Core values can be deceptively challenging to define, but they’re an essential part of your company’s culture and brand. Those few words shape your culture and help define who you are.
Lemonly most recently adapted our core values in 2017 (though we check in on them every year to make sure we’ve still got it right). Back in 2017, we realized we were living out our values pretty darn well, but that we weren’t doing so mindfully. That led us to refine our set of core values and put more focus on them in the years since (more on all that below).
Putting greater emphasis on our core values brought a new intentionality to Lemonly that empowered us to work together in more meaningful ways. Now, our core values feel more relevant and accurate than ever as we continue to create a sweet company culture every day.
Lemonly’s early years
Let’s start with a brief tale from Lemonly history. The year was 2011, and we were a new company, off to a whirlwind start — making amazing infographics, growing our still-tiny team, and generally doing our best.
But, like many scrappy little startups, we didn’t have core values right away. Early in our first year, co-founders John and Amy put their heads together and figured some out. To credit our early efforts, they were pretty solid. At that time: adventure, collaborate, integrity, creativity, and invested.
Great! We’d crossed “core values” off our to-do list and moved on to getting Spotify Premium for the office speaker system.
But as more time passed, Lemonly’s leaders realized something: The team did a great job living out our core values, but they didn’t realize they were doing it. In fact, most Lemonheads couldn’t list all five core values off the top of their head. They technically saw them briefly at least once a year when they re-signed the Lemonly handbook, and hiring managers took our values into consideration when interviewing job candidates, but our core values were mostly in the background.
Clarifying our core values
So we made some changes. We took a long look at our list of five core values and thought about which were the most powerful, easiest to identify, and most actionable in practice. Then, with some prodding from our wonderful writers who love consistency and the magic number three, we agreed to trim our core values down to three simpler nouns: collaboration, integrity, and adventure.
So how did we trim down the list and settle on those three? Does that mean we’re no longer creative or invested in our work? Um, no.
First, we realized that creativity is table stakes in this business. All Lemonheads are creative thinkers and problem solvers, whether they’re creative in how they design a new logo or in how they reorganize a tight project timeline. Also, how do you measure creativity? How do you answer, “Hey, tell me how you’ve been creative over the past trimester?” It’s too spongy and hard to measure.
Second, we decided that “invested” is both too vague and too obvious. We figured that if we could genuinely make Lemonly a place where people collaborate, act with integrity, and work with adventure in mind, team members’ investment in our company culture would come naturally.
Lastly, having three core values is simple. Our three core values enhance each other and flow together easily. They get at the crux of who we are as a company without any jargon, and they’re easy to understand and remember, making them easier to recall when the Lemonheads are hard at work designing clarity and solving problems.
Lemonly’s three core values
We believe in working together with our fellow Lemonheads, clients, and community. Together is better.
We believe in doing the right thing. Be honest. Be gracious. Admit when you’re wrong. Be humble when you’re right. And always treat others with respect.
We believe in taking risks. Try new things. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn from your mistakes.
Our three core values are strong and to the point. They’re not only aspirational but actionable.
Plus, back in 2017, Maddie (now our associate director of content) realized something extremely cool about these three values when illustrated as a Venn diagram (and Lemonly loves Venn diagrams): When we live out collaboration, integrity, and adventure, other values shine through.
Byproducts of Lemonly’s core values
We noticed that when you put these three core values together, other great things happen:
When you collaborate with others and do so with integrity, it creates trust. Trust is pretty similar to one of our original five core values: invested. At the time, it was something we felt we needed to say as a small startup, but like creativity, we realized that being invested in Lemonly was also table stakes. Trust is vital to our success.
When you’re adventurous and do so with integrity, it creates growth — for Lemonly and within yourself. It’s our goal to make sure every person at Lemonly is growing both professionally and personally.
When you’re adventurous and collaborate with others, it creates creativity. (You didn’t think we would completely ditch that word, did you?) Creativity is a must for Lemonly, and as long as we’re pushing ourselves and each other (collaboration + adventure) we’re going to continue to be a creative company.
We didn’t take an obvious path to get to the core values we have today, but core values shouldn’t be obvious: They should be unique, thoughtful, and true to who we are.
These core values are what we believe. They’re how we make decisions. They’re what we stand for and what we fall for.