Why Having a Philosophy for Your Business Matters

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By: Jenny Retief, CEO Riversands Incubation Hub

Starting a company is hard. Running it is even harder.

Pressure, deadlines, cash-flow woes… and never enough time! It’s not surprising then that entrepreneurs don’t get much time to reflect on the fundamental questions:

– What am I trying to achieve?

– What does my company stand for?

– What are the rules and principles that I use to make daily decisions?

If you take the time to answer these questions, you may tackle your day differently. You may also stop doing things that don’t serve your purpose.

Not a nice to have

Far too often, entrepreneurs dismiss the idea of having a defined set of company values or a written-down purpose as being a ‘nice to have’ or the fluffy stuff. Or simply something that’s only relevant to corporate companies.

But actually having these things in place could be the path to overcoming all sorts of business problems. This includes every time you wrestle with a design, tackle an ethical dilemma or a consider hiring a new employee.

Any great, widely admired company has some sort of philosophy in their DNA. Because you don’t become great before knowing who you are and what you stand for.

Define what sets you apart

In addition, having a published set of values, also known as a philosophy, can differentiate your company. Ideally, you have a unique product or service that’s better than products or services that its competitors offer. But what happens when all things are equal? Your core values are what set you apart. These core values become the business philosophy that your team and your clients experience.

Having a philosophy will encourage you to wonder how things could, or should, be different.

Here’s a definition: A company’s philosophy is a distillation of its culture or ambiance into a group of core values that inform all aspects of its business practices.

You don’t need fancy consultants to develop your values. In fact, you shouldn’t need to hire anyone to help figure out ‘who you are’.

Here’s some advice on how to get started:

Go back to the day you had the business idea. What were you looking to achieve? Why were you excited? What would make your business different?

Read about it – Simon Sinek’s work on ‘starting with why’ is an excellent place to kick off.

Write it down. So you have a mental picture of what you’re trying to achieve. Here there is still huge value in writing it down. It will make for a fascinating record when you look back on how you’ve changed.

Speak to any team members. Does this resonate with them – what do they like about it and what would they change?

PS. We’ve been putting a lot of work into making our values, beliefs and processes visible. Just for interest, here’s a link to the Riversands philosophy https://www.riversandsihub.co.za/our-philosophy/ which describes how we work with entrepreneurs. It’s a valuable document that guides our decision-making as a management team. It’s also shared with entrepreneurs considering Riversands as their business home.

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