Many companies proudly display their core values, but in practice those values are often just marketing. To determine whether your core values are honest or just rhetoric, ask yourself this one simple question:
Would you adhere to your values even if they created a competitive disadvantage?
If a company is not willing to sacrifice for its values, that company will make promises it cannot keep and will lose its way when times are tough. On the other hand, companies willing to sacrifice for their values will put themselves at a disadvantage in the short term. Over the long term, however, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
At Gravity, we have three core values, and each has put us at a competitive disadvantage. Our first core value is responsibility. One of the ways we operate with responsibility is we don't pay sales commissions. This leads to fewer deals, but it helps us maintain focus on our clients' needs instead of just our own. Oftentimes, our sales reps don't close deals because they are focusing on current clients or mentoring other Gravity team members. Failing to pay commissions puts us at a disadvantage, but we do it because that's our definition of responsibility.
Our second core value is creative leadership. We lived this value when we implemented a $70,000 minimum wage at Gravity. The downsides to this policy have been well documented. We increased payroll, our largest expense, and significantly increased the cost of bringing on entry-level team members. None of our competitors have these challenges. We put the company at risk for what could have been a very small upside.
Our third core value is passion for progress. Three years ago, we implemented a program of unlimited paid time off. Progress for us was for every employee to become the boss of his or her own career. The freedom generated by our new vacation policy was in line with this transformation. As a result, we can no longer force people to be in the office or keep their butt in a seat. We have to work harder to staff our departments. Managers are often frustrated with the scheduling challenges associated with this policy. Long absences are not uncommon. A strict vacation policy would alleviate many of these issues, but that would not be in line with our passion for progress.
Staying true to our values gives us purpose. It brings clarity to difficult decisions, and it attracts a strong community of individuals who value authenticity, rather than deceit. What values would you uphold even if they put you at a competitive disadvantage? Follow those values, embrace the obstacles they cause, and watch your company thrive.