Are You In Control of Your Business Philosophy?

If you run a business or are starting one, having a business philosophy is massively important to the livelihood and brand of your enterprise. Your core values are part of the foundation of your brand; just look at Chipotle Mexican Grill – they’ve build their entire brand and enterprise solely around their business philosophy of “Food with Integrity”. I know there’s some cookie-cutter stuff out there people say you “must do” before starting a business, like writing a 100-page business plan, that seem trivial and distracting. I’m 100% with you on this, but solidifying your company’s founding principles isn’t trivial. The seas of business get rough, and a solid business philosophy is the keel that keeps your ship upright. Without it, you’re not in control of your business.

A set of core business values are pretty easy to build. It’s easier, actually, in the startup phase, because you don’t have clients, co-workers, employees, vendors, and 1,000 other people pulling you in several different directions. Thirty minutes a day of quiet reflection for a few days should really do the trick. The question you need to answer is this: “Regardless of whether my business is met with success or failure, opportunity or threat, what are the philosophical foundations of this business that are a part of me (or us) as the founder(s) that we’re unwilling to give up no matter what?”

This is an important answer to give yourself now because down the line it will be challenged. If you know your core values, they can stand up to the challenge, and your business will remain intact. If you have never asked yourself that question, though, you’ve officially lost control of your business and its philosophy. How have you lost control? I’ll give you an example from my personal experience:

When we started Clear-Coat in 2007, we decided on a few key principles to anchor our business. First was outstanding dedication to the customer experience. It wasn’t just a general pledge to “customer service”. We specifically said that no matter what, we want to make sure that we start with a great customer experience platform, and moving forward, only make choices that improve it. Next, we were dedicated to domestic manufacturing and our employees. Last, we wanted excess resources to go towards growing the company before all other things – we wanted a core principle to be that we “invest back in the business”.

Those were the core values we laid down in the beginning…then the forces of business kicked in. Customers wanted product for lower prices. We could achieve this by making our product overseas, or cheapening the customer experience a little. But we had our philosophy in place, so we didn’t. There’s always the choice of higher compensation for employees and founders, or getting a nicer office – but we set out to reinvest in the company, so we stick with it. The point here is, without this philosophy in place at first, you have no keel…no anchor…no base for your company or your brand. Now you’re letting your business philosophy, and really your entire business, be steered around by market forces. A customer wants a lower price, so you outsource. Another customer wants a “bare bones” experience at a lower cost, and you give it to them. Someone is tired of the view out of their office, so you move to a fancier spot. Now who are you? What has your business become? Is it your business, or simply a conglomeration of the wishes of 1,000 customers’ demands?

“Core business values” have unfortunately been put into a soft and snuggly pile of “nice business ideas”, as though it’s along the lines of “how we feel about our business”. It’s not. 30 minutes of your time now can make sure that you keep your business on course, and give it the real platform it needs to build a brand. Without a good business philosophy you believe in, you’re opening your company up to be controlled by market forces. Besides, the world could use a few more companies driven by rock-solid core principles.

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