Love Letter #3: Core Values 2.0

It has been a while since I have been feeling that there is a disconnect between our behaviors and our core values.  

For those who don’t know the history of the company, we started without any north (mission and vision), just cranking out functionalities that we could sell to the customers we wanted to reach.  But as the team grew the need for these essential components became more than clear, they became a necessity.

Two years ago, we build the core values in a very democratic way -bottom to top- and it was a mix of behaviors that we wanted and behaviors that we had, which I believe is the case for every company.  We were a different organization then - we were half the team we are now, and the outcome of the exercise was good for a first stab.

Our initial values were the following:

  • We create wildly successful nonprofits and cultural institutions

  • Keep it simple

  • Build Trust/Deliver Results

  • Work Smart, Communicate Effectively

  • Be your own Customer, know the business

  • Be conscious of people’s time and ask for help, be conscious of people’s time and give some help

  • To our competition: We are on the offense - always!

Again good values, but they have important shortfalls.

Let’s start by saying that I think we shoot ourselves in the foot for having too many values, which makes them hard to remember.  Kind of important.

But perhaps the thing that bothers me the most after all this time of implementing them is that they have fallen short in guiding the behaviors that should drive us every day.  Using the Jobs to be Done analogy, they simply are not doing the job we hire them for.  The big question is why?

I believe that these are values that will make the company successful, but out of our work environment, they may mean little to you.  They may help build the company, but perhaps they won’t build you fully as a person.   They also serve as a poor guide for hiring, doing performance evaluations, and assessing possible promotions.

We need a change

We could have gone through another democratic process, but I took some executive license here and decided on these on my own (after sharing them with a couple of key individuals).  This method may come back to bite me later, but I think the change is urgent and democracy is a slow and inefficient process that we cannot afford to use at this moment.  So please forgive me, and please, please, please trust me.

So here are the values I propose we use from now on - I think they already exist in our organization, but they require refocus and an enhanced level of discipline.  I also think that they will make you successful no matter where you apply them.  They shall speak to both your minds and your souls, and give us a code not only to work by, but also to live by.

1st - we are tireless seekers of excellence and efficiency 

This could cover a bunch of our previous core values, such as:

  • Keep it simple

  • Build Trust/Deliver Results

  • Work Smart, Communicate Effectively

  • Be your own Customer, know the business

  • Be conscious of people’s time and ask for help, be conscious of people’s time and give some help

  • To our competition: We are on the offense - always! 

It also provides us with a way to measure it: are we 1% better than we were yesterday?  Are we 1% faster?  This goes to building learning habits.  Searching for solutions that will make us better and faster professionals and why not, better people.  You are not alone in this: this is why the company is going to start granting money for you to train yourself, and get better.  Measurements for this value: Books read/Courses taken per quarter.

2nd - Work with Strategic Intent

This is about thinking 5 steps ahead.  For example, are we closing cases just to meet a quota?  Why did we prioritize one work/bug ahead of another?  Why are we doing x initiative in Marketing?  This is what working smart really means.  We’ve started this work already with our Customer Success Team, but we are far from having this way of thinking engrained in our behaviors.  This is also crucial for your personal life.  Why do you do what you do?  What’s the end game?  You are riding a mule, and the mule never stops.  But it needs to be driven, or else it will be the mule driving you.   In this game, you have to make a move and also realize that not making a move is also a move.  Remember: the mule you are on keeps walking, whether you drive it or not.

3rd - Our focus and obsession is around our client’s success

You may say that this has not changed significantly from “We create wildly successful nonprofits and cultural institutions”, but words matter.  We need to redirect our focus, think strategically about our clients, understand their pain points, and where we want to drive them as accounts.  Are they successful by their measurement?  Do we know their definition of success?  This is what great customer success looks like and this is everyone’s work: from Sales to HR.

We’re doing amazing work, people, but let’s be better, 1% better every day, 1% faster every day.  This market is ours to take. 

With love,

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