Organizational Values : Decide on your business guiding principles

As we continue with strategic planning, and build on the previous article on formulation of an organizational mission statement and how to answer the big questions “what do you do” , today we are focused on organizational values.

Business is very tricky, and without guiding principles that hold you accountable, you can easily lose your footing.

For example;

according to research, a greater proportion of  South African entrepreneurs are survivalist business owners – meaning they primarily got into business to fight unemployment and have food to put on the table.

And working on a hungry stomach can lead you to temptations.

South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem can squeeze the life out of you – gate keepers are corrupt and resources are limited.

Now what happens when you are hungry and the only thing standing between you and receiving business support is a brown envelope?

Conditions in SA make everyone prone to corrupt activities, however that doesn’t exempt anyone from making choices – to give the brown envelope or not to give.

Values are what will help you make the right choices for your business.

Values form part of your corporate culture – the guiding principles that you live by and govern how you do business.

From the onset you have to establish what is acceptable and not in your business operations. And all that must be displayed in how you do business.

Big mistake: I’ve observed business owners copying and pasting values. Keywords such as Integrity, Customer Services, Strong Ethical Values, People, Teamwork, make rounds in many businesses’ list of values.

Let’s break it down;

When you list Integrity as part of your core values, you are making a promise to say you will do the right thing even when no one is watching.

You said you value customer service, but you dismiss customer complaints.

Now here’s the punchline: What is important to you in business?

Hint: Your organizational values come from why you exist as a business, and your own personal values (you can rarely separate your own values from those of your business).

For example; at KM – Consulting and Development Services we value results and practical solutions (that’s in line with why we exist – to keep businesses in business), and also Kindness is important to us – towards all the stakeholders from employees to clients (that comes from my personal values).  

One of the key questions I pose to anyone who wants to join our company is this:

Can you pass by R10 000 in a brown envelope and work the next 3 years on an empty stomach?

That’s where I’ve been, so I need to understand we are on the same page when it comes to values.


  • What is important to you?
  • What values guide how you do business?
  • What are your non-negotiables?

This article is bound to force you to face yourself. Do not be hard on yourself. If you used to go against your values for the sake of getting contracts, you can change the trajectory today – you can build a new foundation.  

I hope this helps you build an organization that thrive without sacrificing yourself.

Tomorrow we are continuing with strategic planning and I will tackle organizational objectives, which are business performance targets. And we will categorize them using the Balanced Scorecard. This part will guide you on how to set targets for your business.

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