I have been thinking a great deal recently about organizational values. They are not just words… or they should not be. How do they guide what we are? Perhaps more importantly, who do we, as an organization, wish to be?
I just surpassed my first eight months as Chief Operating Officer for a large nonprofit, Global Connections to Employment (GCE). We are a bit different from many nonprofits. We not only provide training for our team members with significant disabilities, we then provide meaningful work, often in the form of large Department of Defense contracts. My company has many different lines of business. We compete with all types of companies. So how do we differentiate ourselves when competing with other for-profit and nonprofit companies? What provides our company a competitive advantage in the market place?
A competitive advantage can be differences in cost or other differentiators in service delivery and strategy. Because of our Mission of “Helping People Throughout Life’s Journey,” it is difficult to be the absolute least expensive alternative in a contract bid. We are competitive on price, but that is not what makes us special. We focus on accommodations for our differently-abled team members and ensuring living wages. So what separates us and makes us great… the choice for our customers? I would argue that our competitive advantage is adherence to Values.
We talk about this all the time. Our organization’s values are our V.O.I.C.E.S (Values = Ownership, Integrity, Compassion, Excellence, and Service). I see our values at work all the time and at every level of the company. From our daily lineups via Zoom, to the incredible work being accomplished both remotely as well as at multiple customer sites, now in 26 States. This team embodies and lives our values!
As some of you know, I spent over 24 years in the US Army. I was both proud and humbled to serve my Country. The Army, as an institution, is at its core a values-based organization. Many times, we dealt in operations surrounded by ambiguity and with imperfect information. What drove us to be the best military force in the world? Our shared values. That is what made us strong and pulled people from all walks of life, together.
GCE is also a values-based organization. We continue to strive to be the best version of ourselves… to live our values. Our values drive us to strengthen who we are and strive to be. Our values, our V.O.I.C.E.S. are our competitive advantage.
Be well and stay safe!