Culture and Core Values

By Ian Richardson, Principal Consultant, Fox & Crow Group

Core Values are a powerful strategic planning tool. Properly implemented, they define behavioral expectations for your company. You can use them to assess candidate alignment with the company. They create the basis of a framework for decision making for your team. You can use them to guide strategy.

When operationalized, core values deliver endless narratives of a company that stands out. When not honored, business horror stories get written live. These often occur in front of an unforgiving audience. (See: Marketing Core Values and the Lululemon Scandal – Richardson & Richardson (, Kyte Baby Scandal – Richardson & Richardson (

Today, I’m going to share an example of core values operationalized into an organization. The story is below.

Core Values operationalized

A corporate supplier sent a manufacturing client of theirs a box. The box was non-descript. Adressed to the employee responsible for sourcing material for use in product development.

The employee opened the box; this was a normal occurrence in their world, and nothing seemed amiss. Until they saw what the box contained.

Cash. $10,000 worth of it.

There was no note, no directions, no personalization outside of the shipping label.

It was “free money.” Nobody knew about the box (it hadn’t been scanned into inventory). Nobody knew about the cash; the box was sealed at the employee’s desk.

The cash was a bribe. The employee knew the supplier wanted them to direct a major bid for material their way. This was their way of saying they would compensate the employee for the opportunity.

The employee turned the cash into the executive team. They raised the alarm around the supplier. They went back to work. Life moved on.

The company held routine staff meetings. The CEO called the employee forward and presented them with a check. It was a check for $10,000. The CEO stated that this employee could have taken a bribe, and no one would have been wiser. They didn’t because they knew the action was wrong. This was held up as an example of the organization’s core value of Integrity. Of doing the right thing, always.

The company knew the employee sacrificed for the company. They chose to forgo financial gain for their family. The company had to make the employee whole. That also was an example of integrity, on behalf of the organization.

Culture is Core Values, operationalized.

The moral of the story is clear, but the undertone is not as clear. You get to choose the culture you want to have as a company. You can lean in and reinforce your values with company actions, or you can let the whims of the market fill in the gaps.

To turn core values into an observable force in a company, you must:

  • Create Strategy around Core Values
  • Turn Actions into Procedure & Policy
  • Highlight success stories company-wide

If you’re curious about core values and how to get them installed in your organization, we help with that. Our Decision-Making Framework empowers your team to use core values to make choices on their own. You can request a copy here: Whitepapers | Fox & Crow Group (

If you want help figuring out an action plan, or don’t know where to start, I’d love the chance to chat with you about it. My calendar is available here: Contact | Fox & Crow Group (


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