The CEO | Advantage™ Journal 2010

Three exemplary CEOs talk about how they nurture the heart and soul of their organizations. Advantage interviews Aaron Chernow, Chief Executive Officer of Brightwing.

CORE VALUES have become so integral to the business lexicon that their existence is almost taken for granted. Go to the website of just about any small or midsize business, and you will likely find a page dedicated to core values. It is precisely because they are so common, however, that business leaders must be especially diligent to keep them from becoming stagnant. What can CEOs and executive teams do to reinforce these fundamental principles and continually align their organizations around them?

The CEO Advantage Journal asked this question to three CEOs of midsize organizations. These leaders have helped their organizations grow despite a tough economy, and they credit much of their success to the focused alignment that their core values provide. Their ideas and experiences should be of value to other executives looking for ways to keep their core values truly core.

About Brightwing
For over 35 years, Brightwing has focused on becoming a global leader in providing recruiting and learning solutions across a wide range of industries. Today, Resource has more than 550 consultants and 100 clients nationwide. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, Resource has satellite offices in Dallas, Texas, and Weston, Florida.

Brightwing Core Values

  • People People
    Maintaining a relationship based on a personal need to help and serve others.
  • Details, Details, Details
    Providing a safe environment to uncover what matters most to those you serve–attention to the details that truly matter are imperative to your success.
  • Positive Enthusiasm
    You attract success to you and those around you by believing “I can.”
  • Persistence
    Possessing the inner drive to position oneself to overachieve daily.
  • Family Centric
    Valuing those around us as a source and beneficiary of our success.
  • Integrity
    Treat all with dignity, honesty and respect and you shall receive it in kind.

Why is it so important to clearly articulate your core values?

They align our organization. In 2000, we were only a small group of individuals struggling to establish some consistent growth. We went on a hiring binge looking for individuals that we thought could help grow the company.Over time, we found that we were dealing more with personnel issues than business issues. So the challenge was to find the right kind of people. That’s when we first developed our core values. We needed something to help us identify individuals who were in alignment with who we are. Initially, our values were a hiring tool, but they have morphed into something so much more. We look at core values like a song.They mean something different to each individual, but all within the range of the song. What are some ways that you reinforce your core values within your organization? They’re proudly posted when you walk in. They’re on our website,our mouse pads, our coffee mugs. People understand how important they are when they see them all over the workplace.

We reward people based on core values. Our “employee of the month” is given to someone who uniquely demonstrated one of our six core values. We have a quarterly “grinder award,” which goes to someone who has displayed the core value of persistence throughout that quarter. In addition, we publish weekly “core values stories” where employees recognize something they have seen in a coworker. We get good participation on that from throughout the company.

You have multiple office locations. How do you ensure consistency in values throughout your company?

That has been a challenge for us. We try to leverage technology to help with that. For example, we post the “core values stories” on the intranet for everyone to see. Recently, we’ve done this in the form of video. That gives a face to the story. When people see someone telling the story, I think they more strongly identify with the behavior that is being celebrated. We actually had a contest around this where a winner in each branch office got a flip phone.

What else have you done to keep core values alive?

Based on our own experience, we have developed a screening process that determines how well a potential hire identifies with your core values. In addition to helping us attract the right individuals, we also teach this process to our clients.

What impact have core values had for Brightwing during a down economy?

This has been a tough year for us, but we have found that employees who have a good understanding of our core values also understand their role within the company and what they must do to help us be successful. That is so important when times are tough, and it has helped us keep the right people on board. Those who are not aligned with our core values quickly stand out. It seems that some organizations have given up on their core values in tough times. I guess those values were not really core. If they were, those companies would walk the walk and talk the talk, no matter what the economy is doing. Our actions have remained consistent with our core values, and our people recognize that. It’s really helped them attach more strongly to our purpose. Purpose and core values blend together to create the energy here, and that energy has created a reprieve for our people from what’s going on outside.

Do you have a favorite story about an employee who exemplified these core values?

I have a million of them! Perhaps our most important value during this economic downturn has been persistence: possessing the inner drive to overachieve daily. I have so many stories of people who have really dug deep to understand their strengths and weaknesses and worked to get better. That’s the proud story of the year. Many people have worked through their blind spots.

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