Incorporating Company Values from a Legal Perspective

matthew sherlock
Feb 23, 2016 · 2 min read

Congratulations! You and your team have spent hours, days, or even weeks committing to writing the core values that define your company. It’s an important step to the life of any successful business. Now that you’ve spent so much time defining company culture, it’s time to take the more important step of implementing the newly defined values and ensuring that your company, and its interactions with customers, subcontractors, and everyone else embody that culture.

After you’ve defined your values, take the time to reread your standard contract forms. Do they clearly convey your values? If, for example, your company lives by the motto “we are fair,” does your service agreement embody that? Are you creating agreements that are give-and-take, instead of something that is one-sided?

Another common value that many companies adopt commits to employee growth and happiness. Oftentimes those same companies will have agreements that don’t express that same sentiment. For instance, they will make their employees sign non-compete agreements, which can promote a feeling in employees that is the exact opposite of the stated value. By sending conflicting messages like these, companies are preventing employee buy-in, and the values they want to ingrain in their business will never take root. In this particular example, if the employer read through all of their standard contracts after instituting values they would see that a non-compete doesn’t work well with their value of promoting employee happiness. They could trash the non-compete, and address the concerns that caused them to use a non-compete in another document that wouldn’t clash with company values. The great thing about contracts is they can always be tailored to address your company’s goals, such as risk management, while staying true to its core values.

These are just some examples of how values should be impacting the content of your contracts. To truly commit to your company core values, you have to examine every interaction, including the creation of legal relationships, and ask yourself “does this reflect who we are as a company?” Part of living your company values is learning to let go of standard contract terms that you’ve used forever, but that just don’t line up with who you are as a company, and by solving those problems in a new way that promotes that company culture. As a cautionary note, before taking a red pen to any provision, first understand why it was incorporated in the first place (unless one of your core company values is “we take a lot of unnecessary risk”).

Have a question? Contact me on twitter @matthewsherlock

Disclaimer: This is a blog, not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice you should contact an attorney. This post is intended for a general audience, as my general reflections on a particular subject. Nothing in this post creates an attorney-client relationship.

matthew sherlock

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