Zac de Silva: Core values at the heart of successful firms

A strong value system can power a business to success, writes Zac de Silva.

Sticking to core values is part of creating a powerful business culture.

Sticking to core values is part of creating a powerful business culture.

One of my top business lessons would be the importance of core values.

When I was younger the talk and thought of values was enough to make me sick. It conjures up thoughts of wishy-washy rubbish. But over time, I learned first hand the effects that knowing, remembering and living your firm's core values can have. They can be business changing.

My definition of core values in a business context would be "the way that things are done around here."

remember to recurit new people according to how best they fits your business's core values, says business coach, Zac de ...

remember to recurit new people according to how best they fits your business's core values, says business coach, Zac de Silva.

Simply having core values does not make you a great company. Enron had core values and we all know what happened there, including integrity and respect, which is obviously very ironic. They only become a powerful part of you being successful if you live them.

Usually they come from what the founder of the business believes, but over time they can change or be updated, based on who owns or is running the company.

When I speak at conferences I often ask people in the audience to put up their hand if their company has written core values. It surprises me how few hands appear. And when I ask the "hands-up" minority just how many core values they think are remembered and lived in the day-to-day business, there are not many hands left.

Unless you are going to live them, there is actually no point having core values written down as it just makes you look like a hypocrite.

The best example of one of my clients sharing and proactively focusing on core values is Kotahi Logistics  - who have five rules.

Their HR Manager, Jay Padden, is a crusader for holding people accountable to them and is great at sharing good and not so good examples of how the values are being lived.

Values can be a secret weapon if you let them. Employees love patting each other on the back when someone has gone beyond and above the values. Values also help you to have those really hard conversations that we naturally do not want to have.

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Personally , I have found that most staff behavioural issues I have had to deal with as a manager could be solved by referring to the company values. Employees could almost always see that they needed to change in their attitude or approach, as it was so obvious their behaviour was not in line with the known values of the company.

With recruitment, values are so important in helping to get the right person.

Once I took the easy way out by employing somebody I suspected was not compatible with my company culture. But I needed a person in my team. As a result,  this person struggled in our business because despite being a really great person, they were never going to make it.

I did learn that lesson and went with my gut feeling about culture fit from then on. I suggest if you think of any poor recruits you have hired in the past, a lot of those people will have struggled with your core values.

I have seen various entrepreneurs take their personal business values from one company to another as they buy or set up multiple businesses. You have to be prepared to make hard decisions if you are faced with something that does not meet your values.

As an example if you had a core value around the environment and then a nuclear power plant offered $100 million to rent part of your warehouse, what would you do? Would you do the right thing to live your values or take the money?

I wonder what values you have in your business and whether you think they help you to do better? Certainly, if they are lived and people are held accountable to them, they should help you to be successful in your industry.

Zac de Silva is an award-winning business coach who owns Visit to sign up for regular business-thinking questions and build prioritised action points. De Silva is also co-founder of, the Fiji business retreat in November 2016.


 - Sunday Star Times

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