I’ve noticed a trend.
It’s what we do as humans, we identify patterns and trends as a way to make sense of the world around us and where we fit within that world, and I’ve noticed a particular trend in online business – the rise of the Values-Based Business.
To be honest, I don’t think this trend would have been so pronounced without the shitshow that was 2020. We started off with an international pandemic, found renewed vigor and protest for civil rights and Black Lives Matter, survived the 2020 presidential election – there are YEARS of historical and traumatic events packed into less than 12 months.
As the world changed rapidly around us, and in the absence of personal gatherings (hey thanks quarantine) social media became a necessity for connection and many companies saw an opportunity. The concept of ethical business came into sharp relief in the mainstream, from the importance of DEI training to cultural conversations around performativity. And the opportunity was this: the quickest way to show that you Aren’t Like Other Businesses is to showcase and proudly proclaim your values:
- Splash it all over your homepage and about page.
- List ‘em off in your IG bio.
- Do a facebook live about how deeply you value communication.
The most important thing is to set yourself apart from Those Other Businesses that didn’t post a black square, or haven’t made a statement about BLM, or haven’t actually acknowledged their own complicity in upholding White Supremacy.
These are all good things to do.
A values-based business does not need to lead with that proclamation.
Instead, when we lead with our values, and make an effort to be a powerful example of those values, we can establish ourselves as a values-based business.
And let’s be clear, your biz core values and your personal core values are one and the same. If you’re stating biz values that clearly contradict your personal values – as evidenced by your content, your clientele, your presence online – you’re just getting in on the trend. You don’t actually care about running a values-based business.
Here we have the hierarchy of the Trendy Values-Based Business:
FIRST: State your business values. Ensure the perception of your brand above all else.
SECOND: Demonstrate those values for the public eye. Act on them according to the optics necessary for the situation.
IF THERE’S TIME: Understand those values. The most important thing is to maintain the status of a Good Non-Problematic Brand.
Ugh, no thank you…
There’s very little attention paid to how these values shape the company and how the employees conduct themselves in the business: it’s all about the optics and perception of the biz. Virtue-signal much…
In contrast, a business that is truly Values-Based looks like this:
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Understand your biz values (and have the language to define what those values mean, look like, sound like, feel like, etc within the context of your company). Defining the values in language that is easily understand and accessible will ensure actions meet the standards set. Speaking of which…
SECONDLY: Demonstrate those values both to your clientele and live by them so you yourself are setting the example that yup, this are my values as you can plainly see by the way I conduct my business and myself online.
FINALLY: State your values. Because yes, there are times when stating your values plainly and explicitly is necessary. But for most of us, that’s not our starting point.
There’s this trend of “build it and they will come” that’s wildly pervasive in the online gig economy (leftover from silicon valley? I get major Theranos vibes from it all).
And in some cases, sure, you can sell the thing before you’ve built the thing.
A values-based biz just isn’t one of them.
The core values that guide your business, that provide the foundation for why you do what you do and how you go about doing it, need to be explicit to you and your team from the start. And if you are leading from those values from Day 1, your audience will already know where you stand when a cultural revolution demands accountability.
Running a values-based business should have never been a trending topic – instead of signalling why you’re a values-based biz, demonstrate your values through content and copy, through clientele and how you interact with your audience, through transparency and candor.
Unsure of your values? Dig a little deeper into the impact you want to make.