HERE’S the honest answer to today’s question:  Anywhere and everywhere!

OK, I realize that’s not especially helpful.

With my clients, I tend to distinguish between VALUES and GOALS.  A goal is something which you can achieve, and may periodically change.  Not too often, mind you, lest your employees get frustrated with the rate of change.

A value, on the other hand, is going to be stable, and in a sense, can never be perfectly achieved.  That’s why I call it foundational.  You’re never going to be able to treat your customers or employees absolutely perfect – and if you did, you’d want to continue that perfection unchanged.  You’re never going to have a perfect relationship with God, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to strive for it every day.

Your company’s values, then, stem directly from the owner’s deep convictions and outlook.  As you grow and develop, and as ownership changes, it can affect this foundation.  But when that happens, it can be a huge earthquake to managers and employees who have built their lives (or work lives, at least) around your business.

The most important values come from the things that the owner would never negotiate on:  “I wouldn’t even bother starting the company if we sacrificed that.”  This often includes morals and ethics, especially for people who are reading this blog.  Some are strong enough in their religious beliefs that they may add those into the mix.

As you might know, I worked for a large computer firm for over three decades.  When I first joined, a core philosophy was that this company never had layoffs.  This stemmed from a firm belief by the founders that this rigor would force them to make more intelligent decisions in hiring, and that it would create world-class employee loyalty.

It did.

But that world was shattered in the 1990s after changes in leadership, a market downturn, and pressures from the stock market.  Layoffs were instituted under various names, and continue to this day.

What I saw as an employee and manager in this company was devastating.  The largest casualty, of course, was employee loyalty, but that’s rippled into decreased customer service, unclear direction at many levels, even unethical and illegal activities.  That’s not all due to just layoffs, of course, but the entire corporate culture is very sick.

That’s what happens when you rock the foundation.   It can, and does, kill companies.

The lesson?  Choose wisely.  It really, really matters.