What part do corporate values play in giving businesses the edge?

A roundtable event organised by TheBusinessDesk.com and hosted by Northspring Leeds discussed how businesses can successfully exploit intangible assets such as corporate values.

The occasion was backed by main sponsor Growth Lending and also supported by Aon, Freeths and Sagars. It was chaired by TheBusinessDesk.com’s Yorkshire editor – Andrew Staples.

Roundtable participants were asked what role corporate values can play in giving businesses the edge against the competition.

Vicki Taylor, of Growth Lending, responded: “It’s hard to get your values into the day-to-day of what you do. But if you take yourself out of that day-to-day then you can develop the characteristics of the business so you can better explain who you are.”

James MacKenzie, of The Data Shed, said his business aims to talk about its people rather than its values.

“Most of our communication centres on the really great people we have involved in the business,” he said.

“We grew as a family business. The founders developed the business around their family and around flexibility.

“We opened an office in Edinburgh and people just came to us – we didn’t ask them about values, it is just an organic sense of identity.”

Catherine Bardsley, of Cloudtrainer Ltd, said even though her established company has not explicitly spelled out its corporate values, the firm still has its own culture and ethos which it demonstrate in everything it does.

Richard Kenny, of Interact, highlighted that it is hard for a company such as his – which has offices all over the world – to instil the same set of corporate values in its workforce when it operates across different global cultures.

“It’s very difficult to have consistent culture and values across the world,” he said. “A UK millennial is different to one in the USA, or Australia or Japan.

“What is acceptable behaviour for work in the UK isn’t acceptable in France. It’s really tricky to work in absolutes.”

Kenny added that when his business takes on new staff, it does so on the basis of finding the right people to solve problems, rather than on a basis of people’s values.

The meeting room at Northspring Leeds, which hosted the Intangibles Roundtable

He said: “We always blind hire new people. I built the business to solve the problem, so needed the best minds in the world to deliver that impact.

“I don’t want to hire people like me, because I can already solve my own problems. I want people who can solve other problems.”

Also picking up on the issue of recruitment, Matt Ward, of xDesign, said: “We do all our recruitment in-house, 90% by referral. We do meet people who are a lot like us so we’re not as diverse as we’d like to be, but we’re trying to change that.”

“It’s less about recruitment and more about retention. Getting people through the door is probably easier than hanging onto them.”

“The most powerful intangible in your business is your people, and if you retain the best people you’ll succeed. In our sector we have a lot of competition but we’re doing our best to hang onto our people.”

Georgie Lynskey, of G Digital, stressed businesses that want to have a proper set of corporate values which influences how they operate must be prepared to think seriously about what this involves.

“Values aren’t just something you stick on a website,” she said “You need to deliver them as a leader, and then they will filter down.”

David Graham, of JUST Access, emphasised that despite the importance of corporate values and other intangibles, for companies which are just getting off the ground the key consideration is survival.

“It’s hard to start a business and when you start out you’ll take any client who will pay you,” he said. “It is a tough path. There’s only one metric with a start-up, which is ‘are you going to make it and survive?’

“It can be difficult even for established businesses. The company I was in bought a bunch of struggling hotels which had forgotten all the basics of making a business succeed. The fundamentals always apply.”

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