Many companies include questions in their job interviews about how an employee will fit into their culture, and nearly everyone communicates their guiding principles to employees. Half of our readers have fired employees for violating company values through such transgressions as cheating on time cards, fighting, lying to customers, stealing, and insubordination. But when it comes to the effect of a company's culture on the bottom line, readers' reactions are mixed. Just 34% say core values significantly affect profits. David Wittig of Project Plus Design/Build in Princeton, Mass., is one of the convinced: "Good culture equals good chemistry equals smoother operations equals better-run jobs equals better profits," he declares.

As a gut feeling, how does reinforcing core values affect profit margins?

"If we are honest and respecting of our clients, the rest works out in the long run with referrals from those clients, thus adding to overall profits."

Mike Davis, TMT Construction, Redmond, Ore.

"It decreases margins. Employees want to do what is best for the customer, even if it costs the company a little money."

Bob Curry, Paragon Homeworks, Dallas

"The focus on customer satisfaction sometimes hurts profit margins but keeps marketing costs down [through] good referrals."

Christie Boulding-Graham, Graham Contracting, Wayland, Mass.

"Probably no effect, but I sleep better at night and can take more time off without anxiety."

Paul Eldrenkamp, Byggmeister, Newton, Mass.

"We had a radical shift in culture after the departure in mid-2001 of a partner with whom I disagreed on open-book management; 2002 brought us a 70% increase in sales coupled with a record net profit."

Scott Strawbridge, Scott Strawbridge Inc., Wilton Manors, Fla.

Why are core values important?

"Continuity. And being able to sleep at night."

Herb Dunn, Dunn to Perfection, Bethlehem, Pa.

"If you don't treat your employees decently, how do you think you will find good ones? And the same goes for your clients."

Chauncey Wirsing, Wirsing Builders, Somerset, Pa.

"If the values are strong enough, the company will continue to do business no matter who is in charge. Disney is a good example."

Bob Williams, CR, CLC, Star Construction Co., West Newbury, Mass.

"Core values direct a client's expectations."

R.W. Wittrock, Wittrock Remodeling, Dallas

"Values have to be true, not rehearsed. They come from the heart, and the customer knows that."

Ralph Polito, RTP Construction, Philadelphia