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Living your values in how you do business

Written by Lesli Boldt on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 11:24AM
Filed in: Business Women Communications Values
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To pay for university, I worked at a few local small businesses in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver: two delis and a butcher shop, each one owned and operated by local folks who also lived in North Vancouver. The minimum wage was around $6 or $7 per hour in those days, but it was enough for me to pay for tuition and books for the four and a half years I was in school, if I worked five or six days a week during the summer.

In those days, I didn’t think much about the “values” of the businesses I worked for, or the people who ran them – they were just jobs that helped me pay for school. But looking back, what they all had in common is that they were businesses rooted in community values – local people serving local people. In those jobs, I also learned a lot about hard work, having a strong work ethic, not letting other people down, and how to be good at customer service - and these are all values I’ve continued to carry with me throughout my career.

In 2001, I made my dream of running my own consulting business come true, and as so often happens in life, the timing was right for me. I’d just come from a job at Vancity Credit Union, where my colleagues talked often about “living our values in how we do business”. As a politically progressive person, this was the first time I’d heard language that adequately described the kind of business I’d always wanted to build.

So what does it mean to have or run a “values-based business”?

For me, values-based business is about searching for and accepting work with companies and organizations that share my values. I’m looking for values like transparency, integrity, honesty, professionalism and respect in the people and firms I work for. I also look for companies and clients that care about things like community, compassion, equality, human rights, and the environment. And, I want to work for companies and organizations that are passionate about issues like affordable housing, buying (and hiring) local, community development, reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people, and public health.

If you look at my client list, you’ll see that all of my clients hold at least some – if not all - of these values (or aspire to do so on the future). They’ve chosen me because I’m the right fit for the business they want - and I’ve chosen them, too.

If you want to build a values-based business for yourself, start by looking inside yourself to identify the kind of world you want to create for yourself and those you love. Define what values are most important to you, both in yourself and in the people you choose to have relationships with (including your spouse, friends, family and colleagues). Then look at your business and how you can make choices in your business that align with those values.

Let these values be your guide as your business grows and changes, so that your business is always a reflection of who you are, and what you believe in.

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