The Foundation for Your Strategic Plan

By Cheryl J. Leone, Law Firm Coach

Business is no longer black and white. Life has changed. How we are living and working has changed. Our most valuable resources have changed. Do you realize for the first time in history four generations are working side by side. The foundation of any successful practice or business begins with the philosophy, values and vision of its owner. When we do a practice audit we tend to find almost 100% of the time no one took the time to look at the foundation upon which the firm would be built. This leads to ultimate failure. The foundation starts first with the core values of the owner.


When you are acting outside of your values there is a lot of frustration in your life. Sometimes you try to live the values of others, which do not match your set of values. The result is a great inner conflict. The competing sets of values just do not mix. For example, your values may include extreme honesty while your job included a value that prevented complete honesty. Sooner or later you will encounter that moment of truth where you must choose. It is possible for you to be in a constant state of frustration and not be aware that you have this inner conflict with values. While you may not be conscious of your values, they can be observed in the way you live your life.

Values help you make choices, from the most mundane to life-and-death decisions. Determining your values is a necessary and important step in your personal and business development. Values convey who you are: the parameters you have set for yourself in terms of ethical, moral, theological and personal beliefs. Your values become the filter through which you determine right from wrong. If you do not define your values, the influences of the world will define them for you. Values are subjective. Values might represent various character traits such as honesty, compassion, or generosity. Others may reflect our attitudes about people or life, running the gamut from being a loving partner to appreciating nature, having faith in a higher power or having freedom of thought.

Once we establish a set of values we tend to mix them together and form new values based on the existing values. Values can be a very powerful element in our decision process and also in our feelings of peace. If we somehow develop a value that conflicts with our other values we will never have peace. If many of these values are learned then we propose that we can examine our values and clean up our life. What we are reaching for is guidance. Our purpose is often revealed when we map our values to our skills. Once you develop a set of values that work together you will see your purpose unfold before you. As long as you have conflicts between your values you will not be at peace.

Personal Values

Defining your personal values comes first. If you are in conflict with personal and professional values you will always be in conflict with anything you do.

We can’t stress this enough. You must first define your own personal values separate from your partner. Then you get with your partner (spouse or significant other) and blend the values for a workable joint set of values.

Professional Values

With your personal values defined, you must blend these values with your business. If you have a partner or several partners you must each individually set your values and then try to combine them into the business values which will drive your firm.

Your business will also have a set of values, which combined with your work ethics and policies form your work culture. These values define who you are as a business.

Your firm values must be public. They must match your own personal values. And the people who work within your firm or business must have a buy-in. For example you may say that people who work with you must have a dedication to client service. That becomes non-negotiable.

Why Values Work

Taking on the values of others affects your relationships, your personal philosophy, your work ethic and the way you treat yourself. As long as you have not reexamined your belief system and discarded the portions you did not actually choose as an adult you will never develop into the person you want to be. When you compromise your values for someone else’s, you give power away. The farther your behavior drifts from your values, the more difficult it will become for you to function happily each day. Living with integrity means you are true to your values. Your beliefs and your values are all reflected in how you live your life. Living without integrity takes a lot of energy and robs you of happiness.

Your personal values must match your professional values. Also, people who are integral to you and can affect your life should have the same values to create harmony in your life.

As we built our company and decided that we would be a values based management mentoring company we realized we had to walk the walk and talk the talk. Throughout the years we have defined our value system and worked within it. On occasion if we have felt a need to stray we would quickly learn something seemed out of sync. We pick our clients based on similarity of values and thus conflicts seem not to arise. We make our business decisions based on our values both at work and at home and we tend to be stable and successful. And in our personal lives, well because our personal values blend with our professional values we tend to see few toxic relationships, more joyful experiences, and a passion to keep working and living. Values work!

About the Authors

Principals Dave Favor and Cheryl Leone are the founders of Catalyst Group, Inc. with its corporate offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rounding out the Coaches is Attorney Carl Solomon of Columbia, South Carolina. They share a common value and belief system that everyone deserves a chance to work for themselves and do it in such a way that it is profitable, enjoyable and respected by others. For more information email our Head Coach.

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