The Importance of Defining Your Family’s Values

I believe that every single family can benefit from identifying and articulating its core values. I also believe that it’s a critical step for families who own a business. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

An international survey of family businesses by the audit, tax and advisory services firm KMPG found that 84% of participating family businesses believe their family values have a considerable or major impact on how the family business is operated. The study also found family values and ethos to be one of the key strengths enabling family firms to outperform major competitors.

Whether or not you own a family business, if you have kids, defining your family’s values helps in myriad ways. It gives your kids a sense of purpose, it helps them develop perspective, understanding that life is bigger than the problem du jour, and it provides them with a solid foundation for making decisions as they grow.

When you get married, each partner brings different values to the table. As a couple, you must decide what matters most as you create your own family. My family wrote our values down, put them on the wall, and—surprise, I know!—talked about them all the time. 

My parents wanted to ensure their kids knew these values inside and out. Each of the Cornetet kids has different strengths as individuals. But knowing we were part of a whole, part of a family that shared the same values, made it easier for us to take risks and follow our dreams, to become business owners or teachers or CEOs, knowing that we were making our decisions based on these values.

To give you a peek into the Cornetet family process, I’m going to share our 5 Family Values and what they mean to us. 

Cornetet Family Values

1. Peace. For our family, the meaning of “peace” is twofold. First, it’s understanding your own emotions and having peace within yourself. But it also means family harmony. “You don’t have to like everybody in the family at this moment,” my parents would say, “but you have to get along with them.”  With four kids in the family, you can imagine things weren’t always peaceful. If we had a disagreement—when I pulled my sister’s hair, for example—we had to visit the “repenting bench.” We had to sit there until we were ready to see the parent who was “judge” that day. The judge would hear both sides, and then both parties had to apologize, hug, and promise not to do it again. In addition to learning to respect our parents’ authority, the “repentance bench” also taught us the importance of making amends and forgiveness. 

2. Asking. We were taught to ask for what we wanted, whether that was going to a concert or driving the car that night. We were also taught to accept “no” on the first go-round, if that was the answer. There were no follow-up requests, no negotiating.  But my parents also taught us that you could improve your odds of a “yes,” by giving the person you were asking something they wanted first. My dad loved head massages and shoulder rubs and you’d better bet I became great at giving them! I always prepped my dad with a nice shoulder rub and head massage before I asked for something. It was a good life lesson. 

3. Order. My parents are big believers in the benefits of orderliness. Physically, this meant that, as kids, we each had to clean our rooms and keep them neat. We were also assigned a designated area in the house that we were responsible for tidying. My parents believe that the effects of orderliness go beyond the physical. Their theory is that when your physical space is orderly, neat, and clean, it helps internally by keeping your head space orderly, as well. I’ve found this to be true. When my physical space is in disarray it’s harder for me to think clearly and make my best decisions.

4. Respect: We were expected to show respect to our parents, our elders, and ourselves. My parents taught us that actions and words are important and that we were to show respect with both! This became increasingly important as we worked through issues within our family business. It goes hand-in-hand with our Value #1 – Peace. We might not see eye-to-eye on everything, but we can still respectfully discuss the issues, which goes a long way towards maintaining family harmony, whether or not you own a family business.

5. Obedience: My parents were fans of first-time obedience. They didn’t repeat requests; they taught us to obey the first time. It was a similar philosophy to the Asking value, both of which have an undergirding of respect. We were to ask once and accept the answer, because that shows respect. Our parents would ask us to do something once and we were expected to obey, which also demonstrates respect. All of our values are intertwined in one way or another.

If reading this makes you crave identifying values for your own family, Millennial Guru would love to help! Again, while this is super-important for families with a family business, all families can benefit from articulating what’s most important to you.

My parents took time to consider their priorities to create the Cornetet Family Values. There’s no “right” answer to what yours should be—every family is different and therefore every family values statement is different. Millennial Guru can help you sift through the possibilities and focus on the unique set of values that best define your family.

Contact us today for more information on how we can work together to create a Family Values document you’ll refer to, and cherish, for years to come.

Paige Cornetet