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Why Core Values Matter: The Ideals that Drive Our Work at 9 Clouds


The team gets really tired of hearing the two words I use all the time: communication and expectations. Whenever there is an issue, one of those two items is the root of the problem.

Core values are the expectations you set for the culture of your organization and the way your work is done. If you don’t have them, anything goes.

There’s a country song that says, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” Without core values, you’ll fall for anything.

Read on to learn when and how to develop core values, how to use them in your organization, and what our core values at 9 Clouds are.

When and How to Develop Core Values

When should your company develop core values?

The short answer is yesterday. You can’t do it soon enough.

Your core values are the standards to which all employees — including potential new ones — are held. Without them, your organization has neither the culture nor the growth potential that it could.

People want to believe in something. In the case of work, team members want believe in the organization they come to every day. Give them something to believe in.

You may be thinking, We’re just a few people, so we don’t need core values. When your business is small, it is easy for you as the founder and/or CEO to simply live your core values and, through osmosis, transfer them to your team members.

But soon, you’ll hit a tipping point where osmosis doesn’t work anymore. Your core values need to exist outside of you. A business cannot depend on its leader’s 40-hours-a-week presence for its culture.

home-office-599475_1920The process to develop core values does not need to be daunting. You are likely already living them out, so just get them down on paper. Gather the leadership of your organization (or, if you’re the only leader, gather key employees), and start articulating the values that currently exist in your company.

Core values should be only one or two words long so that they can be easily remembered. You can add a sentence or two after them to elaborate, but really, each core value should stand on its own without explanation.

Also, don’t have too many of them. We have five core values at 9 Clouds, and I feel like that is the maximum number we could have for them to be effective.

How to Use Core Values

So now that you’ve established your core values, what do you do with them?

One of the key times to use your core values is when hiring. A job applicant should prove that they can adhere to the priorities of the organization and understand their value.

At 9 Clouds, our core values guide the questions we ask in an interview. If an applicant doesn’t show that they can live up to our core values, they will not join the team.

Once someone is a member of the team, core values are critical to team management. We need to hold ourselves accountable to our core standards, making sure we adhere to them with the work we deliver and the attitudes we bring to work when we walk in the door every day.

When running an organization, you hope to never have a personnel issue, but it is likely inevitable. You want to do everything you can to not rock the boat, but if a team member is not living up to your company’s core values, that is a sign that your team may not be the best place for them.

Use your core values to try to help the team member develop in the organization. If things don’t improve, use your core values to explain why your organization isn’t the best place for them anymore.

sapling-154734_1280So far, I’ve focused on human resources (HR) applications of core values, but they are also critical to the growth of your business.

In the beginning especially, you’ll be tempted to chase revenue, but do not accept revenue at the expense of your core values. Always keep them in mind as you make growth decisions, and make sure that your organization can continue to live your values as it grows.

Our Core Values at 9 Clouds

All right — you’ve read all this way, and you still may not be sure what a core value actually looks like.

Below are our five core values at 9 Clouds. Please, please, please don’t copy them verbatim. They are not your core values; they are 9 Cloud’s core values. If you just steal ours, you’ve missed the point of this post, and they will not be effective.

  • Teamwork: Step in and help; give and receive feedback respectfully; remember our success is holistic; act with fairness in mind.
  • Passion: Do work that matters to you and the client; do work you can be proud of; enjoy coming to work; be here because you really care about the mission.
  • Education: Learn as a team; share your mistakes and successes; provide and suggest ideas or opportunities for growth.
  • Empowerment: Allow yourself to take an idea and run with it; have the confidence to make decisions on your own; be accountable; take responsibility for your decisions and personal actions.
  • Problem-solving: Be solution oriented; take time to help clients and each other; manage your priorities.

Build Your Lighthouse

lighthouse-1209349_1920Think of core values like a lighthouse. They will always keep you going in the right direction.

As 9 Clouds continues to grow, we’ll need to continue to find new ways to manifest our core values, but I am beyond proud to come to work every day at an organization that lives and breathes these five main ideals.

If you don’t have core values, make them a priority. Without them, you’re holding your organization back and likely steering it into danger.

9 Clouds is an organization made up of mostly millennials. We even wrote a guide on how to get the most out of millennials that you might find useful. Hint, hint: core values are important to us.