Defining The Key Characteristics In Your Small Business

March 14, 2024 - 7 minutes read
Key Characteristics

Now that you’ve invited your company into a story by crafting a successful mission statement — you can find that series here — there’s a few more steps to establishing a culture and foundation that focuses on your goals.

Determining and defining the Key Characteristics for your business should be the next priority, as it will set a valuable tone for the workplace and keep everyone aligned on what you’re trying to achieve.

Even better — it announces to your team what kind of traits they should personify on a daily basis.

Think about it: Practically every story, movie, or show you love is about a character who wants something and has to overcome obstacles to get what they desire. What draws us to those stories, though, is not only that the hero obtains something in the end … but they also transform into a better version of themselves in order to reach that point.

In reality, what top talent and potential employees want more than anything else is to work for a business that will help them transform into high-value professionals.

So, what do these characteristics or employee attributes look like?

Key characteristics are tied directly to your mission statement — they are the defining traits everyone will need to embody to make the mission successful. For instance, if you and your team embodied X, Y, and Z, would your business grow?

They aren’t core values — they are more specific. They identify a particular skill or personality trait necessary if someone wants to work at your business.

Software engineers might need team members who are obsessed with simplifying a user interface. Pet store owners will want team members who love animals.

If you simply state a core value, such as “integrity,” that’s too elusive to live out or showcase. Besides, what percentage of people in America would say they have integrity? (It’s probably everyone).

When you make your core values more specific by turning them into key characteristics, you have a better idea of what character traits to develop in yourself — and which ones to look for in potential new hires.

Your key characteristics should affect the bottom line of your company. This means they contribute directly to your three economic objectives that should’ve been outlined in your mission statement.

At the same time, it’s okay for your key characteristics to be aspirational. Your team might not fully embody them yet, and that’s okay. They will serve as a north star that gives your company guidance and direction of who to become.

3 questions to ask when determining your key characteristics

1. What specific characteristics will each of us need in order to create or sell the product that solves our customer’s problems?

2. What characteristics are we going to need to keep going when the challenges seem overwhelming?

3. What characteristics will we need to create a safe, encouraging work culture?


For Network Marketing Product rep:

Some of your key characteristics might be,

  1. You love connecting with people.
  2. Believing the product can change lives.
  3. You’re always resilient.

For a Financial Advisor:

  1. Always putting the customer first.
  2. You can clearly explain complicated investment strategies.
  3. You enjoy helping families leave a legacy.

For a Consultant:

  1. You’re terrific at turning knowledge into practical frameworks.
  2. You love networking with people.
  3. Enjoy helping families leave a legacy.

Now, consider a local restaurant:

Key characteristic #1: We love people and we enjoy serving them.

  • Notice how this isn’t simply “we are customer-oriented.” Because, of course any business would claim that. By being more specific, it defines exactly what sort of attitude to have when interacting with customers. It also says that we should always be positive during those interactions.

Key characteristic #2: We are obsessed with great-tasting food.

  • If this is true, every member of the team knows to make sure the ingredients are fresh, the food is served in a timely manner, and any plate that doesn’t look right will go back into the kitchen so the chef can review it.
  • Because if we are obsessed with great-tasting food, then we are always learning and growing, discovering new ways of making food taste better.

Key characteristic #3: We are calm under pressure.

  • This characteristic defines an aspirational identity.
  • If the pressure gets intense during busy times at the restaurant, the leader can remind folks that we remain calm under pressure — a characteristic that will undoubtedly become an attribute of the team over time.
  • If they are developing the ability to be calm under pressure, they are finding better ways to organize, expedite orders, and give individual attention to their guests, even when the restaurant is buzzing around them.

Now, if you walked into that restaurant and noticed every employee having a positive attitude, serving delicious food, giving you individual attention, and they never seemed overwhelmed … would you go back?

Yes, because that business defined the sort of people they need to become in order to achieve their mission, then actively began to transform into those kinds of people. It’s that simple!

If you would like our help with some leadership tactics, or need some guidance as you work through your mission statement and key characteristics, give us a call!

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