Inspiring Core Values
I’ve worked at Ikonix USA for almost eleven years in various roles leading up to my promotion to Vice President in early 2016. When I first read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, in early 2015, it immediately had a significant impact on my work. At the time, I had recently been promoted to Director of Strategic Planning and I was looking to make big top-down changes in my new role.
Ikonix USA is a family-owned B2B company that operates several brands in the test and measurement space. Throughout my tenure, I had long admired our company and our culture. We had three leading brands in their respective industries, and an amazing team of loyal employees that echoed the family owned values of the company. With Mr. Sinek’s why, how, what framework in mind, I set two key goals: revise our mission statements and codify our core values.
I first applied what I learned to our most enduring brand, Associated Research. AR has been selling electrical safety testing equipment for more than 80 years. In attempting to find AR’s why, I had to distill the brand’s value proposition, going deeper than a clichéd focus on quality products or customer service. Having been in business so long, AR draws on a wealth of knowledge and experience not only to sell products, but also to teach our customers how to be safe. Below is AR’s new mission statement, which I think fully captures our why:
We build relationships with manufacturers around the globe who trust our products and expertise in electrical safety compliance testing to protect their employees and customers from the dangers of electricity.
I’m proud that AR’s mission reflects our why and creates a vision that our employees can believe in. With our new aspirational mission in place, our employees can conceptualize how their day to day responsibilities contribute to the greater good.
Next, I turned my focus to identifying our how and what. I thought codifying Ikonix USA’s values was a good place to start. These intrinsic cultural beliefs already existed at all levels of the company and guided how we as an organization did business and what we as employees did that counted; they had just never been articulated and written down.
Over the course of several meetings, our leadership team identified eight company values (how) and six core values (what). We knew that remembering 14 different values would be a challenge for our employees, so we decided to roll out our core values first. Our reasons for adapting Mr. Sinek’s framework and implementing what before how were twofold. First, we felt core values were easier for our employees to perpetuate in their daily activities. Second, we could easily incorporate core values into our performance management system. The core values we decided upon are below:
The entire leadership team committed to adopting our core values and supporting them from the top down. We hung the words on the walls. We incorporated them into our websites, recruitment, and training materials. We included quarterly core value assessments into our performance reviews. We even offer a reward to one employee each month that goes above and beyond in demonstrating a core value as voted on by their peers. After a year, I’m happy to say that our employees have embraced the idea of being a values-based company. You can hear references to our values incorporated into daily conversations around the office.
Despite the progress we’ve made, there’s still much to do. We have to find a way to communicate our how through our company values. Further, we are still searching for our third brand’s why. I look forward to completing the project that I started after first picking up Start with Why. The journey has not only been rewarding for me personally, but it has also been rewarding for Ikonix USA and our employees as well.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.