Over the past few days I’ve been giving a lot of thought to values, and how they need to form the basis of your business plan. This has mainly been due to a paper I’m writing for a client. However, It occurred to me that I’d never actually written down the values for my own business. I took action on this, and added them to the Appleby Consulting website.

Our values are the principles we follow to do business, and should underpin everything we do. Our values are what make us unique and while we might have a business vision or BHAG, our values are core to how we get there.

The list of values I came up with fall under a number of headings, and I thought it was worth taking some time to explain the rationale for each one. I haven’t reproduced the full value statement in this post, you can read it here.

Brilliance – I unapologetically copy this from Michael Heppell, his book how to be brilliant is the best personal development book I’ve read for a long time. If you only read one business book this year, make sure it is Michael’s. Being brilliant at the stuff you do sums it all up really. Theres a link to Michael’s book on the resources page

Integrity – As a consultant this is of paramount importance. I’m a chartered Accountant and I take my own professional ethics very seriously. I also believe in client confidentiality irrespective of whether the client asks me to sign a confidentiality agreement. I’ve been asked in the past to compromise my independence and I’m simply not prepared to do it.

Shared Goals – When working for consultancies in the past there has always been a pressure to secure the next sale with the client. This isn’t always in the client’s best interest. Sometimes the right thing to do is walk away, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say no if we don’t believe the work we are asked to do is the right way forward.

I’ve also been persuaded, within larger consultancies that I’ve worked for in the past, to sell the corporate line to staff I manage. I can remember being told to persuade people thinking of leaving the firm not to, and so on. This is wrong, the manager’s role is as a mentor and to do this properly he must understand the individual’s needs and goals. These do not always align to those of the organisation in the longer term.

Honesty – If you are going to give genuine advice to clients you really need to tell it as it is. I think of the TV reality show, and the judge who tells it as it is, giving honest feedback. You can all picture one. Simon Cowell is the one in the back of my mind as I write this. He isn’t prepared to lie, he gives honest feedback, and usually with encouragement.

Positive belief – Leading on from honesty, I believe we must avoid negativity. My glass is always half full, not half empty, and I believe in a can do culture. We look for solutions not problems. A big part of what we do is business change. Change naturally breeds uncertainty and this can lead to negativity. To manage that change successfully we must be positive, and help people through that change with encouragement and support.

Exceeding expectations – This is a big part of being brilliant (see Michael Heppell’s book…..again!)

Family first – Perhaps this should be at the top of the list. Work life balance is a big issue in consultancy. The client is rarely next door to home and the job involves a lot of travel and time away. Personally I enjoy all the variety that this brings, but it can have major downsides too. Work life balance is really important. For me that’s working from home one or two days a week, or more when circumstances allow. breaks between client assignments, and making time to support family when need arises. I’m trying to create a ‘freedom business’.

Fun – This has to be right at the core of what we do. I’ve experienced the Sunday night dread, where work comes along after a great weekend and the heart sinks. My ‘freedom business’ vision must create something that is enjoyable to do.

I recently took a course called the freedom formula, and that made me think about my purpose and how to fulfil it. I defined my single motivating purpose, and quickly understood that it needed to be at the centre  of my business model. According to the course, the single motivating purpose starts “I get up in the morning to……..” In my case I wake up in the morning to find and analyse information in order to help individuals and businesses assemble resources, improve performance and achieve goals.

This extends to clients. We need client teams to really enjoy working with us and to get value out of the sessions we run with them. The best feedback is from the client team member who told me recently – “I really enjoyed that workshop and the 3 hours has flown past – I wasn’t looking forward to tackling those issues, but we have worked through them and got a great outcome”

Best value – We want to deliver big 4 consultancy but not at big 4 prices, we also want to make this affordable to businesses that need help but can’t afford the traditional consultancy model. This means we need to be innovative in the way we supply that help and maximise the use of technology. On line training, coaching and mentoring are major parts of the business model, this will allow us to reduce cost and also overcome geographic constraints. We need to help clients to do as much by themselves as possible so our style is to support, encourage and up skill. There is also no reason why we shouldn’t be able to offer support and training to a small company in say the USA from our UK base.

Technology – Best value implies the use of internet based models, but I’m also fed up with corporate IT. Previous employers have created the situation of carrying 2 phones and 2 laptops, mainly preventing the use of certain software with a locked down corporate desktop. I love playing with technology, so the company must encourage this. We use up to date Apple kit, latest versions of all software, and minimal restrictions on applications that can be used.

Team Ethos – A great team delivers great work, simple. Its very important to form the team quickly and get it to perform highly. Often the team will be a mixed one of client staff and consultants, and the varying backgrounds of the individuals mean this is never easy. Its also fun to be part of a great team, and this can really help you through some of the most challenging situations.

Learning – We always have to be open to new ideas, and keeping abreast of new things is a core consulting skill. However, one of my personal strengths, according to Strengthsfinder 2.0 is “Learner”, so this simply has to be a core value.

My challenge to you…. Do you know what your values are? are they shared through your organisation? are they part of everything you do? I don’t believe you can have a meaningful business plan unless it truly reflects the core values in the business.

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