How I Learned About Company Values the Hard Way

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Staff turnover challenges taught KLUTCHclub's founder the value of clearly communicating company values. Here she helps other entrepreneurs avoid her error. By Julie Bashkin (Founder & CEO, KLUTCHclub)

KLUTCHclub is a health and wellness company that delivers healthy snacks, beverages, supplements, fitness accessories and personal care products to our members monthly. We are celebrating our one-year anniversary on April 15 and as any new company we have many challenges.  One of our most pressing challenges is organizational change and development—hiring, training, and retaining the right people.

Unfortunately, like many startups, we have had a lot of turnover, and in most cases, the departure of team members has been a mutual decision. Though our interview processes were grueling (we gave written and oral assignments), our training was extensive (we invested weeks and sometimes months teaching people everything from hard skills like modeling in Excel to soft skills like gravitas in presentations), we were still noticing performance issues and sometimes this was coupled with attitude issues so we could not tell if it was a “will” or “skill” problem.  I often told these team members that I noticed their mindset was not in line with our company values and in one case the response was, “of course it is — my values are the same! I am all about health and wellness!”

This is when it struck me that values are not evident until they are very clearly spelled out and communicated. Most startups don’t even have values, let alone communicate them to their teams. So about six months into starting KLUTCHclub, I put pen to paper to write down our values, and that was the mistake. This was six months too late.

Values vs. Passion

My discovery was that while my passion is helping consumers solve health problems, my values and KLUTCHclub’s values are distinct from my passion and really have nothing to do with health and wellness. Our values are:

  1. Authenticity and transparency (knowing and communicating who we are and are not to our team members and customers)
  2. Growth and development through actionable feedback (this includes improving our products and customer experience as well as our team capabilities)
  3. Analytical and data-driven problem solving (we measure everything from customer satisfaction to employee performance)

Since communicating this in interviews, as well as in weekly meetings, we are now a completely different and better team. Not everyone we come across wants to constantly get feedback, be challenged, and change their roles to grow — and that’s ok. We now let people know that being passionate about health is necessary to work at KLUTCHclub but it is not enough. They must also relate to the founders’ vision and values. And those who do stay and perform are fun to be around.

It took a year to get to this point and while I wish we arrived there sooner, a year is not too late.

Women 2.0 readers: Have you written down your startup's values?

About the guest blogger: Julie Bashkin founded KLUTCHclub in 2012. While working a demanding 75hr+ weeks with heavy travel, she was on a perpetual quest to find products that would make eating healthy and exercising on the go more convenient, but was confused by the options. KLUTCHclub was born. Prior to founding KLUTCHclub, Bashkin was an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company and also served as a Fulbright Scholar in Belarus, where she helped women entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Image credit: Dan4th Nicholas