How to Maintain Your Founding Values

Founding Values


The values-driven startup operates according to a set of clearly-defined values, aligned with an inspiring vision and strategy, that drive people’s behaviors and decisions every day. – Dave Kashen

The benefits of building a values-driven startup are numerous, especially if you are in it for the long run. However, it can be difficult to perpetuate the founding values as a startup scales. Maintaining and reinforcing your startups’ values requires intentionality. Here are some approaches to keep your values from fading into the background:

Vivid Communication

  • Share internally: Communicate to new and existing team members how newly added team members align with your startup values and what is expected of them in terms of living by these values. At Zappos, Tony Hsieh strongly communicates the importance of the values during a mandatory 4-week training program for new hires. Those undergoing the course are offered $2000 to quit should they feel they do not fit into the company culture.
  • Visualize: Making your company’s values visible is important if you want them to be a central part of your company culture. The photo featured below from ReTargeter’s office illustrates how values can be displayed to ensure a constant focus on the importance they hold within the startup.Startup values at ReTargeter
  • Set the example: It demonstrates that the founders are serious about running the company by its stated values, and that they play an integral role in within the company culture. Kent Thiry, CEO of Davita shares his performance review with the entire company every year at DaVita’s town hall meeting to set a tone of continuous improvement.

Integrate Values into Human Capital Routines:

  • Providing feedback in the context of company values reinforces their importance and meaning. For example, when SuccessFactors’ CEO Lars Dalgaard receives an email from one employee criticizing another, he replies and CCs the criticized employee to ask them to work out the issue together. Lars’ incisive message is that speaking behind another’s back is not acceptable at Success Factors. Compensation: Aligning raises and bonues with adherence to company values can be a strong reinforcement. Rumor has it that Bill Campbell calculated bonuses based on a mix of the employee’s adherence to company values, and their actual performance.

Create Values-Focused Rituals:

  • Celebrate manifestations of the values whenever they occur.
  • Value-based initiatives: Since “becoming and achieving” is a value at Kevon’s startup, team members meet regularly to talk about how the company’s book-of-the-month is affecting and could affect their lives and company. At ReTargeter each team takes turns sharing how they are interpreting and practicing the company’s values.

Even though perpetuating your values requires active involvement and hard work, it is worth the effort. Running your startup by its values can help create more satisfied and productive employees and thereby enable the startup to prosper in the long run.

If you want to learn more about the idea of the value driven startup, we would like to share the following resources with you:

We’d love to hear more ways to reinforce a company’s founding values. Please share what you’ve found helpful or inspiring below.

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