From the Influencers

What Does a Company's Core Values Say About its Culture?

April 19, 2016
By Special Guest
Amy Zimmerman, Global Head of People, Kabbage, Inc. -

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to creating the right company culture. However, defining your values that will be the building blocks for your culture early on is integral to the future success of your company, particularly as it achieves new stages of growth.

A strong culture is one that is evident even to newcomers and is cultivated through dedication to a clear set of values and embodied by all members of the community. At Kabbage, we have found it is part of our DNA to care deeply. That most often entails a great degree of autonomy, freedom of voice, and respect for one another. As a result of the high value we place on these values, we find our team members more passionately engaged in the business and poised for great achievements.

According to a study from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, a healthy corporate culture – with an established set of values that resonate throughout – makes a company more likely to thrive. In the end, it’s the cultural aspects of your company that will help you build an empowered and enthusiastic employee base, while allowing you live to your fullest growth potential. 

Don’t let your culture happen by accident

There is a world of difference between standing for something and having values that say you stand for something. Many leaders create core values for two reasons: #1 - they read somewhere that they ought

to; and, #2 - they have really good intentions. Sadly, most attempts fall flat as a result. They write something that sounds good or is aspirational at best, but not something that they are prepared to deliberately create, nor something for which they’ve hired properly to achieve. A company’s culture will be created whether it is prescribed or not, so it might as well be something about which the leaders are excited and of which they want to be proud.

There is no point in having values if they are not the foundation for all actions. If a leadership team truly values its core values, then it is critical to hire other leaders and team members who share those values. Otherwise growth will dilute or even destroy the culture. The stated core values will no longer be the basis for actions and decisions, and the culture will be something altogether different from what was envisioned when those values were established.

Hiring with intention

We have always been very deliberate about our hiring decisions. We only hire people that we believe care deeply and are self aware. It is important to us that people don’t merely tolerate one another, but

rather they genuinely respect each others’ perspectives and experiences even if they don’t agree with or understand them. We spend a tremendous amount of time together at work, and the collegiate

environment that we’ve created is very special.

Hiring the right people is as important to the success of the business as having a disruptive product or even well-heeled investors. A couple of toxic missteps can create such discord in the organization that the effects can be far-reaching, and range from expensive turnover, to missed business opportunities, to quality and trust issues, and countless others.

If companies spent more time thinking about who they are and defining the values for which they actually want to stand (not just the ones that merely sound good), and actually behaved according to those principles, they might actually find themselves making smarter hiring decisions and realizing far greater success in their business. Imagine an environment where everyone (in all of their diverse professional and personal experiences) is not only aware of and invested in the mission at hand, but also empowered to execute. An environment where team members are treated as individuals and are supported, respected, and trusted; an environment in which people are invested, creating endless opportunity. That’s the kind of culture that yields the business results about which most employees and investors can only dream. And it all starts with defining and committing to some fundamental principles that most define you and your business.

Amy Zimmerman is Head of Global People Operations at Kabbage. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Kabbage has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide fully automated funding to small businesses in minutes. Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as accounting data, online sales, shipping and dozens of other sources to understand performance and deliver fast, flexible funding in real time.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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