Brainstorming Values


If you checked out our Culture, Mission and Vision workshop, you know that culture is way more important than most entrepreneurs think it is at the beginning! Your culture will set the tone for the success of your whole business.

But it’s a little daunting to try and define your whole culture, isn’t it? You may look at a bunch of adjectives and go, “well, I’m all of those things!” – and good for you, too! But, you can’t start out your cultural journey without setting some boundaries first.

So to give you a little guidance, I’ve laid out a series of cultural values from some of the most successful companies and startups as examples of how culture is described in other organizations. Hopefully, it’ll give you a little guidance when you’re building your own!



ExxonMobile, founded in 1999 when Exxon and Mobil merged, is one of the most successful energy companies of all time. With almost 70k employees and a revenue upwards of $230bn, I'd say they've got something going for them!

Some of their Cultural Values are:

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Respecting Human Rights
  • Operational Integrity
  • Workplace Flexibility


Ford Motor Company

As the fifth-largest automobile company in the world, Ford is a household name on every continent. In terms of culture, they really focus on one thing, proving that how you define cultural values is unique to every company.

Ford’s major cultural focus is Diversity. They strive to have an open and inclusive culture, respecting each individual employee’s background, experience, and skills. They believe that this drives innovation, trust, and work-life flexibility.



AT&T, founded only 35 years ago, is the world’s largest telecommunications company today. With technology that literally reaches across the globe, they have distilled their values down to three distinct areas of focus:

  • Social Responsibility
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Ethics and Compliance


Farmer's Business Network

You may not have heard of this one, but it’s one of Forbes’ next billion-dollar startups of 2017. With a focus on providing farmers with the analytics, tools, and products they need, Farmer’s Business Network has raised more than $84mm in equity.

They focus on just a few farm-born values:

  • Farmers First
  • Independent and Unbiased
  • Honesty, Fairness, and Trust
  • Democratizing Information



The new communication tool for business, Slack has taken off in the past few years, with a recent valuation putting them at $5bn. With 8 million daily users, they’re doing something right!

Their cultural values each consist of only one word, making them a little more simple than others:

  • Empathy
  • Courtesy
  • Thriving
  • Craftsmanship
  • Playfulness
  • Solidarity

You can see here that every company handles defining their cultural values differently. So while it may be a little daunting to try and set this apart, remember a few of these tips to get you going:

  • Pick values that you know you can live and model every day. As a founder, it’s important that culture really comes from you!
  • Spend some time thinking about what matters most to you. While cost-effectiveness might be great, it might not be as important as investing in your employees through education. You have to think about what’s right for you!
  • Brainstorm! Spend some time with your co-founders, mentors, family and friends, and brainstorm ideas with them. Sometimes, they’ll be able to show you something in yourself that you didn’t even see!

Comment below with your thoughts on culture!



So I’ve had several conversations about this topic recently with founders. And while I think the types of values listed above are great, and I’ve written similar statements for my own companies in the past, the corollary question I always ask myself is, “How will this value manifest in our day-to-day activities?”

With each value, I urge you to think about how it might affect behaviors and decisions within the company. If you can’t think of any, you might want to think of different values. Because ultimately, values are there to define actions and choices in an environment without clear answers.

Let me give you an example of a specific value in-action - it may seem trivial, but it illustrates the point…

When a company says “Respect” is a value, that’s great. So next I ask, what does this mean? Do you pay your vendors on time? Do people show up at meetings on time and prepared? Are the people in your orbit given the dignity of having their opinions heard? Think through some specific things you can do within the company, in your processes and methods, that actually demonstrate “Respect” - that will give the value meaning to those who need to internalize it.

I hope this is helpful!!


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