Core Values Make the Difference in Our Culture at OTM

Core Value Wall

At OTM, the idea that we are committed to our core values is practically an understatement.

Our core values are deeply embedded in everything that we do – from the way that our team members interact with one other to how we approach the solutions we provide to our clients.

As a leadership team, we truly strive to incorporate these principles into every aspect of what it means to work at OTM, and they make all the difference in how our company operates culturally.

What are our core values?

Curiosity: We ask questions to understand, learn and apply.

Care: We genuinely give a shit, about our work and our teammates.

Integrity: We do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Earn It: We work for it, we own it and then we celebrate it.

Perseverance: We don’t give up because if it were easy, anyone would do it.

StratOps Session

How did we create our core values?

This list is actually our second attempt at crafting a set of core values to guide our company. As a 15-year-old agency, we haven’t always known exactly who we were as a team and what kind of company we wanted to be. 

Our first set of core values were created around 7 years ago, and while they were nice to have – they never felt quite like the company we wanted to be and that was demonstrated by how little they served to guide us in the day-to-day. We didn’t consult them when we hired, we didn’t use them to determine what to celebrate, and we certainly didn’t terminate employees because of them. 

As the founder of OTM, and someone who has worked with a large number of startups, I believe a business requires a certain level of organizational maturity before its leadership can truly express who they are through an accurate set of core values. 

If you are a business owner or executive and your current set of core values do not feel right, give it some time and then try to define them again. 

We actually defined our current core values through our work with the StratOp strategic operational planning process, facilitated by a client and friend of ours, the amazing Stacey Pearson with Spinnaker Strategy.

We are in love with our core values as a company, and they represent each of our team members in such a foundational way that it has resulted in a culture that we also love.

Our core values aren’t just a bunch of punchy statements on a wall: they are the guideposts for how we hire, how we work together, and how we determine what clients to work with. 

How we use our core values in our hiring process

We use all five core values in the interview questions that we ask our prospective teammates to see if they truly exhibit the OTM way.

We do not straight out ask “Are you curious.” Instead, we’ll ask questions like “What’s the last thing you really geeked out on?” or “What’s the last book you read?”

We’ll ask different questions in different ways to really get a feel if the person is going to enjoy the culture at OTM.

We do this for every role in addition to asking technical questions so we can weed out those who aren’t going to be a cultural fit for us.

How we use them in our everyday work life

Celebrating with our core values

Before COVID required what is now a hybrid-remote workplace, we were all working together in the OTM office in Fort Collins every day. We have a set of 4×6 cards placed on our core value wall that correspond with each core value, and our team is encouraged to hand these cards out to their team members who are going above and beyond in demonstrating these core values. So, for example, if someone went above and beyond to figure out a new tool or process, someone who that process benefits might write a personal thank you on a Curiosity or Earn It core value card and give it to that person. 

At the end of the month we would tally up who received the most core value cards and they would get a gift card.

Cut to COVID sealed

We wanted to keep our culture strong through the high stress and uncertainty of working from home indefinitely, so we did a little research and found a program called HeyTaco.

This program integrates right in with Slack and allows you to give people taco emojis :taco: and assign a core value to them. At the end of each month, we tally who received the most tacos for each core value and the 5 winners are announced in our monthly team meeting and awarded a gift card.

I have even gone so far as to dress us like a taco:  

Performance reviews based on our core values

We do reviews/check-ins for each of our team members regularly and the leadership team every quarter at OTM.

We follow the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and we use a program called Ninety to do all of our check-ins.

In this system, every quarter, the team member evaluates themselves on how they feel they are exhibiting the core values and the managers do the same. This is a nice pulse check to really examine if there is anything that the individual needs to work on.

Part of that check-in is called the People Analyzer and it evaluates the team member with a +, +/-, or a – on each of the core values and on Get It, Want It, has the Capacity to do it.

+ They exhibit the function most of the time

+/- They exhibit the function some of the time

– They do not exhibit the function most of the time

EOS People Analyzer

An important note: if you see a (-) anywhere in the lineup, it’s either the wrong person or the wrong seat, and your team’s culture is undoubtedly feeling the incongruence.

  • Get it: The person truly understands their role, the culture, the systems, the pace, and how the job comes together.
  • Want it: The person genuinely likes the job. They understand the role, and they want to do it based on fair compensation and responsibility.
  • Capacity: Having the time as well as the mental, physical, and emotional capacity to do a job well. Sometimes the job requires a certain level of intellect, skill, knowledge, and emotional intelligence and the person doesn’t have that capacity.

We’ve learned that core values make all the difference in how we operate as a team and as an organization, not to mention it’s helped us find those perfect team members for OTM.