My Favorite Small Biz Secret that the Big Guys Don’t Want You to Know

Guest post by Dave Ursillo

Some of the biggest, most impressive and remarkably visionary companies in our world can teach a lot more to a small business owner like you than you’d might expect.

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras masterfully articulates this set of proven lessons and smart habits that businesses of any size can learn and implement.

Most of the concepts that Collins and Porras argue actually seem backwards at first glance. They say that founding a company based upon “one great idea” is a bad idea; that beating the competition is secondary to internal competition that allows your team’s best ideas to surge forth; and that the world’s most visionary companies prioritize core values — an internal culture, a unique ideology that emphasizes purpose and meaning — beyond profits.

Clearly defining and articulating a set of core values is perhaps the most important aspect of establishing a strong basis for a small business’ identity. Not only is it vital for the members of your small business to understand core values, they become far more important, in my opinion, than your brand name or a recognizable logo.

Businesses change. It’s not unrealistic to expect the name of your company (and even the names of your products) to come and go. Logos are also a dime a dozen today, and as unique as you think yours is, it probably won’t do much to affect your company’s bottom line.

What matters far more than those “sexy” elements of starting a new business — which really turn out to be major time-wasters in the long run — is to develop a set of core values that you and your employees operate off of.

  • What are your values?
  • What is your purpose, beyond profit?
  • What will be the meaningful drive behind you and your employees every day, beyond sales?

Small biz values not only shape your public image far more than Facebook Page giveaways, but become the “constant” that sustains your business’ identity during good times and functions as a “safety net” upon which the business can fall during difficult times.

Even as a blogger like me, I’ve learned the hard way how values ought to supersede priority in whatever you’re attempting to build — whether in business, or in life. Gitchy names, logos and marketing strategies come and go, and so will your own business ideas change and evolve, succeed and fail.

What matters most is the constant that will continue to breathe life into your organization in spite of shortcomings — and keep you grounded and aligned with your priorities during growth and periods of success.

Even for me as an individual writer making his way in this world, remaining grounded and aligned with my values has sustained my sense of purpose through thick and thin. Meanwhile, some of the most remarkable and highly-visionary companies over the last 150 years have placed priority on values, too, and succeeded wildly as a result.

So, what are your business’ core values?

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dave ursilloDave Ursillo is a former “politico” insider turned alternative leadership author and speaker. His new book, Lead Without Followers: How to Save the World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership, is an alternative leadership philosophy that espouses “everyday” principles of quiet, personal leadership over social qualifiers of success like money, power and popularity.


  1. When I start a business I think of Coca Cola it’s logo has never changed it withstand time and look how good they brand them self. I believe that planning goes a long way plan your future and you will set to it. I always have some great I ideas but time is limited for me…(School)

    Start with a business plan I think every website should have a nice business plan it will put all the fundamental values for your business in order and focus on the objective you need to achieve

  2. Great article! The “secret” you shared makes a lot of sense. And I agree, it’s also applicable to life in general. Without it, a business will eventually end up losing everything.

  3. Excellent article, Dave. You are so right that core values, especially those that promote more than one bottom line as you mentioned, are increasingly a roadmap to success — both in attracting and retaining top talent that align themselves with the company’s purpose as it grows, and of course in winning the business of ever-discerning customers and clients. Incidentally, I wrote a post on our blog on some sets of core values in use at successful small businesses that your readers may want to use as a “next step” from what you wrote; either to use outright or to adapt:

  4. Thanks for sharing and great post. We have been in business now for almost 11 years and the core values thing was something that was always important to us.

    However, we were living the values of other companies when we first started, because we didn’t quite know who we were. I think this happens to a lot of organizations and they just put together some fluff that they think they want to be like.

    What happened was this wasn’t us and being a small company we took what our personal values were and engrained them into our operations.

    So now we live by these words:

    Just Be Nice
    Be Remarkable
    Lead Without Title
    Listen Twice as much as we Speak
    Cause no harm

    Very important for people and businesses to find what matters to them and then go from there. Keep it real!

  5. Elbert Waldrup says:

    Great post. Just want to thank you for sharing!
    I agree it’s better to think beyond money and profit as it comes and go.

  6. Wow! This information is great! I am building a small business on the internet, and these tips come in handy. Thanks

  7. Kitchenaid Appliances says:

    Employers actually want to establish a harmonious relationship with their employees. But it is not easy as what everybody think, nobody can’t just let things fall into places of course.

  8. RJ Ulbricht says:

    Hello Laura – good concepts by Dave

    Exactly as taught when I was getting my MBA a couple decades ago – create and live by a “Mission Statement”, the follow up with more refined goals that support the MS.

    Side note: I started an offline service business back in 1993. I sold it and it has been sold again. It retains the original name and that name is known by most of the 100,000 people community. My point is that the concept of name change may be acceptable long term for national companies, but for local offline companies the name carries a huge amount of Good Will value with it.


  9. You need to really control the comments listed here