If you’ve been following along the blog, you’ll know that we’ve been looking at what I call “The Pyramid of Need.”
This is a visual aid that I use with my clients to illustrate the basic needs that your customers must have satisfied in order to become lifetime, loyal customers.
The Pyramid of Need is a triangle that has three levels.
The base level is composed of three sections, Service, Convenience, and Value.
The second level is made up of two sections, Quality and Consistency.
And finally, the subject of today’s post, the top section is occupied by Values.
What I want to talk about today is how your Values relate to the rest of the Pyramid of Need.
There's a reason that Values are on top.
In many cases, a business has a really strong idea of their Values. In fact, this strong sense of Values is often the only part of the Pyramid of Need that they have any mastery of when they open their doors.
Let’s say you own a Fair Trade business. You stock and sell top-tier Fair Trade goods, but you have terrible customer service. Or maybe your products are way overpriced relative to your competition. Perhaps you’re located in a bad part of town or you're 30 minutes out of the way for most people. Even worse, maybe the quality of your goods is inconsistent.
If all those things are wrong, it doesn’t matter if your Values are solid, no one wants to come to your store. It's not a pleasant experience engaging with your company. Buying a Fair Trade product from you at this point is cumbersome, it’s fraught, it's expensive, and frankly, it’s not a whole lot of fun.
The reason we put values at the top is because, like a house, you can’t begin building any structure at the top. You have to start with the foundation. We want to create an environment where customers have their most basic needs met before we attempt to hook them with our values.
Values only begin to matter when they've got a firm foundation on which they can be displayed. That is the central takeaway from today's post. We want to create a solid foundation where you can display your values confidently and effectively.
Without you and others taking the risk and becoming small business owners, the culture of a community will stagnate. It will be taken over by strip malls. It will be taken over by Walmarts and Targets.
You took the risk to get into business because you have Values that you want to share with the community around you, and we want to create the foundation on which those values can be expressed to everyone in your community.
We’ve covered where your Values live on the Pyramid of Need, but what are your values in the first place?
I’m not here to tell you, specifically, what your values are or what they should be, but what I can offer you is some guidance when it comes to articulating those values.
To me, values live in one of three categories…
Societal, values are concerned with the world around us in a broad manner. Does a particular injustice motivate you to go into business (i.e. our Fair Trade store example)? Maybe you’ve got an idea for a product that would alleviate a pain or discomfort for people somewhere.
Societal values are all about improving the world, in a broad sense, around you.
Communal values, while similar to Societal, are concerned with the people and places in closer proximity.
This may be your city, your state, or your region. Regardless, you see a need, a service or product gap, in your local community and you’re driven to meet that need or fill that gap.
Personal values are concerned with you and your family.
These values are often expressed in terms of lifestyle desires. I sometimes hear clients say things like, “I want to work less and spend more time with my family,” or “It’s important to me that my family is able to take an extended vacation each year.
These values are describing the impact on your lifestyle that you desire from your business.
It’s important to point out that there can be a lot of overlap with these categories. Because values are rarely static and often connected to each other, there will often be times when the line between Societal, Communal, and Personal values gets blurry.
And that’s completely fine.
What’s more important than anything is for you, as a business owner, to explore these values, not just once, but often and at regular intervals.
Because values evolve. Sometimes they change altogether.
Your values will always serve as a compass for you and your business, so it’s important for you to stay in touch with your values over time.
If you want to do a little exploration around your values, try this simple (but deceptively difficult) exercise.
Take a few minutes to list your values under each of the categories we discussed; societal, communal, and personal. Then, try and take what you've written and create a one to three sentence statement that encapsulates your "Big Why" statement.
Your “Big Why” is a one sentence to one paragraph expression of your values. In reality, your values are probably more complicated than this, but we want to try and distill them down to a statement that’s easy to communicate and that can serve as a mini-manifesto.
Give it a try and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear what you come up with, so shoot me an email with your “Big Why” when you’ve given this a try.
As always, let me know what you think and please feel free to ask me any questions you have about this or any other topic.