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Making Values work in a high-end design business

Wayne McMaster

13 July 2016

We were involved with a client recently who had invested considerably in a 'rebrand' though for my money as mentioned in an earlier article it felt to all intents and purpose as just brand identity makeover.

When the team shared with us their Values, if felt as is the previous agency had crafted them, the team didn't seem to 'own' those phrases, indeed much of the language in the values statement was woolly, trying to be to smart—did the entire business buy-in to these words, or were they just a means to an end - a page in the brand guidelines document.

Its important to get the values of your company right, here are some tips to consider:

1. Get Buy-in, Take your time

Do not rush to define your values. Its shouldn't be seen as just an academic paper excercise. You risk having a great set of words that no one will buy into and thus implement. If you are not experienced in guiding values discussions, bring in experts to facilitate such an undertaking. It will take time, possibly a taking time out from work, at a neutral venue and a few work sessions, before your interior or high-end design brand has a strong values statement. Don't rush the process, setting values is just as important as the values themselves.  

2. Define Values with behaviour

Don’t be wishy-washy or esoteric with your values. Spell them out in human-being language, with behaviors that are easy to understand and carry out. Respect, for example, can mean so many different things to so many different people. “We respect everyone” doesn’t mean anything unless you spell out specific behaviors.

3.Keep it simple

Respect may be best demonstrated by people washing their dishes instead of leaving them in the sink. Integrity may just mean you do what you say you’re going to do and admit when you've made mistakes. Don’t complicate things. “We do what we say we’re going to do” is alot more useful than something like “We believe in the holistic growth of every human being to stand in their own truth and synergize to shift paradigms” , if that makes sense. Make it work for your business instead of what sounds good or what people would like to hear.

4. Keep it visible

Once you have your list of values, print it out, put it up on walls, have handouts for every meeting. Talk about the values all the time. You might consider at your studio's weekly team meetings, save a few minutes on the agenda to discuss how you’ve seen your values being expressed in the past week and share appreciation of one another based on the values you've see in action.

5. Make them work with everything

Your values are completely useless if they are only a list on your website. Find a way to integrate them into everything. Actually, find a way to base everything on them. When you hire people, make sure candidates know your values and expectations around them. When you do performance evaluations, make sure you discuss organizational values. When you collaborate with other organizations, make sure you discuss and see if your values align.  

6. Discuss and adapt

Your core values may not change often, but we sometimes find that specific behaviors under each value may change. That’s OK. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and even good for the interiors or high-end design business to constantly evaluate behaviors and change them as appropriate. As new team members and leaders come along, values may sometimes change to incorporate their perspectives. This helps with ownership, which is very important. Your board and staff may want to work out which values/behaviors are non-negotiable, though, and use those to guide who you bring into the business.

Here at Zeke we have our own set of values, we are drawn to SIMPLICITY; inspired by ELEGANCE; BRAVE enough to ask the challenging questions; and TRUE in all our dealings inside and outside the business. In a happy little accident we found that if you reorder our values and take the first letter of each value - we get B.E.S.T!! We celebrate our values through our four LITTLE BOOKS of…Brave / Simple / Elegant / Truth, and we find in conversation with those in the luxury industry that they each gravitate towards a particular book, illustrating in part, their personal attraction that a value has for them and we resonate with values that sit well within ourselves. They are heart-felt.

If you like to find out more about how we could help your business develop and own a set of distinctive values, or indeed  would like a copy of one of our booklets, drop us a line.

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