IMG_4336When I realized that I was going to have to hoof it crosstown every morning to bring my daughter to daycare (one hour round trip), I subscribed to Audible.

My audible habit is dedicated to business books. I started with two books on money. I have to say, they didn’t totally capture me. One I didn’t finish (about which the Audible app likes to remind you [shakes fist])

Then, I got Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, co-founder of Zappos…

From now on my “business books” need to part memoir. It was great.

Zappos leadership realized they could have a large corner of the internet retail footwear business, but the only way their company will be truly sustainable is if they created a culture of happiness in the workplace so their employees could deliver superior customer service.

To that end, they developed 10 core values by which they wanted employees to live and operate. In a subsequent interview, Hsieh said that they don’t “train” people to embody these values. They prefer to hire people who already apply these values in business, and in life. They’ve passed on hiring people who would bring value to their top- or bottom-line simply because those people didn’t fit with the company culture.

It’s this dedication to their core values that truly distinguishes Zappos. It seems like Tony Hsieh is interviewed more about the company’s core values and culture than its $1 billion in sales or its acquisition by Amazon. (This assertion is not scientific, and likely a reflection of my reading habits.) i.e. culture is important. The values you operate under matter. And people pay attention to “kind” of business you are.

Here are Zappos core values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I’m wondering: Should we be developing them for our businesses, even if we are our sole employee?

I think, yes. Just like a mission statement. A list of core values can guide us in decision-making, in work and in life. Just because we operate “solely” certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have interactions or have to make decisions. In fact, a set of operating principles or values could be a good decision-making barometer for those of us who feel like we’re working in a vacuum.

So here are a few questions to consider when developing your core values.

What are your personal core values? Who are you? Who do you want to be?

What kind experience do you want people to have when working with you?

What do you need to value in order to create that experience?

In writing your values, I like what the company Kinesis prescribes:

Start with a verb

Keep them short

No more than four

Boil it down, be precise and don’t stress yourself out by making yourself come up with 10.

Finally, gauge your willingness to commit to these values. Will you — and anyone you bring on in the future — be willing to adhere to these values, even in the face of short-term gains?

I’d love to know what you think of the concept of core values? How important are they? Have you written yours? Share below.