31 Oct How to test if you’re in a values driven business
Corporate values, for some this term is an oxymoron. Corporations don’t have values plural, they have a thing they value, singular. That “thing” is profit. Everything else is window dressing designed to make stakeholders feel a little better about the corporation.
Granted, that’s a pretty cynical view, but it’s fair to say there are very few organisations who actually demonstrate a worthy commitment to their values. For most businesses values are for internal stakeholders exclusively.
But what if your customers don’t live-up to the values of the business, would you ask them to not be a customer? It’s unlikely P&G will ever not sell washing-up liquid to a person because they don’t demonstrate Integrity, Trust, Leadership or Ownership (yes, these are some of their stated values).
So, when Airbnb emailed their customers last week announcing their Community Commitment program, I was shocked by the fact that, if I (as a customer) did not agree to their fight against bias and discrimination within the Airbnb community, I could no longer use their service. This is “values driven” beyond anything I’ve seen. A company that demands ALL stakeholders are congruent with their very human values. And if you don’t agree, then Airbnb doesn’t need you as a customer (as per the below excerpt).
Often, it is difficult to get out of the rut of generic, overused values (see P&G above) designed to offend the least and relate to the many, but ultimately do nothing to distinguish the business from any other. Some businesses do a great job of airing their values and advertising them proudly (think United Colours of Benetton), but Airbnb is next level. The unfortunate reality, is that when corporate values are “brought to life” they often end-up occupying space on a wall at HQ and nothing more.
Bravo Airbnb. If more businesses took as courageous a move as this, then corporations could indeed change the world for the better. So to test if you’re in a values driven business simply ask yourself, would we do what Airbnb has just done? Would we risk losing customers to live-up to our values? Or are our corporate values mere window dressing to help us feel better about the unrelenting drive to meet one value, that of the profit figure?