“If there is one thing that companies are learning in the current economic crisis, it is the importance of resilience - the ability to withstand and overcome business, economic, and societal shocks.” 

– Richard Barrett, Barrett Values Centre

In good economic times, most businesses can maintain a sufficient profit margin. The businesses that are profitable in a poor or struggling economy, however, are those that have identified internal and external strategies for growth, sustainability, and longevity. The difference between companies that can weather an economic storm and those that cannot is a business model driven by values, rather than dollar signs. Values-driven organizations ultimately achieve a higher level of performance that increases cost savings, improves service levels, and supports sustainability for continued business growth and success.

The most resilient companies display the following characteristics:

• A shared set of values
• A commitment to the common good
• A high level of staff engagement, and
• A shared vision of the future

These qualities lead to internal cohesion. According to Barrett, “being strong on the inside means having a values-driven culture and a highly aligned and effective leadership team.” Organizations that are strong on the inside are also strong on the outside; a fortified internal values structure can operate outside the company through values-driven decision-making and community engagement. Having both internal and external strength, along with clearly defined and communicated vision /mission statements and values, can enable any company to attain the resilience and adaptability necessary for fulfillment and success.

There are seven different levels of awareness at which businesses operate. Most businesses fall into one of the first three levels, which include the pursuit of profit and shareholder value, the development of relationships that sustain corporate needs, and the support of best practices in day-to-day operations. When a business achieves a level of awareness that exceeds best practices, they have entered a state of continuous renewal, defined as the promotion of learning and innovation, teambuilding, and empowerment of staff to succeed and pursue fulfillment in their work. 

The level of continuous renewal is often where companies reach their capacity for growth in terms of awareness. Businesses can often sustain profits at this level, but further growth and longevity continue to be challenging, particularly in tough economic times. Successfully overcoming these obstacles requires a dedicated leadership team and complete commitment of staff. The highest levels of awareness include a positive, creative corporate culture that supports shared visions and values; collaboration with customers and the local community through strategic alliances, employee fulfillment, and environmental stewardship; and long term perspective and service to humanity for the purpose of improving and empowering future generations. 

Companies must develop and encourage leaders to operate at all levels of awareness. Full-spectrum leaders make values-based decisions, and these decisions drive long-term success and adaptability. In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard Business School researchers Kotter and Heskett emphasize the significance of adaptive cultures:

In adaptive culture entails risk-taking, trusting, and a proactive approach to organizational and individual life. Members actively support one another’s efforts to identify all problems and implement workable solutions. There is a shared feeling of confidence: the members believe, without a doubt, that they can effectively manage whatever new problems or opportunities will come their way. There is widespread enthusiasm, a spirit of doing whatever it takes to achieve organizational success. The members are receptive to change and innovation.

The ability to translate intangible values to tangible business and community results are key indicators of a successful values-based culture. While the development phase is essential in determining the right values for an organization, effective implementation is the only way to ensure that long term benefits will be realized. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking outcomes allows leaders and team members to effectively measure improvements.

A balanced business is a successful business, and managing KPIs by measuring results is the best way to ensure that the path to developing and implementing a values-driven culture is profitable and enjoyable. Values-driven organizations invariably realize increased cost savings, improved service levels, and sustainability for continued business growth and success. When leaders walk the talk, and members are fully invested in making a difference both internally and externally, any company can improve performance while creating a legacy that will support and empower individuals today while positively impacting many generations to come. 

“Living our LEGACY includes those actions driving what we value and live "into" each day. As we shift from “Self-Driven” leaders to LEGACY Leaders our new qualities will generate a series of experiences between us and others… And as we practice or demonstrate these new behaviors, over time, they become written into the lives of others.” 

– Ken Porter, Chief Learning Officer, TMSi Logistics

Ron Cain, author of Developing a Values-Driven Organization to Achieve a Successful and Sustainable Business Model is the Chairman and CEO of TMSi Logistics with headquarters in New Hampshire and can be reached at (603) 373-7233 or at ronc@tmsilog.com.