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Our Values — The Journey

Salsa's values are more than just words — they represent our heart and soul. This is our journey.

Con F 11 December 2015

Most companies have mission, vision, and value statements. And often these high-purpose words become just that—words. At Salsa we wanted something different, something more meaningful, something that truly demonstrated the Salsa culture inside and out. Yes, we call them our values…but we also take them seriously and we really do use them in the day-to-day running of our business. 

Why values?

I’d used values with some success in my previous roles and believed they were essential to nurturing and directing a company’s culture.

The process

We set up a group that represented Salsa—the owners, management and other key personnel—and we started talking about the heart of Salsa, our DNA. We took our time, partly to fit it in around our busy work schedules and partly because we didn’t want to rush such an essential process. These values would guide us in years to come, they weren’t something to be pushed out on paper napkins over a lunch meeting. And so, over about four to six months we came up with the values, and then examined each value in terms of behaviour. What behaviours would support this particular value, and what behaviours would go against it? This procedure allowed us to develop concrete values that meant something to us, rather than vague, high-level statements.

Coming up with the final number of values and culling was hard…we needed enough to represent our company, but we also didn’t want too many. In the end, we did/do have quite a few but we simply couldn’t cull any more. Democracy ruled, and so we put it to a vote.

The values

Rigour - what we do we do well

Commercial Outcomes - we deliver value for all stakeholders.

Accountability - we take ownership and are highly responsive to requests.

Fresh Thinking - we seek innovation and evolution in the small and the big things.

Transparency - we communicate openly and honestly.

Personal Growth - we foster a learning and nurturing environment, equipping people to thrive.

Mutual Respect - we respect people and celebrate diversity.

Each value has three elements:

  1. Main heading
  2. Summary
  3. Detail

We also didn’t want to use standard language that people had become desensitised too…so rather than innovation as a main heading, for example, we used fresh thinking. This more specific and concrete terminology helps to keep us more focused.

Design

We also took the time to create a design for each poster, each value, something that truly represented the value. This was the opportunity to create another dimension to the ‘words’, providing even greater depth.  Spending time on internal marketing is just as important as spending on external marketing.

How we use our values

We use our values internally to foster and reinforce the culture we want in the business. The values reflect the DNA of the founders and the Salsa culture in general, and we try to imbed the values in the way we do things. Importantly, values are a two-way street. Everyone in the business is accountable to the values, Salsa owners and management have full buy-in and are held accountable just like any other staff member. We foster an environment where anyone can initiate a dialogue with another Salsa member if they don’t think their behaviour is in line with our key values. So, if a staff member thinks a manager is not showing an appropriate amount of rigour, they can voice this concern (in a respectful way, of course!).  

And we do talk about our values. In some environments it may be considered unusual, maybe even daggy J, to have a conversation around transparency or rigour, but here at Salsa we’re engineers at heart and we believe in structure and the importance of language. We also like to make sure we’re all on the same page, following the same rules.

Our values are applied to both internal interactions and our interactions with our customers. Our goal is simple: To make everyone around us feel empowered. Yes, it may be a tall order but we also recognise that values are aspirational, these are the goals we’re always aspiring to day-in and day-out.

Entrenching the values in our staff

Once the values were finalised, we started the important task of entrenching the values in our staff. I held what the staff referred to as ‘couch sessions’ where we’d go around the room and discuss the value that we were focusing on during that meeting. I’d ask questions like:

  • What does it mean to you?
  • What does it mean in your daily work life?

And we’d go around the room and get most people to give examples and thoughts.

At the end of the session, we’d put that value up on the wall, until all the values were posted.

Case study: Fresh thinking

Our value of fresh thinking is all about creating a culture where you’re allowed to express yourself and ideas — even if they’re out there and might not be commercially viable. The thing is, out-there ideas can lead to an amazing solution that’s both fresh and commercial. We like to ride the healthy tension between fresh thinking and commercial viability; fresh thinking tempered with commercial outcomes.

Fresh thinking can also introduce you to new and better ways to perform a task. Our visual for fresh thinking is a banana…which may seem bizarre until you know the inside story.

Our Creative Director included an image of a banana on the poster for the Fresh Thinking value. Why? At our couch session he talked about peeling a banana. Which end do you peel your banana from? I always peeled it from the stem end…but then I was shown another way, a new way. And now, I always peel it from the other end. You should try it…it’s much easier. And that’s fresh thinking…trying something new and different, a different way of doing things.

We love our values and what they stand for. Most importantly, they represent Salsa’s heart and soul…and maybe that’s one of the reasons why we take them so seriously.

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