Values > Plans

When I teach my entrepreneurship students at Stanford, in my first lecture of the quarter I put up a slide with the logos of Apple, Facebook, and Google. I ask my students why these three companies have been so successful. 

It’s a good warm-up exercise for the course, and always engenders a lively classroom discussion. 

My purpose behind this opening exercise is to debunk the myth that startup success is about “the idea” – none of these companies had the idea first; instead, they all out-executed everyone else in their respective categories.

But there’s another common thread with these (and other) successful companies: they’ve stuck to their values, from their inception through their IPO. Their business plans may have changed and evolved, but their values have held strong. 

Consider the fact that when Apple started as a desktop computer company, there’s no way they could have ever imagined they’d be making smartphones, tablets, steaming music, or any of the products they are making today. And yet the products they are making today are absolutely consistent with the ethos and values that we know as Apple. 

In fact, if you think of any iconic company in any sector – Apple, Southwest, Porsche, Starbucks, or Walmart – they all have stuck to their essential values, year in and year out, even as their tactical business plans have evolved and changed. 

Tivix is an example (in our own small way). We started as a product company, evolved into a software consulting company, and went through 4-5 different business plans in between. But if you ask any of our employees, customers, or partners, I think they would tell you that the essential values that Tivix has stood for are the same today as on the day we started.

In a fast-changing marketplace, business plans are worthless. Anyone who tells you that they know what their operating plan will look like five years from now is either an idiot or delusional. But values endure. 

Values > Plans, any day of the week. 

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.

– Roy Disney