Guiding Business Principles: A Historical Example

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 would you wonder why you need guiding business principles at all?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. Without a solid, overarching framework to keep your organization together, your company won’t be able to achieve its goals and reach its full potential.

If your organization doesn’t have guiding business principles in place already 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, largely 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 know that people are ultimately driven not by money, but by the sense that they’ve achieved something worthwhile and that they 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 simply 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 those workers 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. Each and every one of them is a living, breathing human being who has something valuable to offer the company. Therefore, the organization must not only maximize its workers’ talents for its own benefit but also foster an environment where they can have their personal and professional needs met.

By the same token, employees must not forget 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 fellow 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 have the ability to spot consumer trends and to 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 on the lookout 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. Without integrity, all the organization’s other assets will crumble under their own weight.

Good companies don’t forget their responsibilities to society. They operate while being fully conscious of their impact on the rights of the entities and individuals around them. In the event that they infringe on the aforementioned rights (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 make sure every dollar is accounted for and that all of it goes to the right place.

Putting together a list of guiding business principles may seem like extra, unnecessary work. After all, people are people and they will forget to live by those principles every now and then. But if you and your employees follow your guiding business principles as closely as possible, you have a much better chance of raising your company above the all-too-bloated ranks of mediocrity.

If you’re looking for some direction on how to get started, I offer a complimentary coaching session to help you craft your company’s guiding business principles. Just fill out my contact form and I’ll be in touch to talk about executing on your dream.

Dave Schoenbeck
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