Note: this post is part five of a six-part series on essential behaviors of entrepreneurs, as identified by Ernst & Young in the survey “Nature or Nurture? Decoding the DNA of the entrepreneur.” Read a summary of the report here. And be sure to check out parts one, two, three, and four.
Energy bars are having a moment. In our rushed, on-the-go modern society, people who don’t have time to make a proper meal just grab an energy bar. My local Whole Foods has shelves and shelves of them, all specially targeted to a certain group (outdoor enthusiasts, muscle-builders, women, kids, raw-food purists, gluten-free dieters, and so on). But back in 1990, when Gary Erickson set out on a 175-mile bike ride with a friend, he was stuck with the one bland, unappetizing energy bar on the market. The trip inspired him to create a nutritious and tasty energy bar, and after much experimenting and recipe perfecting, Clif Bars was born.
Clif Bars started small, selling bars in bike shops and outdoor stores. Within a few years, the company expanded its reach to grocery and convenience stores. As the energy-bar market exploded, Clif Bars was under pressure to sell to a food conglomerate. The owners considered it but decided not to sell. They had always run the company with sustainability in mind—what they call the “Five Aspirations” of sustaining the planet, community, people, business, and brands. Keeping Clif Bars independent was the only way to be true to those aspirations.
The Clif Bars story is a prime example of Ernst & Young’s fifth key behavior of entrepreneurs: Live what you believe. “Entrepreneurial leaders typically have a strong, consistent set of values that drives their overall behavior in their professional lives,” the authors note.
In accordance with the Five Aspirations, Clif Bars invests in sustainability; the office is LEED certified, and by 2015, 80 percent of the ingredients will be organic. The Clif Bar Family Foundation gives grants to local nonprofits across the country that are working to improve the health of their community. Employees have access to fitness classes, massage, and onsite childcare, and they can take time off for volunteer work. As the company grows and launches new brands, it is careful to stick to its values. It’s no wonder Clif Bars is frequently named one of the best companies to work for.
When starting and building your company, decide what values you want the company to have, and weigh all decisions with those values in mind.
As one Ernst & Young interviewee recommends, “Only hire people who share your business values. If you believe in customer focus, hire people who believe in customer focus. If you believe in honoring commitments, make that your hiring criteria.”
Company culture will inevitably change as you grow, but by always being true to your core values, you can be sure you’re growing in the right direction.