hadn’t been put in his place? We would have continued to make money— but at a serious loss all around.
We learned how crucial Core Values are when we let clients walk all over us during the “rapid growth” days of Half a Bubble Out. In those early days, it was just scary to think about losing any business, but as we solidified our values that began to change, we got more selective about who we wanted to work with. When we hold ourselves, our staff, and our clients accountable to uphold our Core Values, everyone’s happier doing business together. Our employees understand that we will protect them, which helps them thrive in their roles. Customers like working with us, because they trust us. And we, as the leaders of our business, can feel good about how we’re operating.
When we decisively fired our client, our employees got a clear picture of just how important our Core Values are. This story has become lore in our company, with every new employee learning about it fairly early in their tenure. Our staff knows that not only will they benefit from our Core Values, they’re also expected to live into our Core Values. And what are those Core Values (We’ve already mentioned the first two):
- Trust, because it helps people perform with greater competence and character. Trust also increases the speed of decision making, and decreases the cost of decisions, allowing us to do more with less resources. When trust goes down, it bleeds money from the company, causes discord, and creates all kinds of other problems.
- Kindness, because kindness matters. We want to honor the dignity of those we work with and we believe they should honor our dignity as well. Kindness helps everyone’s morale, leading to greater creativity and productivity. Plus, it makes work a nicer place to be.
- Community, because we believe that no one gets to clarity alone. We’ll be able to truly learn and grow when we seek out community in the form of peers, mentors and coaches.
- Authenticity, because we want to make sure we stay true to who we are both personally and professionally. We sometimes refer to this as WYSIWYG, a term from the early days of computers—what you see is what you get!
- Fun, because we love to laugh. We spend most of our waking lives at work, and we want to enjoy ourselves while we do it.
So, know your core values and they will guide you as you build a Passion & Provision company.