[ For optimal results: Start at❓, then move to 🎧, then continue from💡 to ⇒. Don’t skip steps. Or leg day. ]
With absolutely no context, spend a few minutes answering this question. Stick to single words & try to come up with two or three. (If it’s helpful, here’s a massive list of possible options.)
What do we value the most?
Now that you have the beginnings of an answer, dive into today’s session. Click the play button below to listen.
3 Big Ideas
Before taking the next step to revise your answers, revisit the major concepts in this session:
The brands that act with long-term intention make the most progress.
→ Without identifying your core values, you’ll be navigating by feel, by boredom, & by emotion - all of which the day-to-day in your gym will push & pull to the point of being untrustworthy. A good week can lead to one set of decisions, a bad week to another set. But you don’t want to make decisions based on these kinds of short-term fluctuations. You want to make decisions based on the long-term vision you have for the business. Knowing & committing to your core values will root your decisions in something unwavering.
Translating your values into “we believe” statements will make them real.
→ It can be too easy to hold our core values up on a pedestal & never bring them down to the dirt where the real work happens. “We believe” statements can help combat that. Think of them as the principle that each value creates.
Your core values should dictate your decisions.
→ The point isn’t to be able to say yes to every single idea you may have in relation to your core values. That would be unrealistic & exhausting. The point is to be able to identify which decisions are the right ones for you to be considering. Having core values as your north star means you're less likely to say yes to something that might be a good idea, but not the right idea.
All the Words
I want you to hold in the back of your mind throughout this entire program the importance of intentionality. By that I mean, I want you recognize the power of making decisions on purpose. It’s easy to act out of expediency, urgency, or because we want to feel busy. It’s more challenging & far more useful to know where you’re going, why you’re heading in that direction, & how you plan to get there.
Putting your core values down on paper is how you can do that, & how you can ensure you are effective every single day. Without them you’ll be navigating by feel, by boredom, & by emotion - all of which the day-to-day in your gym will push & pull to the point of being untrustworthy. A good week can lead to one set of decisions, a bad week to another set. But you don’t want to make decisions based on these kinds of short-term fluctuations. You want to make decisions based on the long-term vision you have for the business. Knowing & committing to your core values will root your decisions in something unwavering. They’ll not only be the road map for your marketing, but in fact for your business as a whole.
The best example of this is in action might be Amazon. In its first shareholder letter, in 1997, Jeff Bezos laid out a few core values that still exist & are acted upon to this day. (In fact, as a matter of course, Bezos has attached the 1997 letter to every shareholder letter since.) The first two of these values are: "It's all about the long term" & "Obsess over customers."
You don't have to be a student of Amazon to see how they've made decisions consistent with these values for the last twenty years. It seems to have worked for them.
Despite all this, many businesses skip or gloss over core values. Some assume they’re obvious while others don’t see much use in them. But unless they remain front of mind, unless you use them to dictate your decisions, they're worthless & you're left hoping you'll stay on track. Over the course of a month, you won't notice any slight deviations from them. Over the course of six months, you won't. But over the course of a year, two years, five years, you will. You'll look back & wonder how you ended up in Tucson when you had set out for Tacoma.
Your core values should help you decide your social media strategy, your next part time coaching hire, & the messaging on your website. They should play a role in your gym's programming, the nonprofits you support, & where you decide to reinvest your profits.
I'd be hard pressed to come up with much in your business not made better by acting in accordance to your core values. Maybe the colors in your bathrooms or the fonts on your website get a pass. Maybe.
So spend a good amount of time thinking about the ideas & beliefs at the core of your business. I’d suggest considering which values you hold close to the chest already & not picking ones you feel you gym should have. Focus on the ones that are already supported by your past decisions & actions. These values may not be as strong or consistent as you’d like them to be, but that they are present at all is a sign you care about them. Only after identifying them can you strengthen them.
I recommend you come up with three strong values. If you have a staff or partners in the business, make sure you consult with them. Not only do they see the business with a different perspective than you do, but involving them will give each person a sense of ownership. This will pay dividends as you start making decisions down the road.
When you’ve got your three, take the next step of creating what I call a “we believe” statement. It can be too easy to hold our core values up on a pedestal & never bring them down to the dirt where the real work happens. “We believe” statements can help combat that. Think of them as the principle that each value creates.
In Bezo's 1997 shareholder letter, the opening sentence explaining the first core value of Amazon reads: "We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term." As illustration of Amazon’s dedication to being consistent to their core values, if you would have invested $100 on the day of Amazon’s IPO & left it alone, it would have grown to over $120,000 by 2018.
In the last session, I put together a short statement from a fictional, community-focused affiliate on what they do & how they do it. As a reminder, here it is again:
We are a full-family gym that creates a vibrant environment for our group CrossFit classes. Our music is almost as loud as our laughter. We pride ourselves in reducing the intimidation factor that keeps too many people from getting healthy.
Let’s continue using this gym as an example in this session. We'll come up with three core values & a “we believe” statement for each. Keep in mind that there are no wrong answers here - only appropriate & inappropriate ones for your specific gym.
Looking at the statement, we can find hints at what some core values of this gym might be. Look at the words & phrases like “full-family,” “vibrant,” “laughter,” & “reducing the intimidation.” They are all signals of some deeper principles at play.
For this exercise, let’s simplify “full-family” into “inclusive.” Let’s combine “vibrant” & “laughter” into “fun.” Let’s translate “reducing the intimidation” into “approachable.” Those will be our gym’s three core values: Inclusive, Fun, & Approachable.
Now for our “we believe” statements:
Value #1: Inclusiveness
We believe lasting change happens when we serve the entire family, not just the individual.
Value #2: Fun
We believe making fitness enjoyable & filled with laughter is the best way to make it long-lasting.
Value #3: Approachable
We believe in meeting people where they are, speaking their language, & always listening.
I hope you can see how spending time on questions 1 & 2 in this Section can create the sense of something real. We can already begin to see what this gym might feel like & who it might exist to serve. We can sense the kind of promises & decisions it may make. All with a short statement & a few related core values.
I hope you can see how powerful it is to have these kinds of rules by which to build your brand; how useful it is to be able to look at them as a way of holding yourself accountable to your higher ideals; how they can protect you from the short term, emotional kinds of decisions that send too many businesses off track.
Knowing what we know of their ideals of serving the whole family, we can look at how this gym spends it resources of attention, time, & money. We can ask questions to see if their actions match their ambitions.
Do they have a kids’ program? What about a teens’ program? What about a seniors’ program? Do they have coaches who are skilled & experienced at teaching these different populations? Does their pricing model incentivize some kind of family plan? Is there daycare on site so Mom & Dad can workout together without the worry of finding a babysitter? Do they write blog posts or record podcast episodes about how to talk to your kids about eating healthy? Does the gym host birthday parties?
I could come up with a hundred more questions like this.
The point isn’t to be able to say yes to every single idea you may have in relation to your core values. That would be unrealistic & exhausting. The point is to be able to identify which decisions are the right ones for you to be considering. Having core values as your north star means you're less likely to say yes to something that might be a good idea, but not the right idea.
Should our imaginary gym here have a competitors’ program? Should it host monthly throwdowns? Should it spend money on a reverse hyper?
None of those ideas are bad. For your gym, the answer to all three might be a resounding yes. But you’ll agree that they’re not the right ones for this specific gym. That money, time, & attention are better spent elsewhere. Spending them on these decisions would break some pretty fundamental promises this gym is making.
Our Pretend Gyms
Answers to today’s question:
Inclusiveness - We believe lasting change happens when we serve the entire family, not just the individual.
Fun - We believe making fitness enjoyable & filled with laughter is the best way to make it long-lasting.
Approachable - We believe in meeting people where they are, speaking their language, & always listening.
Efficiency - We believe in maximizing your results while minimizing your time in the gym.
Expertise - We believe our members expect the best in whatever they spend their time, money, & efforts on.
Competitiveness - We believe that an athlete doesn't know their potential until it is tested.
Specialization - We believe an athlete's goals & sport have specific demands, & we aim to meet those demands.
Education - We believe in implementing any new tool that might create a competitive advantage.
Time to Do Work
With what you just learned in mind, revisit your original answer. Open up your Brandwork Doc & solidify the values that will dictate the direction of your affiliate. (No pressure.)
Now that you’ve got two or three values, plus some appropriate “we believe” statements, double-check them against a few helpful guidelines:
Is each “we believe” statement less than 20 words? If not, see what you can do to cut each one back until they fit on one line in your Brandwork doc.
Can you identify one or two ways you’ve already exhibited these values in the decisions you’ve made? If you can’t, they might not be the right values for you.
Are any of your values close enough in meaning that they lack distinction? It’s better to have two solid values than three mediocre ones.
The next session is all about embracing your inner weirdness. Here’s a quote from Seth Godin worth pondering before you head over:
"In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible."