Your Life Values are Your Business Values
One of the first topics in 4Lunch’s Recipe for Success course is about defining your personal and business values. When I meet my students for the first time, I always start on this difficult topic – to get to the core of why someone wants to set up a food business.
It might seem a bit airy-fairy, but it is one of the most important exercises you should do before starting a business.
Doing so will influence every aspect of how you proceed with your business ideas. Reflecting on your core values and guiding principles will also help you make key business decisions.
Defining Your Business Values
It is easy to be influenced by what we ‘should’ be doing, according to the opinions of other people and the values that society holds.
Once you free yourself from these influences, you will be able to create a business that truly reflects who you are.
You have one life and it is too short to be living by anyone else’s standards.
There are many possible values to choose from. And they might all seem like good values to have.
Here are a few types of values to consider:
- Inspiring others
- Personal Growth
- Quality of Life
- Taking Risks
All of these words have positive connotations, but which five words in this list resonate the most with you?
How will these values impact the way you run your business and live your life?
My Core Business Values
I can’t claim to know which values drive you right now, but I can discuss the values which have influenced me the most:
Simple is not the same as easy. I overcomplicated things for myself in the first couple of years. I said yes to lots of opportunities, which in itself is a good thing, but I got distracted, being pushed and pulled into different directions by the opinions of other people.
I learned a lot, but there is only so much learning one can do before it becomes unproductive and overwhelming. I embrace methodical ways of working, planning my days around intentionality and purpose. This approach to work is counter-cultural in a world obsessed with moving faster and faster in more and more complex ways.
Prioritising the value of simplicity has affected my choices about how to develop 4Lunch. I thought I wanted a café space, but this would definitely not be simple. Managing people and premises is complicated, and this would have taken me away from the work I really wanted to be doing.
Time to travel, work from home, spend time with my friends, family, and sustain a long-distance relationship is very important to me.
I want to maintain my other interests, other than my business. I love yoga, running, and I want to read more books, practice meditation, as well as get enough sleep.
This requires a clear commitment to not become consumed by work and to remember to maintain the value of balance in my life.
With the value of wanting to live a balanced life in mind, I made a conscious decision to develop an online learning platform and focus on how my website could enhance my social impact, without me being physically present.
This would give me the flexibility to work from different locations. As I draft this post, I am sitting in a garden in the Yorkshire Dales with a glass of wine on a Wednesday afternoon. The freedom to do this doesn’t happen by accident – you have to live by your values first.
- Quality Relationships
I’d much rather have a few very satisfied clients than lots of mediocre ones.
It actually makes better business sense too, to have repeat business year on year. I don’t have to actively seek out new clients as much, as everyone is happy with the work I do.
I am still in touch with my students from years ago. It’s heart-warming to hear that people ask when I’m coming back to teach, even after a year.
This emphasis on maintaining quality over quantity feeds into my customer service approach. I recently had a meeting with the bride of a wedding I am catering for. When I asked her why she chose to meet with me over other caterers, she said it was because of the friendliness of my email, and that I sounded genuinely interested in her big day.
I give time and attention to people’s requests, which subsequently means I can’t take on a lot of work. I want to provide excellence in everything I say yes to. Therefore, taking on fewer projects is much better than working oneself into the ground.
- Rebalancing the Scales
I set out to run a business that would make a difference to people, especially those who do not always have access to opportunities.
I wanted to tackle inequality, and there is no greater leveler in life than food. Everybody eats after all.
With all the privileges, knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated, I must channel this in service to others in less fortunate positions.
It would have been easier doing cookery classes for rich kids birthday parties.
It would have been easier doing street food without giving placements to ex-offenders.
It would have been easier doing business training for corporates than to individuals with barriers to employment.
But it remains one of my core values to dedicate my working life to rebalancing the scales. My work will always seek to help those who need it most.
- Minimal Environmental Damage
I hate throwing food away and creating waste.
This was another reason to not open a cafe and to reduce the number of catered events and street food markets I did. The potential for food waste, packaging, fuel, water, electricity and equipment requirements all went against this core value of running a lean business.
To keep my business efficient, I have standardised recipes and use only recyclable packaging. I donate all unsold food (where possible) and compost the rest. I always provide reusable takeaway boxes at my cookery courses and pop up cafes. I drive only when I really have to.
In food, it is very difficult to have zero waste. But being mindful and taking steps to minimise waste helps me run a minimal impact food business.
Many people travel through life blindly, not knowing what forces influence the key decisions they make in life.
Or they have a more subtle background feeling of dissatisfaction and are unsure why.
Your quality of life and sense of satisfaction will immensely improve if you let yourself be guided by your own core values. You will then be able to create a business which reflects who you truly are.
If you lose the love for something you make or deliver, it’s basically game over. You can continue plodding on, but you will be miserable and you will eventually give up.
When you make the process joyful for yourself, your customers will feel that joy and connect with you more deeply.
A business which comes from the heart brings you happiness and brings you success. It is a win-win situation.
No-one gets to experience your life except you. If this means being different to everyone else, so be it.
We are the protagonist in our own story, and we must be kind, true and loving to ourselves. Being compassionate towards yourself is the first step in being kind to others.
Live your own life the way you want to, and create a business that helps you do exactly that.