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To the core

Every society has a set of morals by which it functions. They are usually a combination of philosophical and religious values that define how we work, play, love, buy, and sell. They define right and wrong, form the basis of our laws and governmental policy. In short, our culture.

Every individual business also has a culture, whether you have formally defined it, or it has defined itself. Too often, I watch an owner despair because "what it is" doesn't match up with "how it should be." Typically, the biggest problem is that no one has sat down to define the current reality or the ideals that describe who you are, where you are going, and how you will get there.

It's not surprising. Defining these values is hard, soul-baring, mind-bending work. It requires introspection, communication with partners and employees, and usually some tension. But the result is always fulfilling. From that point on, decisions become clearer, actions smoother, and interactions with guests and employees purer.

Many people write a mission statement and then stop. A mission is important, but how you accomplish your mission is just as important as the mission itself. You accomplish your mission by continually measuring everything you do against the values and principles that define your company culture. Recently, a restaurant client was having a great deal of difficulty with a new manager. Complaints from employees, conflicts with other managers and frustration from the owner were the symptoms. We sat down and looked closely at the new manager and the complaints. Then we looked at the core values that the group had agreed upon during a strategic planning session. It was quickly apparent that the new manager did not embody their top core values, and this was creating friction.

Once the problem was defined, the group knew more clearly what steps needed to be taken. They also learned a valuable lesson about hiring people who match up with your core values. By acting according to your values, you will achieve your mission and create success and profitability for your employees and stakeholders.

Try it. Sit down and make sure that the values and principles that guide you are ones you've defined, not that have defined themselves by default. We've provided some sample guiding principles and values developed over the years and a do-it-yourself Core Values Exercise. Feel free to use them as a guide, and craft them into building blocks of a company culture that you believe in to the core.

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