Sonny Patel
Jul 17 · 5 min read

There’s no question the Valley is an excellent place to launch and grow a business. We have some of the nation’s — and even the world’s — most forward-thinking companies here, as well as extraordinary leaders. And while the notion of a natural-born leader is a nice thought, I believe they are largely shaped by their environment. More specifically, their communities.

This realization set in after I launched my company Insurmi and began encountering the rollercoaster of ups and downs that come with business growth. As a young, first-time founder, I found a lot of support in our local community, but it occurred to me there was actually another community that had profoundly shaped the type of leader I am today: my family.

Understanding who shapes your values

For most of us, personal values begin to take shape at a very young age. From the time we begin observing and interacting with the people around us as children, we’re soaking up what we, and others, stand for and learning codes for how to behave.

We’ve heard it before: we’re most impressionable in our youth. This critical time in our life imprints who we will become. And now, I wholeheartedly believe it’s worth taking time to assess the values that shaped you growing up, as these will instinctually become what you default to during the lows and highs of business ownership. Identifying these values can help you pinpoint areas of strength and those you may want to work on.

For me, the values I saw demonstrated time and time again were acceptance, determination, kindness, patience and respect. We moved a lot when I was a child. As a result, I was not only conditioned to embrace change, but also varying cultures. The place that sticks out the most for me is Zambia. We lived there during my formative years. From this experience, I learned how members of this community of extreme poverty were taught to value each person based on their individual contributions, character and abilities, as different as they may be. Stature, success and money didn’t determine a person’s self worth or place in the community. It was an important lesson — one I believe applies to business leadership: treat every stakeholder in your company and community with respect, dignity and patience.

I also learned what true determination looked like not only from the amazing community in Zambia, but also my father. Like every entrepreneur, I face my fair share of tough decisions. In these moments, I recall watching my father persevere during the ups and downs of his own small business. At the time, I was inspired by his determination to overcome challenges thrown his way, and in the present I work to emulate that same grit he modeled back then.

My point is this: everyone is shaped by completely unique life experiences, and these profoundly impact the values they live and run their companies by. Some of these experiences are overwhelmingly positive, while others demonstrate what we don’t want to manifest. Either way, they shape us.

For instance, those who grew up without as much structure or stability may embrace those qualities now, working extra hard to intentionally instill those within their life and organizations. Or, on the flip side, they may relish the values of freedom and flexibility and autonomy, and bake those into their leadership style.

Conscious or not, a great deal of who you are and will be as a leader has already been influenced by the values instilled in you up to this point. The good news is, once identified, these values can be harnessed to shape your business and drive success moving forward.

Identifying key values

No matter your stage of entrepreneurship, it’s immensely useful to think back on the values that were instilled in you growing up that still guide you today. It will give you a clear picture of what drives you, why you do the things you do, and what’s important to you. It will also help you remain in integrity with yourself and the vision you have for your company. And this is an important point.

As your business grows, things will change. Oftentimes, you have to make decisions quickly with little information. If you haven’t identified your personal and business core values, you can quickly get to a place where you’re no longer in integrity with yourself. Your core values will serve as an important guidepost for helping you make decisions. And when you are in integrity with your values, it makes it easier to pass on interactions or partnership with individuals or companies who lack it. And believe me, you’ll come across them.

By establishing your founding values in the beginning, including nailing down why you set out to do what you want to do, you’ll be prepared for distractions and will be able to turn to these core values to make decisions and stay on course. The better you know yourself and what you want your company to be, the more intentional you can be in setting the bar from the get go.

Pinpointing your values has direct implications on your company’s culture, which is why it’s worth the investment in time and budget to schedule time with yourself, a mentor or executive coach to analyze your key values and narrow them down to the ones that can be parlayed into your company’s core values to guide the company forward.

Harnessing your values to drive success

Entrepreneurs know to establish their mission and vision as a way to stay on course. Likewise, values have a constant effect on your business in ways big and small, including making hiring decisions, business partnerships, branding, team interactions, the pursuit of innovation, problem-solving and the list goes on and on.

When you identify your values, you’ll have a new way to ascertain your priorities and measure success. That said, it’s one thing to single out these values, it’s another to live by them. Part of why a person’s upbringing has such an impact on their leadership style today is that while growing up, it’s likely they were constantly held accountable for their actions by the people around them. For your company culture to take hold, take the time to promote these core values and acknowledge when others do the same.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned, serial entrepreneur or just getting started. As humans, we’re always growing, learning, developing and looking at others we respect for cues on life and even leadership. However, as an entrepreneur, it’s increasingly likely you are a person that others in your sphere look to. Just as your family or caregivers did for you, harness your influence, embrace yourself as a leader and be cognizant that others will be learning from you. This will have an undeniably positive impact on you develop as a leader and the way you shape and steer your company.


Stories, thoughts, and news from the Greater Phoenix startup and entrepreneurial community.

Sonny Patel

Written by

Founder/CEO @Insurmi, Insurance Thought-Leader, World Traveller, & Proud #yesPHX Entrepreneur



Stories, thoughts, and news from the Greater Phoenix startup and entrepreneurial community.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade