I did not intend to write about this…at all…however I have been faced with this topic over and over again as a business owner and employee. I will cover different thoughts about doing business based on values above and beyond everything else. If there is an incident with a business associate which works against someone’s core values many will say to not let it affect one's “bottom line.” After hearing this several times, I started to wonder, what is my bottom line? It certainly isn’t money (if it was I likely could just turn the other cheek). How could I continue doing business with someone who so intensely offended one of my core values? What message did that send to my other colleagues?
Value (n): relativeworth,merit,orimportance (dictionary.com)
I believe it is a pretty big misconception that you have to work with people you don’t have a common value set with. Ultimately we all choose who we work with and spend our time with as business owners. Inevitably there will be interactions with less than desirable people, but those you continually work with are under your control. As an employee it is much more difficult given one is potentially working for someone else's overall goals and objectives. That being said, it wouldn’t be a ridiculous notion to leave a company based on a conflicts in values. I am a strong supporter of this.
Age is merely an easily calculated numerical value based on date of birth, not a value in business
While age can be used as a gauge in many things in life, age means very little in business. I am deeply passionate about this fact. I always joke that I am a young and ornery employee in the social services world, but innovative and tenacious in the entrepreneurial world. In many fields there is this construct that age and seniority trumps all. I literally stopped applying to jobs whose assessment process was solely based on numerical scoring (most government agencies). Applications were all about what you had done and for how long, not how well you did it, innovations put forth, or future goals. My field, public health, was hopeless because I felt no matter what, someone twice my age would get the job. Despite my qualifications, how could someone who looked as young as I do manage people? Now yes, they have more years of experience because they have more years on this earth, but does that always mean they are better at the job or that they have even been doing a good job all this time?
I am often mistaken at my current job as the secretary, a student intern, etc. After months of serious frustration, I had an interaction that flipped my mood. While it is expected that young people should put their head down, do their job, and maybe in 5, 10, 15 years they will have a say...we don’t all have to buy into that. A woman mistook me for a student intern last week saying, “I’m so sorry for mistaking you for a student, but you look so young,” to which I confidently responded, ‘I am young.’ I AM YOUNG and that is not a weakness. I had my Masters when I was 25, I started working for a Public Health Department when I was 19, I own my own business and I have a lot of life experience packed into 27 years. Young people should not have to feel that they are at some disadvantage solely based on their age, especially young women. One of my talents is to walk into a business or organization and operationally analyze it like a psychologist would psychoanalyze a person. I can pick up on every detail, number, and attitude. This doesn’t always go over well because of my age, but I refuse to do things inefficiently or improperly and refuse to be silenced. “Who the hell do you think you are?” People tend to appreciate it in the end when they see positive changes. I am a firm believer that life is a constant education, there is always more to learn, and change is not scary.
Try this exercise; always assume the most of people. If someone tells me they work at a law firm, I ask them if they are a lawyer. If someone says they work at a clinic, I ask them if they are a provider or administrator. People's reactions are great! It is relatively entertaining that I am old enough to be married with kids, but not to be a government administrator and business owner. Everyone has their own story. Agreement number three: never make assumptions.
At the base as I have said before, my major core value is helping people. Everything in my life revolves around that fact. I could not align myself with a business partner who did not have a strong desire to help people. There are many definitions of “helping people,” but at the core the desire is the same. Other core values of mine include transparency, accountability, consistency, #ExcessiveHappiness and an overall positive outlook on life. These are all things I am unwilling to negotiate. Values are also not always correlated with someone’s behaviors/attitude, but those things matter quite a bit to me as well (I don’t have an issue telling people they are acting out of line either). No system is perfect, but tuning in to your own values and your commitment to them can change your business experience. Unfortunately I feel most people aren’t really sure of their own values. As my grandpa always says (whom I will quote often because he is my biggest fan when it comes to being an entrepreneur), “As soon as it is about the money you might as well stop, it is all about the journey.” So why spend your time with people reading from a different book entirely?
I could talk about this for about a week, but I just wanted to encourage people to think about how this topic applies to their lives!
Note: For those who don’t know, #ExcessiveHappiness is a reference to one of my idols Patch Adams who believed in the power of positive psychology and mental health as the primary aspect of treating people.