Values from the C-Suite: Why they Matter


When it comes to running a successful business—not matter its size—the values of its leaders play an important role.

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At the 27th Annual EY Strategic Growth Forum and Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, I had the opportunity to chat with some of America’s top entrepreneurs and innovators about the role of values in shaping their businesses. Two of those conversations really struck me as they centered on themes that are often talked about, but rarely put into practice in an effective way.

The Value of Personal Growth

Tim McMullen, founder and CEO of marketing and advertising firm RedPepper, is a true believer of the value of learning and personal development.

In our conversation, McMullen admitted that he always knew he wanted to be a part of shaping an environment that would foster growth and creativity—and his company is certainly evidence of that.

“A growing person is a more open minded person, they are a person who is going to help your company evolve, and they are going to be happier,” he said.

He notes that most businesses don’t really have a strong set of core values or guiding principles that are truly pervasive in their culture, particularly when it comes to developing people. He says it’s the responsibility of a company’s founder to establish a clear set of guiding values and principles that foster a lasting bond among the team members.

Strong values are critical in tough times because they drive your thinking and decision making, particularly when there are no clear answers. McMullen pointed out that he and his team make decisions with their core values as filters, and they challenge themselves to bring those core values to life every day.

He says part of bringing their values to life is through striving to foster “an environment where people want to grow, they want to perform and that they love coming to work and it gives them a lot of creative energy.”

When asked how RedPepper has been able to sustain their culture of personal growth, McMullen explained “we don’t put any one person above the culture, so if someone comes in and they don’t embrace our core values… they don’t last at RedPepper.”

The Value of Health

Many people love to claim how much they value their health, but few actually live what they preach.

Kara Goldin does.

As founder and CEO of Hint Water, Goldin has built an organization rooted in her value for healthy living. Goldin explained that it all started because of her addiction to diet soda and outright distaste for plain water.

“Health for me is a very, very important piece of what I want in my life. I found that many of the things I was eating and drinking were not as healthy as I wanted and when I actually figured out that things that were calling themselves vitamin or things that were calling themselves zero or diet were not as healthy… that for me became a value I wanted to focus on.”

At first her solution was to add touches of fruit to her water to give it a little dose of taste without all the calories and health concerns that go along with sweeteners. It didn’t take long before this seemingly simple work around became a successful business.

There is no doubt one of the drivers of Goldin’s success is her personal passion for healthy living, which has certainly played itself out at Hint Water. Many on her team have gone through their own personal health challenges and really have a drive to want to succeed with a healthy product that can often get overshadowed by large competitors pushing less healthy high sugar beverages.

What keeps Goldin and her team so enthusiastic is the positive impact they have had on those seeking healthy alternatives. As Goldin explains “it could mean somebody who is going through cancer and we help them to drink more water during cancer without sweeteners in it. Or it could mean a pregnant woman who is really trying to stay hydrated and finds our product helping them get through it.”

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