What motivates you to succeed? Defining your values

Stephanie Plaster
Business values influence the farm’s goals and priorities.

Elvis Presley was credited with saying “Values are like fingerprints. Nobodies are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.” 

This is true for each of us as individuals and as businesses. Our values shape how we make the day to day and long-term decisions that affect our business and our future. Being able to define exactly what our personal, family, and business values are, allows us to more clearly understand our WHY – or what’s behind what motivates us and drives us to make decisions, accomplish goals, and be successful.  Values establish our purpose and vision for the future.

Values can be defined as any of the following: the quality of being useful or important, the degree of excellence, moral or personal worth, something considered or rated highly, or closely held beliefs. Common examples of values in farm businesses include sustainability, profitability, doing what’s right, integrity, community, solution-oriented, family, and faith.

Business values influence the farm’s goals and priorities. It is important to be able to recognize differences in the values of owners, stakeholders, managers, and other key personnel and have a process through which each is willing to compromise if necessary to arrive at mutually acceptable goals and decisions.

If you have not taken the opportunity to sketch out what your values are, you can do so relatively quickly on your own or during a team meeting. Have all individuals involved in the business complete the following personal core values activity. 

Step 1: Have each person individually select their top 5 value words. When choosing values, ask yourself which of these words contributes to your sense of success or achievement.

 It can be helpful to try to pick at least one value in each of these categories: personal values, relationship values, business-oriented values, and external values.  There are many values lists available via a quick internet search if you need a place to start.

Step 2: Have each person briefly write down and describe what those values mean to them and what they look like in action. 

Once each person has had the opportunity to identify their top core values, it is time to bring everyone together to identify the farm business’s core operating values. The next steps help you come up with the business’s top five core values.

Step 1: Which core values show up consistently across the lists? Are there any that everyone agrees on?

Step 2: Discuss what core values are different between the lists. Decide if they should be included in the business core values. It is important to recognize differences in values and be willing to compromise to arrive at mutually acceptable values.

Step 3: Select the top three to five that everyone agrees should become the business top core values.

Step 4: Describe what these core values mean to the business and craft a value statement for each. It is helpful to look back to step 2 of the personal core values activity. How will you state to your employees and customers the importance of this value? What will you do to live that value? Keep this statement brief and simple.

Step 5: Display and share your business values with business partners, employees, and customers.

Values are an important opportunity for you as a business owner to lead by example and attract customers and employees.  Remind yourself regularly of your values and strive to demonstrate them in how you act and the decisions you make. Having a clear sense of direction and purpose is important for you and others involved like your family, business partners, and employees.

Stephanie Plaster

Stephanie Plaster is the UW-Madison Extension Agriculture Educator for Ozaukee & Washington Counties

UW Extension