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Choosing Values for Your New Startup

Insight September 03, 2009

So, you have this great idea, you are sure that it is going to be at least the next Google/Monster/Microsoft/Facebook. Now what?

Well, having a great idea is just the first step (and some say the easiest one) in a long long journey towards establishing your own living and kicking business. Since this platform of blogging requires us to divide this experience into small, 300-500 words sections, I find it to be a great opportunity to try to attack different aspects of starting up a new business one small piece at a time.

When Barak and I decided to “become serious” with the idea of www.Meijob.com, our first step was to sit and write down a business plan that we could present to potential investors. But how do you start writing a business plan? What is the “must have” information? How are we going to translate the storm in our heads into words and numbers?

 

We met one day in one of the (then) scarce coffee shops in Beijing and brainstormed about it for a while, until Barak said: “You know what, when I worked in Orange, we had these company values pumped to us all the time, and this might be a good place to start with.” At first I thought ”what is this new age nonsense? Why don’t we get down to the business itself – crunch numbers, business models, revenue streams, expenses etc.?’ But after giving it one more thought, I realized the potential. The process of creating these values will be the gateway to the actual business plan. Once we start dealing with the values, we will necessarily have the wind at our back and from there it will be easier to move forward – or so I thought.

It turned out to be one of the greatest ideas we had. The first step was to write down values that we would like our future company to respect, follow and represent. This was relatively easy. However, when we looked at the piece of paper on which we wrote down our suggestions, there were over 25 values listed, whereas it was clear to us that we needed to break the list down to a no more than five values, so that each value would have true meaning.

Eventually, we decided (as we continued to do many times later) to get a feminine point of view and consult with our spouses and friends. After a few beers and several servings of homemade finger food, it turned out to be a real fun, yet productive, evening, which resulted in not only our chosen values, but also a mantra and vision (one which I will post about seperately). Having a second and third and fourth opinion from different point of views and personas is, in my opinion, an essential step in creating and understanding your business’s personality. This process should repeat itself every once in a while, to make sure that you and your business are still on track.

The values we came up with are:

  1. Simple,
  2. Different / Creative,
  3. Together,
  4. Honest, and
  5. Possible.

I know that these terms may not fall exactly to the pure dictionary definition of “Values”. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “Foundations” or “Constitution” – any way it doesn’t really matter. The main idea is that you will have something that will unite all the people related to your business under one set of conceptual guidelines.

I can rant for hours about each of these values one by one, and what they mean to Meijob.com, but this is not important for the sake of this post. You should choose your own set of values and determine what they mean to you as an entrepreneur, a manager and a human being.

From there the path to start writing down our business plan was clear and wide open.  We completed the first version in less than 10 days.

Final note – the first thing we did when we entered our office (which was actually an apartment close to Beijing’s Hutongs) is order posters of all the values – separate poster for each value in Chinese and English with a suitable picture to visualize the value – and hang them on the walls together with the brand of Meijob.com. From there on, each time we had a dilemma, or wanted to show our employees our way of thinking, we just pointed to the walls, to the relevant value hanging there, and said “how does this relate to our core value of _____?” Our employees loved it and we got to create a real personality for our company.

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Guy Rotberg is a serial entrepreneur who spent the past four years in one of the most exciting places to be for an entrepreneur in this century – Beijing, China. Recently relocated to SF Bay Area in California, Guy spends his time by combining his two loves (besides his wife…) Internet (advising start up companies, doing  social media marketing and blogging) and Real Estate (investment advisory, syndication groups, private consulting).

Guy has over 10 years of experience in the Internet, HR and Legal industries in China and Israel. He Co-founded www.Meijob.com , the leading matching job search engine in China and www.jipingmi.com, the leading property search engine in China. Guy currently holds the position of Chairman in Meijob and a Director in Jipingmi. Prior to Meijob, Guy founded the Legal Recruitment Department for BGI China, a leading Chinese search & Recruitment firm, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and before that he practiced law in Israel for 6 years.Guy holds an LLB from Tel Aviv University and is a certified lawyer in Israel.

If you liked this post, you can visit Guy’s blog at The Local Outsider.