Core values are what help make up the identity and culture of a business. The values act as standards a business sets regarding how it makes decisions, functions, solves problems and handles customer service. Defining a business’s core values can help round out a business plan, set goals and give the company a unique identity with which employees and customers can relate.

Set of Principles

Core values are not synonymous with a company’s policies and procedures. Written on paper, a business’ core values are a set of words or phrases. These words, however, reflect the principles that guide the company’s interactions with every stakeholder. Stakeholders include those who have money invested in the business, along with employees and customers. Words or phrases used to describe a company’s core values include, “positive change,” “leadership,” “sustainability,” “passion” and “innovation.” Core values establish expected behaviors from those in the organization’s culture that, in turn, will help ensure long-term success. They can also set a business apart when the values are broadly held and deeply embedded within the company.

Foundation of the Business Culture

It is difficult for a business to define matters of importance, how it is to interact with others, set measures, establish goals or effectively make decisions, if core values are not in place. This is because these values form the foundation of the business’ culture, which can help stakeholders feel their opinions are valued and they are in a trusting environment. By establishing core values and consistently applying them, the business culture dictates that all employees in a company share responsibility in the achievement of a goal. Consequently, employees feel valued, have pride in their place of employment and develop a sense of ownership. Departments within a business may have their own set of values, but these set of values must reflect the core values of the company as a whole.

The Means to Achieve a Goal

When a business owner is trying to decide on a set of core values for his company, he can start by asking himself what he is willing to do to achieve his goals. The answer can help develop core values the business owner wishes to share with his employees and other stakeholders. When a business has core values that include acting with integrity and honesty, being persistent, placing service above self, discipline and so on, these values can act as a guide when it comes to making tough decisions. Once a company has a set of core values, it can begin to attract stakeholders who have similar values.


Core values clarify the identity of a business so employees, shareholders, customers and prospective stakeholders can relate to the company. In addition to aiding decision-making, these values can help businesses maintain corporate relationships with professional partners, the media and public.