Ryonet Blog

Defining Your Values

Below is an excerpt from my book, “Made to Make It: A Guide To Screen Printing Success.”  Learn helpful tips and tricks on how to run a screen printing business.

Just because you know where you’re going, doesn’t mean you won’t get lost along the way. Your values serve as the compass for your organization—keeping you, your team, and your partners moving in the right direction. While you probably already instinctively know what these are, they need to be documented. Having a clearly defined set of values can help you: * Stay focused and grounded * Make smart business decisions * Feel confident in your choices * Gain the respect of your partners * Attract the right team members. Wherever you’re going, you won’t be going alone, so it’s important that you have a clear sense of direction to guide you (and the people you decided you’d be taking with you in your stump speech). Even if you’re a one man band and don’t have a team, you’re still going to work with customers and vendors, without whom making it in this game is out of the question. Not only do you need to identify what your values are, but you also need to write them down, share them publicly and make them an integral part of how you do business.

At Ryonet, I didn’t do this for six years. At first, it wasn’t a big deal. Our team was small. I hired mostly friends, whom I instinctively knew shared my values, and everything worked pretty well. Until it didn’t. Not having defined values made it hard to build a company and, as a result, Ryonet lost its way many times, and truthfully so did I. I started a ton of side businesses which distracted me, conflicted with my team, and scraped money off the bottom of Ryonet’s margin. I chose business partnerships that didn’t align with how we did business, leaving a wake of very expensive confusion and waste for my team to pick up. I hired many of the wrong people for that team who did many of the same things I was doing and further cost the company money, added distraction, and diluted performance. At the end of the day, it was an initiative to get more targeted in our hiring decisions that led us to codify our values. We began evaluating what attributes we wanted in our team members; which attributes we didn’t want; and what we as a business would need to bring to the table to build healthy and long-lasting relationships.

If vision + values = culture, in determining our cultural outlook, we had, in essence, backed into our values! It’s rather amazing; the values were done a full three years before we implemented them. I just didn’t know it was that easy OR important. We’ll talk more about culture in the next section, but it’s important to mention the interrelationship between the two. And you’ll note I said “interrelationship” versus “relationship,” because one cannot exist without the other. When we finally put pen to paper to write down our values, we took inspiration from Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos and author of “Delivering Happiness,” a detailed account of how Zappos built a thriving corporate culture and successful business on unique core values like “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness.” After discovering his book, I was so enthralled with Hsieh and Zappos that we flew multiple groups from Ryonet down to Zappos headquarters and paid for private tours and tutoring sessions from some of the leaders on their team. The tours are free by the way, and the next time you’re in Vegas, I would HIGHLY recommend it.

When we got down to the nitty-gritty of our values, we started with a list of ten or so ideals that I felt had been instrumental in Ryonet’s success to date and were core to my personal beliefs. Then we held several rounds of group feedback with different teams in the company. We’d review the lists, get feedback on the concepts and the names, and I would take notes. Then I’d send a survey out to the team via email to confirm the mini groups feedback to the entire company. Then we would repeat. I whittled down the list to 5 and wrote summations of each; reviewed them with our management team; sent them out to the team for one final survey, and then wrote the Ryonet Values document. TO YOURSELF. If you are not true to yourself, everything in your life can be compromised. To your team. To grow as a team, we need to be honest, respectful, and accountable to each other. To our partners and vendors. To succeed, we must conduct our business with the highest standard of honesty and integrity. SERVE Our team and our customers. Find value in what you do and the customers your work serves. Remember that even a $9 pint of ink can print 100 shirts that a screen printer can sell to support a creative hobby, family, employee or community. WORK SMART AND HARD Work hard, learn from mistakes, find better ways to operate, and be a go-getter! BE THE BEST AT BEING BETTER Commit to continuous learning. Strive to improve yourself and the business in any way you can. “Live as if you would die tomorrow; learn as if you would live forever.” —Ghandi BE POSITIVE Embrace the craziness of life, work and the problems that will sometimes arise in them. We are not perfect—our company, its leaders, and its team members will make mistakes. But we will treat each mistake as an opportunity to create a stronger team, business, and future for our company.

At Ryonet, we work hard to stay true to these values, although it isn’t always easy. Businesses are a reflection of their people, and people aren’t perfect. But our values hold us accountable. They help us learn from our mistakes. They motivate us to create a stronger organization and future for our company. When you write your own values, I encourage you not to overthink it. For the most part, you probably already know what they are, so this should be an exercise of fine tuning for you and your leadership team. REALIZE LESS IS MORE If you want your values to stick, don’t make them a list of 20. If you have more than 6 or 7 on your list, look for areas where you can combine them. Truth, integrity, honesty, and openness, for instance, all mean just about the same thing. FOCUS ON THE ESSENCE It’s the principal, not the words. Make it crisp and powerful, like Zappos “Deliver ‘WOW’ Through Service.” Originally all of our values had different titles, but we ended up making them short and sweet so people could remember them. MAKE THEM ACTIONABLE Values are what you do, not what you aspire to do. Look throughout your team and find who is actually living your proposed values. If no one is, then they aren’t values, they’re aspirations. Choose principles that you can expect your team to live every day. CONSIDER THEM A WORK IN PROGRESS Your business and team will grow and change. Make additions, delete or amend as necessary as you hone in on your vision. COMMUNICATE TO THEM BROADLY Put them in your lunchroom, your handbook, on your website, your packaging. Talk to candidates about them, and new team members. Make them real by living them, and asking others to do the same. Remember, you are building a tribe with shared beliefs.

Something that we did, and I would recommend, is to make your values a work in progress so that as you grow, your team changes, and you learn, you can amend them if and when needed. This doesn’t mean the core principles change, but maybe you expand on one, or re-write another, or add on what is now important and wasn’t important when you started. I got this idea from our country’s founders and the amendment mechanism they wrote into the Constitution of the United States (more on that later). As of the writing of this book our values have not been changed. They have been challenged, however, and a slight amendment was made to one. “Work Hard and Smart” became “Work Smart and Hard.” We just changed the order of words in our original value. We had already embraced hard work at Ryonet. What we needed to do next was start putting the emphasis on SMART work that is supported by hard work, and not rely on hard work to overcome the lack of SMART work. The value amendment was unanimous.

“We didn’t start out with written values, but as we grew, we knew we had to put the ideals we were practicing into words. Our three values are simple but important. The Golden Rule, Ownership and Innovation. These ideals drive our hiring and advancement decisions—ensuring a culture infused with our core beliefs.” -Marc Katz, Founder of Custom Ink, a Ryonet customer, on his company’s approach to values

Like what you read? Get more great business tips on running a screen printing business from my book, “Made to Make It: A Guide To Screen Printing Success.”

Blog Written by Ryan Moor 

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