Guiding Business Principles: A Historical Example

By February 2, 2017 December 5th, 2023 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

If you were asked, “What are your guiding business principles?” how would you answer? Would you sum up those principles as “Make as much money as possible”? Or do you need guiding business principles at all?

Two business people appear in a photo from above as they look at a map depicting guiding business principles.

As their name suggests, guiding business principles give your business a sense of direction. Without them, your business is like a ship without a captain or a construction project without a blueprint. With a solid, overarching framework to keep your organization together, your company can achieve its goals and reach its full potential.

If your organization still needs to get guiding business principles in place or if you think your current guiding business principles can be improved, here are some tried-and-tested concepts you can use to develop the tenets your company should live by.

Guiding Business Principles

I have taken the liberty to paraphrase a powerful document written in 1972 for a very successful grocery & drug store chain called Jewel Companies. The Chairman of Jewel wrote out these guiding principles to help shape the behavior and attitudes of future generations of leadership. The company lived by these tenets and was a progressive leader in their markets, primarily due to these words.

Leaders are assistants, not dictators.

Leaders don’t simply assign tasks to the people under them. Instead, they encourage employees of all ranks to live up to their full potential. They understand that while their leadership is necessary to harness the talents of so many diverse individuals, they should always give credit where credit is due.

Leaders also view adversity not as a problem but as a challenge.
They take adversity as an opportunity to validate the determination of the people they’re leading. They have the courage to push forward and the wisdom to step back when facing challenges of all shapes and sizes, using their organization’s guiding principles as a roadmap.

Leaders know how to motivate their people. They have the empathy to understand that people are ultimately driven not by money but by the sense that they’ve achieved something worthwhile and expect to be validated for those achievements. With that in mind, leaders ensure that accomplishments are rewarded fairly and regularly.

Leaders have a “can-do” attitude. They expect the best not only from their employees but also from themselves. At the same time, they don’t take setbacks personally. They use them as springboards for bigger and better things.

Leaders foster a healthy workplace culture. They give employees the sense that they’re a part of something big and important rather than simply drones that check off a list of to-dos. They push employees to greater heights without forgetting that they have human needs that should be met.

People are an organization’s greatest asset.

Employees aren’t simply boxes on a flowchart or names on a list. Everyone is a living, breathing human being with something valuable to offer the company. Therefore, the organization must maximize its workers’ talents for its benefit and foster an environment where their personal and professional needs can be met.

By the same token, employees must remember their responsibility to the organization. They must know their company’s guiding principles by heart and encourage others to have the same mindset. They should also create a safe, comfortable space for colleagues to work regardless of education, race, sex, physical disabilities, and the like.

Marketing is about empathy as well as agility.

Good companies view their buyers not as numbers but as people. They can spot consumer trends and anticipate which trends will last over the long haul. They learn from the wisdom of the past but won’t hesitate to take risks for the sake of the future.

Good companies never stay in one place. They’re always looking for opportunities to improve, and they seize those opportunities when necessary. However, they don’t enact improvements carelessly: even seemingly insignificant changes are subjected to careful analysis.

Integrity and responsibility shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Good companies understand that it takes years to build a reputation and seconds to destroy one. They follow the guiding principles of fairness, honesty, and accountability when dealing with all their stakeholders. With integrity, all the organization’s other assets will be able to thrive under their weight.

Good companies remember their responsibilities to society. They operate while fully conscious of their impact on the rights of the entities and individuals around them. If they infringe on the rights above (intentionally or otherwise), they take full responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

Good companies follow the strictest, fairest standards of accounting. They disclose their financial information as accurately and as transparently as possible. They ensure every dollar is accounted for and that everything goes to the right place.

Putting together a list of guiding business principles may seem like extra, unnecessary work. After all, people must remember to live by those principles now and then. But suppose you and your employees follow your guiding business principles as closely as possible. In that case, you have a much better chance of raising your company above the all-too-bloated ranks of mediocrity.

If you want direction on getting started, I offer a complimentary video coaching session to help you craft your company’s guiding business principles. Just fill out my contact form, and I’ll talk to you about how you’re doing your dream.

Coach Dave

Dave Schoenbeck
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