Values are the language of an organization.
—Joey Reiman, on Values
In 1993, a young maverick named Charles Brewer pinned up a set of core values for his budding Internet company, MindSpring, on the wall of his apartment in Atlanta. Those values, which included frugality, respect for the individual, and the notion that work should be fun, were upheld to the day MindSpring merged with EarthLink in 2000 and became an estimated $4 billion telecommunications giant.
What’s truly remarkable is that Brewer had no idea what business he would start when he identified his company’s core values. “I thought there had to be a way to do things [and treat] customers better,” he told me. “The only way to be different was to focus on the values. I wrote them down ahead of time, several months before I determined the business.” Laughing, Brewer says he had to start a business eventually because “the values were not generating profits on their own.”
“If ethics are rules, then values are guides. And they’re hot today. Values are on everyone’s mind,” says Philip Kotler, renowned marketing expert and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
But values haven’t always been in the forefront of business. Kotler believes this emerging values revolution comes on the heels of unprecedented corporate corruption and public disillusionment. “This is the result of our obsession with materialism at the expense of values such as friendship ...