In this branding series, so far we’ve covered what branding is to set a foundation we can all build on, and more recently, why you still need a mission statement.

Once you have those two concepts narrowed in, it’s time to move forward to your company’s core values in order to define how you will conduct yourselves as you accomplish your mission.

Core values are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions, serving as its cultural foundation. They define how you and your team behave for your customers, how you treat one another internally, and how you act within your community. More simply put, your core values are the heartbeat of your business.

Without clear core values, building a team, having great customer service, and simply establishing yourself in the market could be a great challenge. Core values are yet another way to stand out from the rest both with your clients and as a competitive workplace.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Why do you need core values?

Before we dive into some examples, we want to establish why having core values can help your business for years and years to come.

1. Values shape the company culture. Whether it’s just yourself or a team of 10+, every day you are naturally creating an office culture that will either uplift and inspire those around you or create one that doesn’t represent much of anything leading to burned out, frustrated team members who don’t have a passion for their work or their team. By establishing core values and sharing them, you are setting the tone for anyone your business interacts with which can build your audience while also attracting and retaining your staff. In fact, 46% of job seekers cite company culture as very important when choosing to apply to a company.

2. Values build customer trust. It’s easy for customers to love you when everything is going well, but when shit hits the fan, how are you going to conduct yourself in order to keep your hard-earned customer relationships? By having a pre-established list of core values, you can use them to guide how you act in both good and bad seasons of business, developing consistent expectations between you and your client. This type of trust is hard to break.

3. Values show authenticity. Lastly, values are another way to stand out from the crowd. Just like each and every one of us is unique, so can be a business. When you define the heartbeat of how your business conducts itself, it gives an opportunity for others to connect with you on a deeper level, beyond the product. Recent studies have found that 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. Be proud of your core values, and let them be yet another reason your customers choose you over your competition.

Examples of Core Values

To help you get started with your core values, here’s a list of the most common core values from smarp.

  1. Integrity
  2. Boldness
  3. Honesty
  4. Fairness
  5. Trustworthiness
  6. Accountability
  7. Learning
  8. Customer Experience
  9. Passion
  10. Balance
  11. Fun
  12. Discipline
  13. Humility
  14. Ownership
  15. Result oriented
  16. Constant Improvement
  17. Leadership
  18. Hard work
  19. Diversity
  20. Employee Development
  21. Innovation
  22. Quality
  23. Teamwork
  24. Simplicity
  25. Collaboration and Partnership
  26. Idealism
  27. Courage
  28. Unselfishness
  29. Self-Discipline
  30. Self-Respect
Here are some specific core values from well-known businesses:
  1. Champion the mission (by living the mission).
  2. Be a host.
  3. Simplify.
  4. Every frame matters.
  5. Be a “cereal” entrepreneur.
  6. Embrace the adventure.
American Express
  1. Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.
  2. Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers.
  3. Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.
  4. Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help our Company win.
  5. Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance.
  6. Good Citizenship: We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.
  7. A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business.
  8. Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.
  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Fast is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There’s always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a suit.
  10. Great just isn’t good enough.
Coca Cola
  1. Leadership: The courage to shape a better future.
  2. Collaboration: Leverage collective genius.
  3. Integrity: Be real.
  4. Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me.
  5. Passion: Committed in heart and mind.
  6. Diversity: As inclusive as our brands.
  7. Quality: What we do, we do well.
Whole Foods
  1. We Satisfy And Delight Our Customers — Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and our most important stakeholder. We strive to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping experience.
  2. We Promote Team Member Growth And Happiness — Our success is dependent upon the collective energy, intelligence, and contributions of all of our Team Members.
  3. We Care About Our Communities And The Environment — We serve and support a local experience. The unique character of each store is a direct reflection of a community’s people, culture, and cuisine.
  4. We Practice Win-Win Partnerships With Our Suppliers — We view our trade partners as allies in serving our stakeholders. We treat them with respect, fairness and integrity – expecting the same in return.
  1. Performance: Sport is the foundation for all we do and executional excellence is a core value of our Group.
  2. Passion: Passion is at the heart of our company. We are continuously moving forward, innovating, and improving.
  3. Integrity: We are honest, open, ethical, and fair. People trust us to adhere to our word.
  4. Diversity: We know it takes people with different ideas, strengths, interests, and cultural backgrounds to make our company succeed. We encourage healthy debate and differences of opinion.
  1. Humbleness and willpower.
  2. Leadership by example.
  3. Daring to be different.
  4. Togetherness and enthusiasm.
  5. Cost-consciousness.
  6. Constant desire for renewal.
  7. Accept and delegate responsibility.

How To Define Your Values

As you can see, your core values can be written as short or long as you like. The key is that they are easy to understand and easy to live out. And remember, they don’t have to sound like a Hallmark card to be authentic, but as you ideate, don’t miss out on the chance to look a little deeper so you can help your business stand out with your unique motivations and personality.

We’ve found the best way to define our company core values is to imagine three people in your life that would make perfect employees.

Step 1: Think about the people in your life that you look up to, friends, mentors, family, and list out all of the characteristics that you admire about each one of them.

Step 2: Look over your list and circle the top 5-7 qualities that really stand out to you and reflect what you want your business to be.

Step 3: Share your top values with your business partner (or someone you trust). Have a conversation about which ones mean a lot to you, why they matter, and begin to write out a few core values that fit the heartbeat of your business. Take a few moments to really customize them to make them unique to you.

If you need some additional prompts to help you brainstorm, here’s a couple of questions to get you thinking:

  • What’s important to us?
  • What brought us all together and continues to hold us together?
  • What will help guide us when we are facing a difficult situation?
  • What parts of our company are we proud of?

Once you have your core values written out with confidence, it’s time to communicate them with your advisors and team so they can be your accountability as you move forward.

Bring Your Values To Life

To see the full value of your core values, it’s time to bring them to life so they can truly embody everything you create. (No, simply putting them on a PowerPoint one time, won’t do anything…) BUT if you consistently share them over time, your core values won’t simply be words on a piece of paper, but the real, tangible qualities you admire across your entire team. They will be something you can take great pride in.


  1. Display your core values somewhere in the office so everyone sees them on a regular basis.
  2. Whenever a decision arises, use your core values as a filter to see if it aligns with your overall goal of the business.
  3. When interviewing potential employees, ask questions around your core values to see if they would be a good culture fit. Ask to hear stories about how they used that certain value in a previous experience.
  4. Include your core values in your team’s onboarding process.
  5. Share success stories that demonstrate the values in action and acknowledge team members who embrace them.
  6. When ongoing educational opportunities arise, use your core values to decide which experiences would be the best fit.
  7. During your annual employee reviews, use your company’s core values as the foundation of the conversation.
  8. Give back to your community by finding an organization that aligns with your same values.

Now you’re all set!

Ready to define unique core values that define your brand’s culture? We’ve created a FREE worksheet to help you pinpoint what values you care about most so you can craft your top five values.

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