“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney
My previous business was a joint venture partnership. The business was an ongoing concern in the United Kingdom and I approached the founders to bring operations to the United States. One thing that initially attracted me to the company was they had values that appeared to govern their actions. When we established the company in 2009, my leadership team and I created our own values. There were only four of them and they were simple and succinct. Yet, the values were purposeful and we believed in them. While the company grew to have much diversity with locations in 14 states, we were all deeply united behind these four simple sentences. Many companies put values on the wall of their office or store front, but that’s all they do. I am extremely proud that while leading the company, we did our best to always follow the initial guiding principles we established.
One of my favorite quotes is “process equals freedom.” Now, many years after I started using it, I can’t find who said it first, but that guy or girl hit a chord with me. Another iteration of this quote is “discipline equals freedom,” by Ex Navy Seal, Jocko Willink. I find when there is a process or discipline to what I do, the decision making process is easier and freeing. As a CEO, decisions need to be made at a daily and dizzying rate, but when there are values to be followed, these decisions become more manageable.
Taking a business from an idea to a nearly nationwide presence does not happen quickly or without difficulty. The business faced challenges constantly, to include; competition, workplace accidents, problems with vendors, funding, you name it, we went through it. However, these issues were always manageable knowing there was a tight knit group of people who believed in similar things working towards a common goal. Knowing and feeling this was like having a superpower; if the team was together, no obstacle in our way could defeat us. It may sound silly, but this is what I felt in the darkest of times and what inspired me to keep going.
The most difficult challenge was when there was a breakdown of the values. If a team member was found not adhering to our principles (on multiple occasions and with warning), they were to be removed from the organization. There would also be times when I was aware that a value was not being followed to advance a competing priority. During these situations I would feel like a hypocrite or a liar and would do everything in my power to get us back to being the company we all saw ourselves as.
As I continue to work on ideas for the future, I am using my own personal values to guide this process. At an Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) event I attended a couple years ago, attendees were asked by a facilitator to come up with a couple of words that would represent their values. I thought the exercise was going to be a complete waste of time. Failing to see how my company values gave the organization freedom and direction and that personal values could do the same, I agreed to go along with the exercise (really, I didn’t want to be ostracized by the group). After a pretty intense session of self-discovery, this is what I found; Freedom, Unity and Curiosity. With an acronym like FUC, these are values I won’t soon forget! In a nutshell, they represent the following:
- Freedom – a general freedom of financial pressures, freedom from myself (read Controlling Hulk for more on this) and freedom from others, hence my entrepreneurial pursuits
- Unity – this represents my desire to have a sound family life and relationships that bring about a togetherness
- Curiosity – a love for learning that which interests me
During this exercise I found I am most happy when these personal values are being followed. For me to be true to myself, these are the guiding principles.
Currently, I am finding these personal values to provide both comfort and restriction. Comfort in that I have a real direction as to what “the next thing” needs to provide in order to bring me happiness. At the same time, I feel a restriction in that many opportunities I am uncovering fail to align with these values. I have found interesting businesses to run that provide financial gain, but would require lots of traveling (no Unity). Or businesses that check the freedom box, but aren’t interesting to me (no Curiosity). There’s a side of me wishing I wasn’t aware of “FUC,” so I could start a new business, get a job, or do whatever without discernment. I’m impatient and want something to do with purpose now. Thankfully, this feeling usually doesn’t last for long. After a couple of minutes sitting on my chair or having my wife tell me to calm down, I try to focus on the present and get back to what the FUC I’m going to do.
Photo is from a farm in Whanganui, New Zealand (thanks to JW’s Mom!)