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Do businesses really need values?

As I See It

Several months ago Time Warner Inc. announced adoption of a set of corporate values for the company. Executives were collected for a two-day program to define what the company calls its “core values and guiding principles.” The result was a commitment to diversity, respect, integrity, creativity, community and teamwork.

Lofty goals, one and all.

Time Warner’s efforts were met with a fair amount of media skepticism. The company has long been known for a bare-knuckled business style. In addition to internal strife among the various entertainment divisions, Time Warner has been under attack from civic leaders and police groups for it’s role in distributing violent rap lyrics. All this happened before the tragic school shooting in Littleton, Colo.

Gerald Levin, chairman of Time Warner, is convinced that only companies with strongly articulated values will prosper and survive in the years to come. His views on creating an enduring corporation are said to have been influenced by “Built to Last,” a business book written by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. This book identified “visionary” companies and found common themes, including that most successful companies are guided by “core values and sense of purpose beyond just making money.”

Notwithstanding Time Warner’s reputation as a profit-driven company, recognition that core values are important is a step in the right direction.

Here at the Mississippi Business Journal, we have long operated under a mission statement that expresses our core values and corporate mission. We take our mission seriously and even though some consider this whole issue of values as being soft, we believe it very important.

The MBJ mission statement says: “We will deliver essential business news and information to our customers in an accurate, timely, interesting and profitable manner by working together with vision, enthusiasm and integrity.”

Each word was carefully chosen and we believe our statement says it all.

Operating under a code of values is an individual commitment since “businesses” don’t make decisions, people do. When tough decisions must be made, we either make those decisions consistent with some value structure or we don’t. If we have strongly ingrained values, our decisions take on a quality of consistency and predictability which employees, customers, vendors, family and friends come to appreciate and expect.

Otherwise, the law of the jungle prevails.

Adoption of missions, values and core principles should not be done flippantly. Company leaders should meet and express their views in a non-threatening environment. The result should be a group effort. Thereafter, each and every decision should be consistent with those values adopted.

Otherwise, the effort will bare no fruit and will have been a colossal waste of time.

THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

— GALATIANS 5:14

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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