Trust, Integrity, Teamwork and Other Core Value B.S.

Last Updated Sep 7, 2010 2:41 PM EDT

Without looking at your company handbook, can you list your company's core values? Most people don't have any and if they do, they're not sure why or what to do with them.

OK, now that you've pulled out and looked at your handbook, be honest with yourself. Do your values make a difference in your profitability and how people behave? Or are they just B.S.? I'm a big believer in values -- as long as they make a difference. And that is precisely the challenge.

Thinking about core valuesI've had many debates about this and in the end I always seem to be in the minority. So feel free to disagree and tell me your perspective in the comments. In my mind, the debate seems to boil down to two questions:

1. Must your core values reflect existing values that have already made your company successful, or should they be aspirational?

2. Should core values catalyze action and be the engine that propels you and your staff, or are they merely personal traits that you believe in?

Maybe I'm getting a bit too introspective and philosophical as of late, but I think core values must be inherent in the founder and top leaders. Too often you hear about companies bringing the staff together to get everyone's vote on what the core values should be. That brings me to point 2. And here's where I get the most push-back. Core values, in my judgment, should drive everything -- they should be the reason for existence. Sure, I believe in trust and honesty, but truth be told, neither motivates me to wake up, jump out of bed, and say to myself, "I'm going out into the world to be trustworthy and honest!"

At, we only have 2 core values: Improve Continuously and Experiment Without Fear. I believe the success of my company is the result of our drive to always look for ways to improve, and in process, tinker with things, fail, and ultimately find better ways. This also drives me as a person. I define success in life and in my company with just these two values. As long as I'm on the upward continuum of experimenting to improve continuously, then I'm successful. It's not about the destination; it's about the process. A little Zen, maybe, but that way I see life optimistically and always have something to which I look forward. I surround myself with people that are constantly improving themselves and everyone around them -- including me.

I admit this approach might be a bit simplistic -- but this way, you'll never stop learning and growing, and your company will continue to improve no matter what, which will ultimately grow profits, too. And that's no B.S.

Photo courtesty of, by Rob InhOOd

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    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.