In the competitive landscape of the financial services sector, establishing a solid foundation for your business is essential for long-term success. One crucial element that often goes overlooked is the development of a set of company values. While commonly associated with large corporations, the significance of values extends to small businesses, especially in financial advice firms. In this article, we will explore why creating company values is vital for financial services businesses and how to effectively implement and leverage them for maximum impact.
Why Company Values Matter
In the financial services sector, where trust and integrity are paramount, having well-defined company values becomes even more critical. These values serve as guiding principles that shape the behaviour and decisions of everyone within the organization. They provide a framework for ethical conduct, set the tone for interactions with clients, and establish a unique identity for your business. By articulating your values, you create a shared understanding among your team members and reinforce the principles that drive your organization forward.
Authenticity Over Platitudes
Creating values that are real and meaningful is essential. Rather than crafting vague and clichéd statements, focus on values that reflect the core of your business and align with the aspirations and beliefs of your leadership team. In following the Code of Ethics, every financial adviser needs to “always act in a way that demonstrates, realises and promotes” the values of Trustworthiness, Competence, Honesty, Fairness and Diligence.
Before you go rushing to include the industry favourites – ‘Integrity’ and ‘Honesty’ in your list of values, take a second thought about what those words actually mean, and whether or not they evoke an emotional response or a true connection from your team. We’d argue that you’re better to use phrases that reflect the personality and culture of your firm, to bring these qualities to life.
There’s no magic number as to how many values a firm ‘should’ have. The ‘Less is more’ concept works here, in light of the fact that ideally, your team members should be able to remember all of your values easily. Many experts will say 5-6 values is ideal, and yet we often find that when we’re running a workshop, it’s really hard to strike off some values that feel important. Often we’ll land on 8-10, before we start getting creative and help owners to capture what’s most important into their unique set of statements, to then land on 5 or 6 that they love. We’ve also helped firms that ended up with 8 perfect values – the moral of the story here is that the number is less important than the power and authenticity of your value statements. When we refined our values at Elixir, we determined that ‘Do the right thing’ was our value that brought to life our commitment to integrity, fairness and equity. One of our clients, who deal mostly with farmers and whose Principals were all brought up in the country chose ‘Down to Earth’ as their first core value.
When we work with a firm, we’ll often define the ‘Values seeds’ with the Principals and Leadership team initially, and then involve the broader team in the process of building out these values. We note though – while the perspectives of your entire team should be considered, the final say should rest with the business principals to maintain alignment with the overall vision for the business.
How to maximise the benefits of documenting your Values
Once your values are clearly articulated and documented, they become a powerful tool for enhancing various aspects of your business. Here are some ways that you can maximise the benefits of this exercise:
- Guiding Behaviours and enhancing your culture.
Values act as a compass, guiding your team’s daily actions and decision-making processes. They shape the behaviours and mindsets that everyone embraces, fostering a positive and productive work culture.
- Expanding on your documented Values by developing a comprehensive “Living our Values” document that clearly outlines the expected behaviours and mindsets, will create a shared understanding of how values manifest in daily operations, thus enhancing your organisational culture from within. It is crucial to involve your entire team in the design process of this document to encourage buy-in and foster a genuine understanding of what your values truly mean.
- To ensure that your values remain impactful and relevant, it is important to regularly revisit the document in engaging and meaningful ways with your team. This practice keeps your values front-of-mind, serving as a guiding light for your employees in their decision-making and actions. By incorporating fun activities and discussions around your values, you create a dynamic and engaging environment that reinforces the importance of living by those values, promoting a strong and positive culture throughout your business.
- Including a reference to your values in your team’s Balanced Scorecards and discussing them in each staff review will help embed them, and allow individual team members to deepen their knowledge of and commitment to living your values.
- Conducting annual staff surveys focused on your values can help gauge employee morale and provide valuable insights into how well the business is adhering to its stated values.
- Recruitment and Induction: Your company values should play a pivotal role in attracting and selecting the right talent. Candidates who resonate with your values are more likely to align with your business goals and contribute to a cohesive team. Including a discussion on your values in your interviews and making alignment a key part of your hiring decision is a vital step to selecting the right talent. Incorporating your ‘Living your Values’ document as part of the induction process will help all team members start off on the right foot, embracing and living your values from day one.
- Ongoing Evaluation: Refresh your values every few years to assess their relevance and ensure they continue to drive your business forward. While your Values are unlikely to change frequently, you may find they evolve along with other changes that occur to your business, mindset, culture and people.
- Moral Compass for decision-making: When your values are documented and agreed upon, they can become a trusted moral compass to stress-test key decisions made in your business. When faced with difficult choices or ethical dilemmas, referring back to your values ensures that decisions align with the principles and beliefs your company stands for. This practice helps maintain consistency and integrity, fostering a culture of accountability and responsible decision-making. By using your values as a moral compass, you can navigate complex situations with confidence, reinforcing your commitment to ethical conduct within the financial services sector.
- External Visibility: Displaying your values on your website demonstrates transparency and reinforces your commitment to ethical conduct. Prospective clients and partners can gain a clearer understanding of your business principles, fostering trust and credibility. You can see how we’ve done that with our Elixir values here, as an example.
Take Action and Leverage the Power of Values
If you haven’t yet articulated your values, or it’s time to refresh them, get your team together and get creative! If you prefer to have an independent facilitator to help draw them out with you, our coaches can facilitate the process, providing expert guidance to ensure your values align with your business objectives.
To get started on your journey to creating impactful company values, reach out to us today. Together, let’s pave the way for a thriving financial services business rooted in authenticity, trust, and a shared sense of purpose.