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Bringing your core business values into your work

What’s the difference between a business owner that loves what they do, and a business owner that goes through the motions? Values, friends.

I’m no stranger to how it feels to build a business that’s built not on what you value, but on what you think you should value. Or, probably more precisely, to not really know what you do value before you build it.

I was an accidental business owner.

All my life I’d pursued artsy, academic subjects like English and Classics and History because I was good at writing and (so I thought) not much else. I came from academic and journalist stock, and everyone just assumed that I’d do that. So I duly did a BA, majoring in English, and worked in student media through university, whereupon I got a job in communications at another university.

It didn’t take long in that job to feel like something wasn’t quite right. I remember complaining to a workmate that ‘I want to help people’, but I didn’t know in what sense. I thought I’d figured it all out when I went and did a dog training qualification – I’d get to help people with their dogs! – but I may not have considered the employment prospects of that industry.

I ended up in copywriting because – see above – I was good at English and writing, and, yay, I got to help people. I did it on and off for quite a long time, and did get pretty good at it, but I think I was always searching for something that felt like it fitted better.

And then I did an exercise on determining your five core business values, and it changed everything.

I could suddenly see the things that hadn’t been sitting right. I wanted to be in control of my work and life, and yet I was doing this work that gave me flexibility, but which I hadn’t really actively chosen. I wanted to celebrate my achievements and grow, but deep down I wasn’t really interested in developing professionally to the best of my ability. I wanted to just be myself, but I kept going after the types of clients that would look impressive to other people, not the ones I actually wanted to work with. And so on.

That was when I decided to move into coaching, because it aligned with all five of my values.

Over on Instagram, I’ve been posting on my grid about my core business values, with what they are and why I chose them.

I feel like they really help me to understand who I am right now, what I want to strive for, and to act as my compass when I’m not sure which direction to take.

Having clear core business values is a great guide – if you’re not sure of something, ask yourself which of your core values it’s aligned to. If none, that could be your answer. (But if you’re still perplexed, look at your values and see if they need an update).

And that’s why I go on and on about values. Because I don’t believe business should be about what you ‘should’ do – I believe it should be about your head and your heart working together to build what you really, deeply, want.

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