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5 things to yell at the mirror when defining your core values

The past few months have been odd.

I drew a face on a carrot to keep me company while I work from home. It was okay for a bit; I called him Louis Jones and we got on famously, but now he just sits around deep-frying things and buying stuff off the internet.

This got me thinking about how advisers and planners have been acting since lockdown began, and how it aligns with the core values that many of them have.

I briefly touched on core values in my Tommy Lee Jones-fuelled blog 10 things to consider when rustling up a brand’. Sean Bean and Sting ultimately prevented me from going into too much detail, but during a global crisis, what you stand for and how you enforce that has never been more important to your clients.

But what makes an effective core value? And what separates a genuine sentiment from writing “WE’RE HONEST, I PROMISE!” in massive letters all over the shop?

1. Is it actionable?

My great-great-uncle Baron Von Campervan IV always used to say: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. He was an honourable man, until he became a riverboat gambler and met his demise fighting a wheelie bin or something.

Anyway, the message is quite true; if you can’t take action and do something with your values, what good are they?

Take us, for example.

We recently updated our website, and near the bottom of the homepage, there is a fancy little slider that shows our eight core values. Number one states:

“We freely share our knowledge to help financial advisers and planners improve their marketing”.

The action? Well, apart from our blogs that get released into the wild every few days, we have a free resources section that has all kinds of:

  • Templates
  • Guides
  • Checklists
  • Webinars

Which demonstrates that value and how strongly we believe in it.

2. Is it meaningful?

Core values are always at risk of being seen as a box-ticking exercise. There is usually a nice little section for them on an adviser or planner’s website, and the temptation may be there to throw a handful of words and hope some stick.

But invest the time to develop a coherent set, and the benefits will be seen for years to come. The opposite is also true, so if you do a naff job now, your future potential clients will see it, and probably say ‘Naff naffy naff’.

An effective set of values I’ve seen recently lives within a printed proof and proposition document we designed for those friendly faces at Henwood Court. It’s a tactile roll-fold leaflet that acts as a referral tool to give to clients and professional connections when they inevitably ask: “Have you got something I can take away?”.

3. Is it clearly defined?

Ultimately, if your values are a bit loosey-goosey and vague, people will roll their eyes so hard, they’ll never be able to see again.

Sure, you might genuinely want to change the world for the better (please, do this!) but how will you do it? Delving into specifics will add depth, and give those eye-rollers their vision back.

An example that I like is this video on the Frazer James website. A well-shot video is a great way to communicate your core values, so it gets a clap regardless. But one value, in particular, caught my eye when James says:

“We must add significantly more value than we charge.”

No loose, no goose. Just a specific, clearly defined (and measurable) value.

4. Is it memorable?

Getting chased by killer bees. Auntie Von Campervan’s wedding where she got kicked by that horse. That time I took a picture of a really blurry cat.

All memorable moments in my life.

Your core values should leave a lasting impression, as they represent what you stand for both as a company and an individual. The best way to do this is to keep them short, simple and effective. If you can express them in a single sentence, or even better, a handful of words, it will help to reinforce them.

Let’s use us as an example again (sorry, last time I promise). None of our values are longer than one sentence, and we use plain English to communicate them.

Each one is represented as an icon, and in the very distant future (when we’re allowed to visit places again) if you ever swing by our office, you’ll see that our values have been turned into charming little prints that live in frames, dotted about the gaff.

And yes, here is that picture of blurry cat.

5. Is it unique to you?

We all want to do good in the world (apart from all those villains out there reading this). We all want to help our clients (come on you pesky villains, be away with you). But we’re all going to do that in our own ways. No adviser or planner is the same, and neither should their core values be.

When lockdown had just started in March, I remember hearing that one of our clients was getting a massive pile of jigsaws made. I love a good jigsaw; I use mine to chop pieces off the windowsill when my wife isn’t looking.

But joking aside, the bespoke jigsaws that Emily at Life Matters commissioned demonstrated their core value of ‘acting with passion and care’. Their clients received a thoughtful gift that was relevant to them being stuck at home, and it gave them a reassuring nudge that they are genuinely cared about.

Where do I go from here?

Your core values must ultimately come from within your team. However, trying to convey them eloquently and succinctly can be a challenge.

We can help. Understanding why you do what you do is an essential part of any branding and website project, and our content writers are experienced at putting your thoughts into beautifully written copy. Get in touch with us at [email protected] or call 0115 8965 300 if you’d like to find out more.

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