Back in our first four years of building Nurse Next Door, we were one of the fastest growing companies in the country. All of a sudden, after starting with zero employees and running our business out of a Starbuck’s coffee shop, we had a home care company with a 1000 employee’s.

But when you grow that fast, things are bound to break, and they did.

We had started to develop a great brand, but had grown without any core values at our foundation, and because of this, we didn’t have a great culture. So the first thing we did was to set out and discover our core values.

And the question I so often get asked…….how did you do it?

We played a little game called the Mission to Mars, a classic Jim Collins exercise to discover your core values. It essentially boils down to this: if you were to  re build your company on Mars, and you could take 5 people with you, who would you take?

Here are 7 simple steps to execute on this:

Step 1. Gather your executive team and/ or managers within your organization. If you are just starting out and don’t have a team, then get your spouse. Note: Values are not done by consensus, like many people think they should be. Values are about imposing a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs on your company. Don’t ever forget this!

Step 2. Ask everyone the following question:

Imagine you have been asked to recreate the BEST parts of your company on MARS but you only have 5 seats open. Who do you send? Think of people who would create the right kind of culture on Mars that best represents the organization (your ambassadors). These are the people that have and display a true understanding of what your company is about and how to act. They command the highest level of respect from their peers, and display the highest level of competency. They are a slice of your company’s DNA. Do not send people based on performance! Your highest performers aren’t necessarily representative of your culture! (this is important because we all tend to put our high performers on the space ship if we don’t strip this out)

For the entrepreneur who is just starting out, envision your 3 to 5 best employees and what they exemplify. Put them in the space ship and off they go. (Don’t use less then 5 if you have 15 or more employees)

Step 3. Each person doing the exercise should write down the 3 to 5 people they choose. Beside each person’s name, write the reason they have been chosen. What personal values do they exhibit? What characteristics? Why are they so good? What do they bring to the company? What values do they bring to work, regardless of whether or not they are rewarded for doing so?

Step 4. Go through everyone’s lists and 1) find the 3 to 5 most recurring names, and 2) the values that recurred most often.

Step 5. Go through the list of 5 people. Where are the intersections? What are the values/characteristics that they all share? Now you are starting to get to the heart of the core values that are currently living in your organization.

Step 6. Ask yourself – do these resonate with you? Are they real? Can you get passionate about them? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you have a good start in the process of discovering your core values.