Last Thursday, I attended a coaching session for Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) PDX as part of their accelerator program. The coach of my cohort is the founder of a popular business here in Portland, Olympia Provisions. Outside the conference room we met in, there was a poster on the wall that said, “Obsessed with Quality,” with a short blurb beneath it. This is one of the company’s core values.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a proposal for a large project. In that proposal, I both listed our core values and referenced them at various points throughout the proposal.

On Sunday, I received a group email that was laced with profanity from a member of the Toastmaster’s club, where I’m the president, to the rest of the members. It didn’t offend me, but it would offend most people and by Monday morning I received an email from another member concerned about the health of the club.

To the member who sent the email, I replied with a message focused on the Toastmasters’ value of “respect” and how profanity was found to be disrespectful by most people. To the member who emailed concerned about the health of the club, I wrote back with a message about the Toastmasters’ value of “service,” and why it was important to mentor the offending member in their growth (who replied with an apology to the club officers and said it wouldn’t happen again.)

Values are the DNA of an organization. They code out who you are.

As it relates to growth, values access deeper wells of energy and commitment. They outline what you’re willing to sacrifice for, what you’ll go further for. For example, Olympia Provisions sources meats from family farms at a higher expense than buying them from feed lots. In a non-Toastmaster’s setting, where service isn’t a value, a group might have less patience for disrespect and instead expel people who violate norms.

Because you invest more to attain your values, they also become your strengths, which is why I included them in our proposal. These strengths make you different and can reinforce your strategy and what makes you competitive.

How do your values serve your strategy? How do they develop your capabilities? What do you sacrifice for?