By Max Lytvyn, Co-Founder and Head of Revenue at Grammarly
When we founded Grammarly in 2009, my co-founders and I committed to building a business rooted in a strong mission and values. These guide everything we do, whether it’s hiring exceptional talent or developing an enterprise product.
Reflecting on the anniversary of the company’s founding in April, I’m proud to say that we’ve never wavered in our commitment to our values. Research shows that nearly 80% of large companies have corporate values, but deciding on a set of values or a single mission is only half the challenge. The real test of values is staying focused on living them every day — especially for high-growth companies focused on continuous innovation and expansion. Your values have to be foundational while scaling with your growth.
Growing a business while staying true to your values is both rewarding and challenging. When done right, values can serve as a critical lens to drive sustainable growth.
Considerations When Creating A Mission And Values
In the early days of starting Grammarly, we put a lot of effort into defining what we were trying to achieve with our product and what kind of company we were building. Our mission and values have since become business axioms that underpin everything we do within the organization.
A company’s mission and values become filters through which one can make important business decisions. Here are some considerations when developing a mission and values that can scale with an organization as it grows:
Future-proof the company mission. An impactful company mission is ambitious and accounts for anticipated areas of growth and development, including the evolution of business strategy and an expanding team. Create a mission that will be timeless and work to serve it by taking deliberate steps.
Values are not just for show. Values are powerful business imperatives that provide organizational impact and direction. They need to resonate on a deep level with employees and leadership to be effective components of day-to-day decision-making — not only displayed on office walls.
Seek to inspire. Well-developed missions and values should influence teams, customers, partners and investors alike. Getting a mission or values right requires deep consideration and thoughtful application, but the result is well worth it when you see how they can align everyone to positively impact long-term growth.
Creating Values That Scale
Knowing where to start when it comes to creating organizational values can feel overwhelming given their importance. To create an effective set of values that helped my organization scale, we considered five key principles to guide our decision-making:
- Innate: Ensure the values are authentic and resonate with all aspects of the organization.
- Few: For values to remain scalable, champion only a few to ensure they continue to resonate as teams grow and diversify.
- Simple and memorable: Keep values simple and find unique ways to help employees keep them top of mind.
- Consistent with the mission: Values should support the overall company mission to inform key organizational and hiring decisions that move the business forward.
- Stable: Organizational values are the foundation for many other things — culture, brand, decision-making, prioritization and more. They should be timeless enough to last.
Following these principles helped us develop our EAGER values — ethical, adaptable, gritty, empathetic, remarkable. (It was a special bonus that the acronym spelled out “eager,” which also describes our team well and helps us refer to the values using a memorable shorthand.)
Leveraging Values To Scale
Knowing how to use values within the organization is not necessarily intuitive. One way we try to approach business decisions at Grammarly is to use values as a filtering metric. Put simply, if something goes against the company values, we should not invest in that path. Values can also inform a long-term planning, hiring and company strategy.
For example, when hiring, we look for candidates who demonstrate remarkability by showing a natural curiosity to seek out information and offering new ways to solve problems. Such a candidate is more likely to question ideas and actively engage with views expressed by anyone in the organization, which encourages innovation and collaboration.
Here are some ways values can help guide important aspects of growth in your organization:
Building an exceptional team. Values can help your company scale by creating effective filters for hiring, retaining and fostering talent. For example, candidates who are excited about company values are more likely to elevate your company culture and accept a job offer. The same is true for keeping and developing workers for the long-term — values keep employees engaged and invested in their work. On the other hand, if a candidate doesn’t demonstrate interest in or alignment with company values, then they likely aren’t the right fit for the organization.
Informing your product strategy. Considering company values when developing your product can be a powerful way to deliver impact for your customers and your business. They help align your innovation with your identity. For example, empathy (one of our values) helps us keep our users at the center of our decision-making to deliver new capabilities that meet their real needs. When we decided to launch our enterprise offering, it was directly based on the feedback we received from business customers to drive even greater value for them over time.
Shaping the long-term strategic focus. Company values provide a north star and a lens to evaluate strategic decisions and drive company expansion. Business objectives have a variety of inputs, including situational influences like time, short-term financial gains or stakeholder pressures. But being intentional about considering values as well helps ensure that you’re always determining the best path forward for the company as a whole.
In just over 10 years, values have helped my company create market-leading product offerings, introduce new business units and realize new outcomes each day. Company values are the foundation of achieving an organizational mission and guiding long-term business decisions.
To achieve this in an organization, a leader needs to be mindful of defining values that are simple, memorable and consistent with your mission — then deploy them in ways that are sufficient, practical, continuous, evergreen and inspiring.