My 5 Core Business Values

Business is the impression of a personality upon the canvas of opportunity. The tools and resources that a person uses can determine the measure of impact that business makes, but tools and resources do not a business make. The people who start and operate the business make the business. A building filled with tools and a bank account flush with cash are nothing without the people to manage it. People make business, and people with solid core values can transform resources into a profitable and impacting force in society. The business rises or falls to the character level of and value level and skill level of those people who own it and operate it.

I am crossing new thresholds in my own business ventures. For many years I have been tied closely to others who called the final shots and determined the direction. I enjoyed great latitude and discretion, but the company was not mine. Now, I am completely on my own, and the business I am building will reflect who I am and what I believe about business.

As I meet with my team of consultants, advisors, and co-workers, we have understood from the beginning that whatever foundation we lay here today will become the template for all that we produce tomorrow. We have identified five core values as our guiding stars: Integrity, intelligence, inspiration, innovation and influence.

I’ve been in business on my own in some form or another since my days in college when I started a commercial kitchen cleaning service. Later, I turned to real estate and operated my own buy and flip rehabbing business. In both of those ventures, my early days were invested in survival. I was not concerned about core values; I was simply trying to stay in business and turn a profit. What I brought to the table was … me.  And I had a high-octane work ethic, a boatload of energy and ideas, a willingness to change and take a risk, along with an appetite for doing things in a first-class manner. Most of those ingredients came from my childhood and upbringing, and I was only vaguely aware of them as my central value system. It was just who I was.

I never sat down and listed my values, nor was I preoccupied with mission statements. I had one employee at the beginning and dozens later. I hired and fired quite impulsively and was not concerned with building good employees. I wanted results… immediately or sooner. I had a couple of good partners and I was mostly concerned with staying in business and returning a healthy profit. And I did. I identified with Phil Knight of Nike fame, who wrote that he just wanted to sell lots of athletic shoes. Knight’s business partners and financiers were terrified at the seeming recklessness with which he operated his fledgling company. The so-called “older, more experienced” businessmen scoffed at Knight’s management style. They don’t scoff today.

Entrepreneurs scare the old-money crowd. The entrepreneur starts with bold ideas, an apparent reckless abandon, and an unmatched energetic spirit. However, those characteristics alone do not determine success. The successful entrepreneur actually has the “old-character” traits like integrity and intelligence; but, they add to that the innovative ideas that can frighten the stodgy.  They bring an inspiration to the business that can be unsettling for the “accountant-minded” traditionalist, and their seeming recklessness is almost always misunderstood as foolishness, when in truth, it is the boldness and confidence that the general populace lacks and thus fears it or resents it when they see it in others.

Now, two decades after starting my cleaning service, I am fully on my own again, in the zone I love – my entrepreneurial mind in high gear and my energy tachometer at maximum revs.  But, 20 years of business ventures, success, failures and restarts have given me wisdom that I can bring to my newest venture. I’m still fully aware that I must do all I can to still be in business tomorrow, but I am not dwelling on the same fear of failure or fear of the unknown. I know what made me successful before and I know what I bring to the table. And that knowledge gives me much confidence. Knowledge can be tremendously powerful.

I have a superb team that I am assembling. I know who and what I need, and I know where to find them. My vision is in focus. I see where I need to go, and I know what success means to me and what I’m truly in business for. I am not in business simply for me or to just make lots of money. I want to influence my generation and help build their money IQ and help them define their own vision of what they could do to impact their own world and the outside world.

In the next five blogs, I want to share with you the core values that make up my business. My values come from deep inside my soul. They are not words I found in a book, or some leaders’ biography; they are mine and in that sense I own them because they own me. I’ll dive into them deeply in the next blogs.

Next up, Integrity.  See you there.