Written by Laura Early, WISE Co-Founder and Deputy Director 


Coming up with company Core Values can be a daunting task. Often, it is difficult to know where to start. As a young business owner not so long ago, I remember this pressure well. Now that I’m using my business to advise other small businesses, I see so many of my clients struggle in this area of business planning. But I promise, choosing the right Core Values isn’t hard, and it can be a great team building exercise if you approach it correctly. 


Here are my five steps to creating the ideal Core Values for your company: 

Step 1: Get Together

The best place to start is to carve out time with your team. Deciding your Core Values should be a team effort since they reflect your team/company culture. I’d suggest doing this with a group of five to 10 people. This can be a mixture of various team members or a team within your company.

Step 2: Brain Dump

The next step is to brain dump on a whiteboard or giant poster. Fill the board with words and phrases that describe who you are, what you do, and what makes your business unique. Do NOT Google lists of other companies’ Core Values. This process should be organic and not influenced by outside sources. Your Core Values should be just that, yours. And they should authentically describe your organization.

Step 3: Draw Lines

Once you have your word web hashed out, begin to draw lines between connecting thoughts or phrases. Group sections by common themes or correlations. For example: listening to our clients and doing little tasks well could be connected under “Serving Clients Well,” which is part of our WISE value “Excellence in the Ordinary”. 


**Tip if you are a solopreneur: Do the Core Values exercise and then ask a mentor, friend, or family member for their opinion. Some questions to ask them, include: 


  • What do you think of when you hear these words? 
  • Do they reflect my brand?  
  • Do they reflect me? 


Step 4: Circle Major Themes 

Once you have your themes, write them separately on a whiteboard or poster. Narrow down the themes, if needed, to just a handful and let them sit for a bit. Come back to them with fresh eyes and develop three to five values from the themes. They can be words or short phrases, just make sure they’re easy enough to remember and share with your team. 

Step 5: Have Your Team Spread the Word

Be sure to encourage your leaders to start using these values in conversations with team members. They should be used to explain the “whys” and the “why not’s” within your organization. Core Values show people where your priorities lie, and they provide your team with language to describe and guide behavior. They’re meant to unite your team and serve as an organizational beacon. 


Remember, your Core Values should represent who you are and not who you want to be. They should never be just posters in your office but a true reflection of your organizational culture. At WISE, we are constantly talking about our values and recognizing team members who go above and beyond to reflect them. 


If you’re in need of a little Core Value assistance, reach out to WISE. We’d love to help your team create a company culture that’s true to you. 


Laura Early

WISE Deputy Director

Laura is the Deputy Director at WISE. She has extensive experience in personality assessments, team organization, and organizational health.