SAN ANGELO, Texas — As we go about our business of assisting small businesses, we understand the need for basic policies and procedures, especially as a business grows.
It is important for small businesses to have some policies and procedures committed to writing to avoid different interpretations and to ensure understanding. Most small businesses also need a set of values, committed in writing that is revisited often and used as a guide in making decisions, large and small.
Operating a small business is full of decision-making, day in and day out, not only for the owners but also for those given responsibility in the business. If you try to commit all necessary decision guidance to written policies and procedures, you would have a policy and procedure manual of many pages. Instead owners and employees can be better served by adding a set of values they believe in to use as they encounter the many daily decisions of the business.
Obviously the important goals of any small business are to survive and flourish with positive cash flow and making a profit. Values will help in the decision making that achieve these goals.
Examples of a set of values are integrity, excellence, service and innovation. They can be different of course and once adapted, the values need to be discussed as they relate to employees holding responsibility in the business. This way when they encounter decisions, opportunities, circumstances, etc. they have a “compass” that should guide them to the right answer, for the good of the business. If there are no values, everyone has in their mind what they think they should do, and this may not be what the owners want and may not be in the best long term interests of the business.
To look at an example of values in action, let’s look at the value of service. If one of your key employees is having a difficult and busy day with all sorts of issues, then what happens when a good customer has an immediate request for help they cannot avoid?
If your key employee understands the value of service, they will understand the need to take care of the customer first, without having to check with the owner. For another example, if a key employee is asked to create a fake invoice for a good customer so they could use it fraudulently, then the answer is clear. The value of integrity will lead them to a quick “no”.
A set of values offers help even during the hiring of key employees. Show all candidates interviewed your set of values and ask them to discuss how they interpret them as it relates to the position they have applied for. It can be eye opening and it can help you make your hiring decision.
This set of values happens to be the ones for the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center. It is what we strive to every day. We may fall short on occasion, but we all strive to adhere.
We understand how they relate to our individual positions. Perfection is not always possible, but excellence in adhering to our values we believe helps make us the organization we are.
“Business Tips” was written by Dave Erickson, Director and Certified Business Adviser IV, of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact him at David.Erickson@angelo.edu.