The Company Core Survey:
Define Your Company’s True Identity

Watch: Introduction to the Company Core (part 1 of 10).

What is the Company Core?

One accountability that a successful CEO can never delegate is engaging in consistent and effective strategic communications with their entire company.

This is the art and discipline of communicating the same core fundamentals in ways that capture the team’s imagination and galvanize the right collective behaviors against changing conditions.

This Company Core module makes it easy to capture the essence of 9 fundamental questions and use the answers to engage in world-class strategic communications and alignment with your entire company. The Company Core consists of 9 core questions, listed in order of priority:

Q1. Core Customer: Who is our primary customer and how do we delight them?

*If you’re familiar with Simon Sinek and you’re wondering why I’ve placed the Core Customer #1 in priority over Core Purpose (the big why) then read this short article, What’s Wrong with the Golden Circle?

Q2. Core Purpose: Why, in the largest sense, is what we do important?

Q3. Core Values: What are our desired consistent and accepted behaviors?

Q4. Core Vision: What is our long-range vision?

BHAG Source: Jim Collins, Good to Great

Q5 Core Activities: What is our core value proposition now? What will we start doing in the future?


Q6 Non-Core Activities: What is NOT our core value proposition now? What will we not get into, or stop doing?

Q7. Key Question: What is the key question that, if answered, will allow us to transform the industry?

Q8. Brand Promise: What must our customers always experience in their relationship with us?

Q9. Brand Tag Line: Describe what we do in 3 seconds or less.

Yes, I use my hands a lot when I talk. I have a good excuse. I recently became an Italian citizen! :-)

How It Works

Using a series of interactive questions and plenty of examples, the Company Core module makes it fast and easy to survey your Leadership Team members (we recommend annually) to gather a diverse set of perspectives on the fundamental answers to these questions as the business and its markets evolve over time.

The Audience is the Entire Company

I want to make it clear that the audience for the Company Core is the entire company. Meaning, while I do recommend that you survey at least some of your Leadership Team members to gather their perspectives when creating the Company Core document, the document itself is for the entire company. It must become a living document. It cannot be a one-and-done exercise.

You might think of your Company Core statement as a CEO’s cheat sheet. Sometimes the company needs to hear about why the company does what it does; other times it needs to focus its collective attention on the key question the company is trying to answer; and still other times it needs to re-integrate core values and behaviors through stories and rituals. While the communication needs change over time, the core questions — and the answers – are always contained within the singular Company Core document.

If you don’t have the answers to these 9 mission-critical questions written down and in a format that everyone in the company can receive, digest, and apply, then it is very challenging to create world-class shared consciousness and company-wide alignment. But with a written Company Core in place, you now have a framework to engage in more effective strategic communications and evolve the answers over time.

How to Use the Company Core for Strategic Communications

The only limit on finding effective and creative ways to leverage the elements of the Company Core document into your strategic communications is your level of imagination and commitment. Imagination is important because the answers in the document must come alive in unique ways within your company’s culture. Commitment is important because it takes discipline to be consistent in your communications—through both the good times and the bad.

One simple way to leverage the Company Core document is to give a copy to every employee and to incorporate it into your new hire onboarding process. This provides a touchstone for all employees to reference. However, as you know, printing it and handing it out is only the start. The answers contained within the Company Core must come alive in the hearts and minds of the entire employee base.

In my book Designed to Scale, I share one method that has given the best results that I have ever seen in creating team-wide understanding and buy-in using elements of the Company Core. The company is Boveda and it is growing like gangbusters. To help support company-wide alignment in such a fast-paced setting, every Sunday, CEO Sean Knutsen writes an all-hands email that incorporates elements of the Company Core. Critically, he’s not just rehashing the answers in the Company Core. He’s sharing stories from the field of the Company Core in action. For example, he’ll restate the Core Values and then share an anecdote of how Sarah in the warehouse expressed those core values this week using real-world examples. Or he’ll post the Key Question and share some market data that reinforces why that’s the key question that the company is focused on.

While you may not be an avid writer, you can accomplish the same objectives using weekly video snippets, voice recordings, and all-hands meetings. The only limitation is your own drive and creativity. But if you don’t have the answers contained within the Company Core written down, clear, and succinct, then the strategic communications challenge gets much harder to accomplish and sustain. So whether you use this module or not, you must take the time to craft your own authentic answers to the 9 questions contained in the Company Core. We don’t see how a CEO can be truly effective if they have not done so.

How to Create Your Company Core

We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to craft a strong Company Core statement. First, register for the free 30-day trial below and become your company’s sponsor. After you sign up, launch a new Company Core survey and send it to a few Leadership Team members who have the strongest affinity for vision, values, and culture. You’ll receive their written answers after each person completes their survey. You can then easily select and/or edit the best answers from the survey group to incorporate into the final Company Core document.

Surveying first makes it much faster and easier to get a strong draft on the table that you can take to the broader Leadership Team and make a proposal to adopt this iteration. Re-run the survey annually to see if any aspects of the Company Core should be evolved.

Facilitator Guide

In your past experience, you may have found it very challenging to align a Leadership Team around concepts like vision, values, mission, etc. We know because we’ve been there ourselves. The Company Core module makes it much easier to align a team on these big picture questions using a two-pronged strategy.

Prong one is the survey itself. Just the act of gathering in diverse perspectives and seeing the commonalities and differences all on one report is a very powerful way to highlight to the team that, in many cases, they have been saying the same core things in different ways. And if there are material differences, those can be better focused and discussed using this survey process.

Prong two is the Facilitator Guide included in the program. After you complete the survey, and before you attempt to finalize this iteration of the Company Core with the Leadership Team, read the Facilitator Guide. It brings insights and tactics to help the team understand the intention behind each question. It also provides real-world examples of other companies’ answers (anonymized) and tips for the facilitator to successfully process a decision to adopt the Company Core with the team.

We have helped several hundred CEOs and Leadership Teams to align on the right Company Core statements for their business and lifecycle stage using this same process. We have the experience and confidence to tell you that this approach works — and often much faster than you thought was possible before. But don’t blindly trust us. Take the tool for a free 30-day test drive and see for yourself.

What Other CEOs Are Saying

“I revisit the Company Core regularly to hone the message of who we are, gain alignment within the organization, and then build the mass (execute fast).”
– Bob Reback, former Chairman and CEO, Cimetrix (successful exit)

“Those 9 questions transformed my company from ‘what’s next quarter going to look like’ to ‘I love working for this company.’ The CEO may not necessarily agree with some of the answers their leadership team comes up with but I found that if the Leadership Team truly believes in their answers, they’ll work harder than ever to make them come true.”
– Tim Sullivan, former founder & CEO ActivePDF (successful exit)

Become Your Company’s Sponsor

Since this is a new tool, you’ll need to take it for a test drive to really understand it and see if it’s right for your organization. Register for the free 30-day trial below. After you register, we recommend that you complete the Company Core survey yourself first. Then close it to view the report. You can edit the answers at any time. Once you’re comfortable and confident in the basic system, re-open the survey, or create a new one, and send it to selected Leadership Team members for them to complete as well. You’ll receive their answers and can easily select the best ones or edit them to include in the final Company Core document.

Thanks and we look forward to connecting with you in the members area! Click below to begin your free 30-day trial (new customers only). Cancel anytime.