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The F.A.C.E. of Indiegogo: Building the Business Case for Corporate Values

Nearly all companies have a mission statement, but how many have a value statement? This is a critical next step in creating sustainable businesses.

Behaviors are a reflection of values

Conceptually it is clear that values are important, but why? Organizational behavior experts have long asserted that values ultimately drive behavior — they influence a person’s attitude, which can then influence his or her behavior. Corporate values reinforce company-specific attitudes and provide a framework for how employees should act, interact and respond to people and situations.

The benefit to the bottom line

From Zappos to Whole Foods Market, there are a variety of case studies demonstrating the critical connection between a values-driven culture and business success. In addition, as Gen Ys advance in their careers, the need for collaborative, purpose-driven workplaces becomes even more clear. This new generation of talent considers the need for a collaborative workplace a key requirement when making their job selections.

Numerous studies support the assertion that money is not what fosters happiness and productivity in the workplace. In his popular TED talk, Daniel Pink shares the surprising truth that employees are not motivated by money, but instead the deeply human need to direct their own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by themselves and their world.

Establishing company values an example

Indiegogo is an example of a mission- and values-driven company. Founders Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell set out to democratize fundraising by creating a crowdfunding platform where anyone could raise money for any idea or project. At that point, this lean team had an implicit understanding of their company culture. However, as the team grew and started recruiting new talent, it became clear there was a need to explicitly establish the company’s values.

In the summer of 2011, after raising a seed round of funding, the then-team of five prepared to start growing the company. However, before doing so they wanted to take time to reflect and understand what had gotten them to that point. In addition, they wanted to be on the same page as they started bringing people onto the team so they could hire based on culture fit. Creating a language and understanding of shared values was important; the explicitly stated values would not only clarify what the Indiegogo team was looking for in its talent search, but it would also allow potential hires to determine if there were synergies.

The team of five discussed and brainstormed, asking questions such as “What is core to our team? What drives us every morning? Why do we care?” This ultimately coalesced into four core values, which continue to guide the team today: Fearlessness, Authenticity, Collaboration and Empowerment.

Now, as new employees are onboarded, Ringelmann shares the company’s genesis story and values during the orientation process. She takes great care to tell the group they were hired because they embody these core values, and to also remind them that it is everyone’s responsibility to live by them each and every day, so as to preserve Indiegogo’s culture for years to come.

Creating a “state of flow”

When asked to describe the benefit of company values, Ringelmann explained:

When people are happy, they’re more productive. When people are productive, it’s because they’re in a state of flow. They feel good about what they’re doing and where they are in the present moment, and where they’re headed in the future.  

What also drives happiness is the ability to impact results and have real relationships. When you share values, your style of working meshes. Your motivations are the same, thus it’s easy to deliver results in the present, and develop real relationships that will last into the future.

The business case for values
In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey makes the business case for building trust and leading with authentic transparency. By being open, real and telling the truth in a way people understand, a company can build trust and in turn, cultivate a more productive team. High-trust teams can outperform low-trust teams by as much as four times.

Although diverse in backgrounds, by making hiring decisions based on its explicit values, Indiegogo’s team is homogenous at its core. Having an approachable, values-aligned management team that exhibits and thus reinforces Indiegogo’s values of Fearlessness, Authenticity, Collaboration and Empowerment, Indiegogo benefits from the high-trust, high-performing team it cultivates.

Establish your common company language

Indiegogo’s values provide direction and equilibrium so the team can stay balanced and in sync, no matter the circumstance. These values serve as the company compass for decisions, projects, meetings and interactions; knowing what the company values fosters a congealed, happy, high-performing team.

What role do your values play in your work? What are your company’s implicit and/or explicit values? Do they align with your own?

SB London
Danae Ringelmann will share her insights and inspiration as an "upstart disruptor" during a panel discussion with other savvy innovators on November 27, day one of our upcoming SB London conference.
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