Here’s Why Company Core Values Are Critical to Culture


We’ve all been there.

A well-intentioned leader in your company calls for a quick stand-up to talk through the why of your organization. The group piles into the conference room to discuss your very reason for being.

And things don’t quite go as they envisioned.

Devin wants to make some bold claims about your identity that shift the culture of the organization. Charlotte gets up and draws a venn diagram displaying Janet and Brian’s opinions, only to realize there’s no overlap. Finally, Jake suggests we all “take a step back” and “unpack” what’s been discussed—and the meeting is officially off the rails.

Thanks, Simon Sinek!

“In most industries, people care as much about what’s under the
hood of those they do business with as the actual product or service itself.”
click to tweet
 Click to Tweet

All ruckus aside, defining organization ideologies is critical for the health of any growing business. In most industries, people care as much about what’s under the hood of those they do business with as the actual product or service itself.

Bonfire’s core values have been the center of our focus from day one. We’ve always felt that what it’s like to be part of Bonfire is equally as important as achieving our concrete goals.

The value in core values

Defining our values took some time, but the process went remarkably smooth thanks to our shared belief that core values are mostly a diagnosis of who you are today, and less an aspiration of where you wish you were or what you want to be.

That’s not to say any of us go a perfect 4/4 on a daily basis, nor is that the goal. But the more your values accurately express the uniqueness of what you’ve truly built, the more people who engage with the company will take notice. The more people take notice, the more contagious those values become.

As we approach the 4-year anniversary of defining our values, we thought it might be worthwhile to share them with you. Take these as an example, not of how to implement them, but how to pinpoint them in your company culture and exemplify their application.

1. Take initiative to change your world. 

Discovering your company’s core values can feel like an identity crisis. Promoting them is easy. Keep these wisdoms in mind.

One of the dichotomies of building a great culture is that both heavy collaboration and unwavering personal responsibility are required. This value highlights the latter.

Everyone has different desires in their life and career. And while mentorship is a critical component to get you there, it starts with the initiative of the individual to clearly define what they want as a starting point before effectively seeking out help to get there.

We see this value exemplified among the team every day:

  • Elizabeth, one of our outstanding copywriters, noticed several client teams were doing redundant campaign research. Rather than waiting for permission to make things better, she took initiative to create a universal holiday and trends calendar specifically tailored to our clients. Her guide is now used for every new client onboarding and brainstorm, saving everyone time in the process.
  • William had his sights set on creating a new role for himself as director of digital strategy and insights. His obstacle: He works remotely in a different time zone. To overcome it, he put together a written roadmap of the steps he’d take to get there, including specific methods to enhance his communication from afar. The strides he made and what he was able to accomplish remotely with this intentional approach were critical to his success in landing the new role.
  • April, our newest digital strategist, exemplified this value in the process leading up to her joining the Bonfire team. She took initiative to meet with several team members, study our values, and attend one of our Firestarter events. She then made a pitch as the best fit for our next opening. When that job posted, she was naturally top-of-mind for us all.

If individuals are constantly taking action to change their world for the better, the business will change for the better right behind them.

An exercise to try

The first week of every year, we have a company-wide initiative to set SMART personal, professional, and family goals. Everyone vocally shares their goals in a team meeting. Building this rhythm ensures we support each other, but also encourages the team to stop and take some intentional reflection time to determine what they want to accomplish in the coming year.

Seeing others better themselves and those around them—whether it’s building a new skill, new capability, volunteering more, quitting smoking, buying a house, whatever—has a contagious effect on us all to improve and take practical steps toward our goals.

2. Be playful with teams and clients. 

Discovering your company’s core values can feel like an identity crisis. Promoting them is easy. Keep these wisdoms in mind.

You might see playfulness as a given for a company in the creative field. And while it helps that we’re not working in a funeral home or ER, to us playfulness is about embracing everyone’s unique strengths and personalities.

  • Mark, one of our senior analysts, is obsessed with data. Spreadsheets get him out of bed in the morning. And while not everyone shares that love, he keeps others engaged when he gives a presentation laden with dad jokes. Mark applies his own playfulness to what he does in a way that helps others learn, peaks interest, and ultimately enables everyone to create better work.
  • Jamie, an account manager, is similar in that she is unconventionally playful. Jamie loves defining a highly complex problem in terms of pop culture references or relatable life metaphors that people easily understand. It’s her game, and it helps everyone stay focused on what we’re here to accomplish and collaboratively determine the best next course of action amongst ambiguity.
  • Jim, our content strategist, sends big-picture trends and strategies out twice a week internally to equip the whole team. Sometimes the subjects aren’t that exciting; other times they’re on the heavier side. He finds a way to present them with just the right level of humor, interest, and client relevance that everyone looks forward to reading them, knowing it’s the one newsletter they can count on for useful tactics.

Being playful also has a selfless, anti-ego component. If we’re going to embrace each other’s unique strengths and ways of getting things done, we have to be willing to remain open to new ideas we wouldn’t have come up with on our own. We must be willing to be wrong, to step out of someone’s way, and to change course when necessary.

Playfulness makes work more fun, which produces happier people, which produces better work.

3. Live purposely and committed to results. 

Discovering your company’s core values can feel like an identity crisis. Promoting them is easy. Keep these wisdoms in mind.

No one fully controls an outcome. The world just isn’t that linear.

What can be controlled is one’s own orientation toward driving a result. Applying a high level of agility, grit, flexibility, attentiveness, curiosity, and determination are almost entirely choices made by individuals, teams, and organizations.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” – Oscar Wilde

This year, our department directors exemplified this value while collaborating on Bonfire’s version of an agile marketing methodology. With several major projects in the pipeline, they self-assessed their departments and determined certain projects could be completed in far less time if visibility and timelines were structured more effectively.

After studying multiple agile disciplines, testing one, and making some tweaks to fit our needs, they ended up finishing the next high production marketing asset more than two weeks faster than the average asset for the same client.

Being committed to results also means keeping your own reactions to changing circumstances in check. When something happens outside our control, we have to put one foot in front of the other and dedicate our focus and energy on what we can control. Everyone stays focused on the task at hand when given the flexibility to use their own unique talents to drive a result.

Which leads me to our final value.

4. Always do the right thing. 

Discovering your company’s core values can feel like an identity crisis. Promoting them is easy. Keep these wisdoms in mind.

It’s our least unique value. I think every real estate office I’ve ever visited has displayed “Do the Right Thing” (DTRT) in their reception area (usually next to one of those 5-star-gold-something-award plaques).

Cliches aside, it’s true that great companies are largely defined by DTRT. Every company does the right thing—when it’s easy. Great companies strive to take the right action when it’s hard.

  • Does a client have an unforeseen crisis we need to help solve over the weekend? We’ll do what it takes to make it happen.
  • Has a team member experienced a difficult personal situation? We’ll rally together to cover their duties so they can focus on sorting it out.
  • Do we have an opportunity to work with a brand whose values may conflict with the team’s? We’ll pass on the partnership.

DTRT also has critical implications at the individual level:

  • Did you notice a small, but important administrative error that’ll cause massive headaches for multiple parties to fix?
  • Did you receive credit or praise for a project whose success was mostly due to your colleague’s work?
  • Did you notice an issue on a client’s website that (on paper) isn’t our responsibility?

How a group responds in little moments adds up to be a huge component in defining culture. You can detect the right decision in the few moments you pause to debate. The harder decision, the one requiring more sacrifice on your part personally, is usually right.

Always do the right thing.

No one is perfect, and Bonfire will certainly never be perfect.

All that means is we have the opportunity to keep trying, to move forward, to learn from every victory and mistake, and to make a conscious decision to get better every day. Our core values are a reflection of that opportunity.

If you enjoyed reading, subscribe to our newsletter (it’s awesome). Or, if you’d like to explore joining our team, learn more about Bonfire’s open positions.

Related resources: 

More Content


One Comment

  1. digital tasks January 3, 2019 at 6:45 am - Reply

    love to read this article about company core value great job

Leave A Comment

Bonfire Marketing

407 NE 12th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232

Phone: 503-334-2071