Core Values are essential for any person and enterprise. Operating a company without them is like journeying into the unknown without a compass. No person working in the company has a solid point of reference for making decisions if the company doesn’t have Core Values.

How do you go about creating them? This is where most of us get stuck. Seems like a great idea to have them but how the heck can you do it?

In his own words, here is how Stan Acton, owner of Acton Construction, Campbell, Calif., got his company’s core values in place:

At our weekly company meetings, everyone was to bring something about their week that they felt represented something they were proud of or liked about the company. We collected those comments and observations for about a year. I then distilled those down, word-smithed them, and presented them to the company. We later changed a few.

My favorite, and most powerful one—accountability—didn’t show up in our list. It is critical to me, so I added it and demand it.

It took about two years to finally settle on this set. It may change over time. When we have a problem that is of any significance, I look up at the wall and see if I can figure out which Acton Way value was not followed well that might have led to the failure. When I can't find one, that means I have to figure out where our values are letting us down, and perhaps add or change one. That's how Accountability got added.

"The Acton Mission," a poster from Acton Construction
Courtesy of Acton Construction

[This is] the poster we have in our conference room. It’s 4 feet tall. We refer to it regularly during meetings. This is not a 'secret document' that gets brought out when the need arises. This is public, used, referred to, discussed. It means I don't have to remind everyone all the time in detail who we are.

So, this is not rocket science. You, as the owner, need to decide it is important to have Core Values for your company. Get input from your team. Reserve the right to make the final decision about what is and what is not a Core Value for your company.

Keep them public and reference them often.

Just like you would use a compass when journeying into the unknown.