Once you have two employees, you need company core values. But most companies get it wrong.
Generally, core values don’t mean anything to the employees or the leaders, and they have absolutely no impact on the customers.
At Proof, we have 7 core values that we’re willing to die for. They affect everything we do. We love them, and it was hard work getting to them. This post outlines the company values we stand by and the process of how we came to them.
These are the best core values that rose to the surface to describe and help guide how we want to build our business and achieve our vision:
*The Proof Vision – To help businesses grow using honest marketing strategies.
Before I share what the 7 goals are, let me first explain why I said they “rose to the surface” rather than “we created them.”
You Don’t “Create” Real Company Core Values
Usually, as companies begin to grow, the entrepreneur stops and thinks “wait a minute, if we’re going to be a real company, we need to create some company core values!”
After all, Whole Foods and Apple have core values, right?
So as an entrepreneur, you sit down, and Google core values from big companies you respect. And then you search “how to write core values.” You write out a few lines describing the company you want to be.
This won’t work. And it will leave your company flat and faceless.
You don't create core values, you discover them. Click To Tweet
Three months into founding our company in 2015, the co-founders, Chris Hull, John Philip Morgan and I sat down to write a company core values list.
“Ok guys, what kind of company do we want to be?”
At the time, the honest answer was… “we’re not sure.”
We hadn’t had time to create a culture. We didn’t do things a certain way yet. We were like toddlers, figuring out how to walk.
We lacked conviction. And honestly, we lacked identity.
So, after a few awkward attempts… we put that conversation on pause.
Then, in December 2016, we picked it up again, but with a twist.
Instead of trying to figure out what we wanted to be… we started to ask a different question:
“After 2.5 years of building a company, who are we?”
At this point, we had an identity forming.
- We liked treating our customers with respect.
- We hated scummy marketing.
- We believed real friendships were more important than making money.
We had core values woven throughout everything we did, we just hadn’t defined them yet.
And so we got a whiteboard out and spent 3 hours writing down everything we strongly believed about business. We thought through our company philosophy. We identified elements of values statements from the past few years.
This time, it was easy. We weren’t trying to be Whole Foods. We weren’t trying to be Apple.
We were becoming Proof. And that had gravitas. That had weight.
Out of that exercise, we solidified seven company core values that kick ass. We’ve stuck with them for 10+ months now, which is a good sign.
Yet, I’m still open to them evolving. Maybe as the company evolves or as we change as entrepreneurs, a new value will appear or one will drop off. I’m open to that.
But for now, these are the 7 principles that guide us every day.
How We Celebrate Our Values in Everything We Do
The problem with core values and action items that comes out of a one-day retreat is that they are easy to forget.
Clients need help, things get crazy, and before you know it, you’re back in the weeds.
We knew we wanted to create a culture around these core values. We wanted to reward team members for excelling at our culture, not just our business.
At Proof, we hire people who fit our culture, over those who simply have the skills.
The “Musk Of The Week” Award
We created a weekly award, voted on by everyone at the company, that is given to the person who clearly demonstrates a core value that week.
We call it “The Musk Of The Week,” and the winner gets an Elon Musk Bobblehead trophy.
We look up to Elon Musk a lot, and while I think he’s a pretty crummy dad and husband, I love how he tackles big problems.
The Musk Of The Week helps us build real culture. It helps us think about the Company Core Values on a daily basis. It helps reward people for culture, and not skills.
It’s easy to learn skills, it’s hard to build culture. Click To Tweet
I recommend you have some way of reinforcing culture at your company, even if it’s just 2 people.
And now, without further ado, the Proof Company Core Values:
The Proof Core Values
Core Value #1 – Swing For The Fences
Achieving big goals takes just as much work (and sometimes less work) than tackling small goals. It’s counterintuitive but true. So why try to hit singles, when home runs are achievable?
Though I personally think Grant Cardone is a moron, we believe in the 10x Rule.
10x Rule: “You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. Massive thoughts must be followed by massive actions.”
A funny thing happens when you take your plans and try to make them 10x bigger or better. You unlock part of your brain you hadn’t been accessing.
Early on, we were selling a course called 6K Success for $997 and spending about $100/day on Facebook ads. We would make a sale every 3-4 days and were growing steadily. We were happy.
$100/day seemed like a lot of money at the time.
But then we asked a critical question, “What would we do if we HAD to grow 10x faster?”
This question changed everything. We started digging into the numbers to see how to make 10x possible. We realized that for every $1 we spent, we made $1.15 back within 21 days.
That means we would always have enough money back to pay off the credit card bill. Past that was all profit.
5 days later, we started spending $1,000/day on Facebook and the company took off from there.
Swinging for the fences wasn’t any more difficult than growing slowly. But it was a lot more fun!
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- Failure is expected. If you’re not failing in your role at Proof, you’re not taking risks. You’re playing it safe.
- Playing it safe is not an option.
- We consistently ask ourselves, how can we make this plan 10x better? How can we grow 10x faster? How can we build a product 10x better than our competitors?
Core Value #2 – 80/20 Everything
In 2014, I read a book that changed my life. It was called The 80/20 Principle. It outlined Pareto’s principle. The principle states that all throughout the world, we see that inputs and outputs are disproportionately distributed. 20% of pea pods in a field contain 80% of the individual peas. 1% of the wealthiest people hold 50% of the world’s wealth.
When applied to my daily schedule as an entrepreneur, I realized that 80% of my productive work came from only 20% of my time spent working. That means if I put in an amazing Monday and took the rest of the week off, I can still get about 80% of my total work done. My mind was blown.
I was wasting time on a ton of stuff that didn’t matter. And if I could figure out what stuff did matter, I could essentially double my output while only working 40% as much as everyone else.
Rather than making a to-do list every day of everything to be done, I started writing ONE goal for each day. “What can I accomplish today that will move the needle massively in my business?”
- Screw responding to every email.
- Forget Twitter, Instagram, and social media.
- Too bad Facebook inbox.
None of that stuff was moving the needle. And it was hard because a lot of stuff fell through the cracks.
But in exchange, our business started growing faster than ever.
And now everyone at Proof asks this question religiously:
“What 20% of this project can I do that will still achieve 80% of the results?”
In short, we quadruple down on what really matters, and we let everything else fall through the cracks.
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- Everyone chooses 3 goals for the quarter and 3 goals for each month in the quarter. These are their only focus, and in theory, have had the 80/20 rule applied to them.
- Everyone is free to come into work when they want and leave when they want. When you focus on the critical tasks, you suddenly have more free time and don’t have to work like a dog all the time.
- We are constantly asking each other “what’s the 80/20 of that” “How can you simplify that” “What’s the easiest way to get the same result?”
Core Value #3 – Know Thy Numbers And Obey Them
At Proof, we love numbers. They drive everything we do.
Going back to the story of growing 6K Success from spending $100/day to $1,000/day overnight, knowing the numbers and obeying them was everything. To me, spending $1,000/day on Facebook ads was ridiculous. Most companies spend 5-10% of their budget on marketing. We were suggesting spending 100% of our budget on marketing.
But as I dug into spreadsheet land, the numbers didn’t lie. If we spent more money… it would really work. We would grow really really fast. And though my emotions said “NO”, the numbers said yes, and we took our first step in learning to obey them.
At Proof, everything is run by the numbers. We know everything about our business. Every day we have a daily huddle that lasts 5-8 minutes. Here’s what we report on for the prior day:
- Customer Acquisition Cost
- Lifetime Value
- Unique Website Visitors
- Website Conversion Rate
- Trial Conversion Rate
- NPS Score
- Churn Rate
- Customer Support Conversation Rating
- Monthly Revenue
- Monthly Profit
- Development “Points” Completed
Each team member has one or two numbers that guide their entire month.
Sure, we like to be creative, but we love numbers. We know them, and we obey them.
And that is partly why we crush our competition and grow significantly faster than all of them.
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- Everyone reports on numbers daily, weekly and monthly.
- Everyone reports into a spreadsheet.
- We set goals that are clearly quantified.
- We are rewarded by hitting numbers, not by “making progress.”
- We listen to our Profit and Loss statements and grow the business based on that. It’s not based on gut feelings.
Core Value #4 – Delight And Exceed Customer Expectations
Sure, every company wants to do right by their customers. You have a basic obligation to meet their expectations, or the free market will correct and customers will leave you for the competition.
(Sidebar: I am a big fan of the free market, and don’t believe more government is the answer to solving customers’ needs)
So delight customers and exceed their expectations. Go above and beyond. Create “wow” experiences for them.
At Proof, we’re playing the long game. A lot of companies out there are trying to extract as much value out of a customer as they possibly can, in the shortest amount of time that they can. In the early years, we did this too.
We would hard sell. Get people to buy. Make people feel uncomfortable. Not deliver exactly as we had promised. Overmarketed, under delivered.
We made some money, but it felt crummy.
At one point, we were selling a high-ticket marketing training program and making more money than we ever had. We were supposed to scale the business rapidly, and make stupid amounts of cash right?
The problem was, even though we were selling well, our customers weren’t getting the results we had hoped they would.
10-20% of our customers applied our marketing strategies and a few even made millions of dollars with or systems. But 30% got weak results, and 50% didn’t get results at all.
A few people said, “that’s just industry standard.” But we weren’t okay with it. We didn’t feel like we were delighting people or exceeding customer expectations.
So we canned it and stopped selling that program.
Every customer has a relational piggy bank, and each interaction is a chance to make an extra deposit into that bank. It may not pay off right away, but over the long run, we believe it will.
Rather than ask, “How can we get this person to buy Proof,” we force ourselves to ask, “How can we get this customer to stick around for the next 10 years?”
It’s better for business. It’s better for the customer. It feels better. And we have a lot more fun.
Delighting and exceeding customer expectations is challenging, but it’s worth it.
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- We have the best customer support/success team in the industry and we invest heavily in this.
- We try to create “WOW” moments with customers, and some team members are rewarded financially for these.
- Our developers work on customer support so they are constantly talking to customers and building products customers want.
- We periodically send gifts to customers just to say “thanks.”
- We track our NPS score daily with a goal of being over 50.
Core Value #5 – Honesty, Even When It Hurts
A year ago, one of my former mentors was making TONS of money from a new webinar and product he had created. Meanwhile, our own product sales were growing slowly even though we were using a similar system. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing that we were missing.
So I signed up for the webinar to see what his secret sauce was.
I was horrified. And pissed.
I spent the next 90 minutes listening to lie after lie about the results his program offered, the amount of work required, and everything in between.
The entire thing was a scam; it made me sick to my stomach.
“How could he do that to people and sleep at night?”
But maybe more pressing was this thought…
“How are we supposed to compete with that?”
And at that moment, we had a tough decision to make. Do we redo our sales process, tell more half-truths, exaggerate our results, tell people OUR OFFER IS EXTREMELY LIMITED TIME ONLY, and tell people our webinar was live when it is really a recording? Surely we could get more people to buy our course if we did that.
Or, do we do the honest thing, even when it hurts?
As you might guess, we chose honesty and integrity.
Life is more than making money. I have a wife and new son. I have friends I care about. I care deeply about my faith. I have personal core values. I’m not willing to trade my integrity for a few extra sales, and neither is anyone at Proof.
Plus, we think honesty is the best path to win the long game. This guy might make more sales in the short run, but we’ll win over time by earning customer trust and building on that.
At Proof, our mission is to help 100,000 businesses grow using honest marketing strategies.
Our software product is designed to increase conversions, while also bringing honesty and transparency to internet marketing.
It’s why we don’t allow our customers to upload past purchases as Proof notifications because we know some people will abuse that and fake it. And we can’t let that happen.
Internet marketing gets sketchier every year, and we’re determined to clean it up. That’s what drives us.
So know at Proof, we’ll never ask you to lie to your visitors.
We believe in honesty, even when it hurts.
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- We build products that help people make money and be truthful.
- No false scarcity. We don’t tell people “the doors are closing!” on an offer unless they really are.
- We don’t lie to our customers in our marketing.
- When we mess up, we quickly let our customers know.
Core Value #6 – Have Fun And Be Yourself
Early in our business, we were copycats. Frauds really. Before we were comfortable in our identity, we would just copy what we saw others do.
Our marketing videos were exactly like every other boring marketing video. I dressed how I thought a CEO or consultant was supposed to dress. I was rude and standoffish to my students because a mentor of mine acted that way. I tried to act “high end” even though I was just a regular guy who liked playing basketball and sending funny GIFs to my friends.
I wasn’t acting like myself, and because of that, I wasn’t having any fun. And my company wasn’t authentic.
In October 2016, we said enough is enough. We were tired of acting like other people. We decided we were going to rebuild our business exactly how we wanted it. If people liked it, that was great. If they didn’t, too bad.
So we launched the Entrepreneur Alliance, a small band of entrepreneurs who wanted to do things a different way.
They were people who looked at Tai Lopez and said, “No thanks. Not for me.” People who valued honesty and integrity more than making a little extra money per click, or having slightly higher conversion rates. People who think Lamborghinis are ridiculous and a cry for attention. In short, we just acted like ourselves, and customers loved it.
And we started having way more fun. More on the Entrepreneur Alliance in Core Value #6.
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- We have fun at our office. Whenever we hit another $1,000 in new MRR for the company, we play “Another One Bites The Dust” and someone dances around like a goof crossing off the goal. It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s us, and we love it.
- We do regular happy hours as a team. Not because we’re trying to be “Startup-ey” but because we like margaritas and hanging out with each other as friends.
- Friendship is a big value on our team. We spend time with each other outside of work. We have each other over for dinner with our families.
- We don’t do work we’re not excited about. If something doesn’t feel authentic to who we are, we cut it. If we’re not having fun doing it, we cut it.
Core Value #7 – Protect Our People And Help Them Flourish
At the end of the day, Proof is made up of people. Awesome people.
I believe that recruiting great people and protecting them at all costs is the absolute best way to accomplish our mission, to build a product that gets results, to delight and exceed customers, and for us to make a crap-ton of money in exchange.
Our team at Proof is world class. I’d instantly stack them up against any team out there. I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. You’d have to pry them out of my hands.
They know that I’ve got their back and that I’m looking to protect them and help them flourish in their personal lives and careers.
I see a lot of companies out there missing this. They only hire remote contractors, then talk to them once a week and hope that’s enough to grow the company.
In my experience, it’s really hard to protect a contractor and help them flourish.
A year ago, we made the shift from a remote team of contractors (which led to lackluster results) to an in-house team of full-time employees.
When we started hiring a team locally and we saw each other every day, we became better friends. I cared about them more. I could see their areas of strength and encourage them in that. I could see areas of weakness and help outsource that.
(Sidebar: I don’t believe in helping team members grow in their weaknesses, instead I try to take those tasks off their plate)
How We Apply This Value At Proof:
- We regularly give raises and give employees better equipment without them even asking. We simply do it because it’s the right thing to do.
- We invest in team members by buying them courses, training, and mentorship to help them excel in their roles.
- We work to get employees in their exact sweet spot of skills and gifting and take nearly everything else off their plate.
- Our team health comes before anything.
- We only hire A players and work our tails off to keep them around and help them grow.
Your company is only as strong as your company core values. Without strong company values, you won’t have anything to stand up against the pressures of the market. You won’t have any vision to attract recruits. Uncover your core values, and recruit people who love them. Then celebrate when people honor them, and correct when people break them.
Protect your team and love your customers, and you are destined to build a company you love and a company that grows.
We love the company we’ve built at Proof. If you love our particular values, I’d love to have you as a customer or have you consider joining our team. At the very least leave a comment below and share some love 🙂
Here’s to higher conversions and honest marketing,
CEO of Proof