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Startups Core Values: The #1 Secret to Sustained Success

Most successful startups have one thing in common… and it’s not the technology.

A lot has been said about the secret to creating a prosperous startup: like the importance of good timing or finding a truly unique idea. But what about maintaining success and overcoming any possible changes in the industry?

Well… It’s All About Core Values.

The only real way to inspire loyalty in your clients and employees is to live by a clear set of core values.

More firms are taking action to turn their corporation values into a competitive asset.”
Booz Allen Hamilton and the Aspen Institute

Visionary founders understand the importance of sharing their core values both inside and outside of their company.

The Internal Force of Success

Internally, core values inspire and empower employees to make smart decisions. Employees who have become strongly aligned with the company’s values have the power to strengthen it during times of crisis. Take Xerox, for example, their CEO insists that living by their values literally saved them from bankruptcy. Specifically, operating with values such as customer satisfaction, valuing employees, and corporate citizenship, helped them steer the company in the right direction.

Shining Through Outside of The Organization

Externally, sharing clear core values help the public understand the purpose of the product, building a stronger passion and creating an emotional attachment toward the brand. Think of the times you choose a more expensive product over a cheaper one because it is environmentally friendly.

There are no “one size fits all” core values, you need to find values that define the purpose of your company. In order to help you, here’s a list of 5 inspirational core values that many successful startups have in common. Following on from the core values, we have listed a few tips to keep in mind as you start to write your own.

5 Inspirational Core Values Startups Have in Common

1. Excellent Customer Service

Remember the old saying that the customer is always right? For new startups, the concept of customer has evolved into something much more profound. It has become the center of everything you do.

Bringing continual value to your customer will ensure retention. In fact, MyTech’s recent research on customer success shows that companies that retain 5 % of their clients can see an increase in revenue of up to 75%.

Besides, there’s no stronger marketing acquisition strategy than having your own happy customers referring you.  


  • Xerox: We succeed through satisfied customers.
  • Google: Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  • Rebilly: Laser-like focus on maximizing client success​.

2. Giving Back

As human beings, we need to find purpose in what we do. Most successful startups have discovered the importance of bringing benefits to others. A benevolent approach to business will inspire your employees to feel pride in working with you.

You will also gain the trust of customers who share your values. They will feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that they are spending their money on the products of a noble business.


  • Whole Foods: We Care About Our Communities And The Environment — We serve and support a local experience. The unique character of each store is a direct reflection of a community’s people, culture, and cuisine.
  • Tom’s Shoes: One for One.Give shoes that fit. Give sustainably. Give responsibly.
  • Patagonia: Use business to protect nature.

3. Taking Ownership

Most startups follow a horizontal organizational structure in which there are very few levels of management. This flat system requires individuals and teams to take ownership of the company and customers as if they were their own.

Ownership accelerates decision making. Therefore, it promotes the fastest evolution without going through a command chain. This core value will empower each of your employees, encouraging them to take initiative and give their best.  


  • InfoTrust: Ownership is taking the initiative to bring about positive results. It means not waiting for others to act, and caring about the outcome as much as an owner of the company would.
  • Xerox: We value and empower employees.
  • SquareSpace: Empower individuals.

4. Accountability

Empowerment comes with responsibility. All members of the team, as well as the company as a whole, assume responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies.

As Yair Riemer explains in his post about startups, entrepreneurship, and marketing: “Accountability improves your overall level. If you are constantly measuring yourself and accountable to someone – or a group, you will produce better.”


  • Coca-Cola: If it is to be, it’s up to me.
  • American Express: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.
  • Starbucks: Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

5. Systemic innovation

This is probably the most common value shared by startups. Living by innovation and encouraging your team’s passion to innovate, will be translated into a more unique product.

But innovation is not only about creating a new product. With all the rapid changes that technology keeps bringing, innovation is also about reinventing existing products to market them in the way we consume, purchase or behave. Such as Amazon with the Kindle, or Netflix replacing their DVD rental business.


  • Amazon: Learn and be Curious: Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
  • Cirrus Logic: Management is willing to give contributors space to do their jobs, freedom to make mistakes (and learn from them), and support innovation at all levels.
  • Rebilly: Creativity to find a better way and win.

How to “Discover” Your Own Core Values?

As mentioned before, inspiration is helpful, copying values that won’t fit your company is not. In his article, Aligning Action and Values, Jim Collins explains that organizational values cannot be “set” or copied, you need to discover them, they must be authentic to your organization.

In this foundr article, we found some interesting questions that can help you define your values:

  • What is my vision of the world?
  • Who am I trying to help? How am I going to do it?
  • How will people’s lives be different because of my company’s product or service?
  • What needs to happen for my product or service to reach people?

Try to always keep in mind that core values remain fixed regardless of any particular factors that are affecting the organization. Strategies and practices, on the other hand, should be changing all the time.

Spread these values throughout the company, from the hiring process to the day-to-day activities, live by them, share them with the world, and they will bring purpose and longevity to your company.

What values do you find to be more inspiring?

Leave your comments below.

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