Hey Tiders! My name is Rachel Shillcock and I’m here to talk to you today about brand values. First of all, thank you for joining me in my little home office here. I’m going to talk to you about values, though. And the way that they can be used in your business as a powerful decision-making tool which is so useful during these strange times that were in. To do that, I’m also going to have to tell you a little bit about my own personal story and how that led me to values, so that you can hopefully see a little bit more about the real impact that they can have. Alright, Let’s dive in.
Okay. So first of all, hello loves, I’m Rachel and I’m from Manchester in England in the UK and I’m a brand and web designer. I’m an award-winning designer and photographer, a published logo designer and author, and a speaker, and I’m on a mission to help empower as many businesses as possible – small and large – to brand more authentically, using the power of their values, their mission, and their vision. And as someone with a chronic illness, which believe me is important in just a minute, it’s also a personal mission of mine to help empower others with chronic illnesses to carve their own path and create a life and business that works for them. So to be able to help you see the impact of values, I have to tell you a little bit of my own story.
Age 22, so a few years ago now, I left a really toxic work environment that had led to me being signed off with stress and in the middle of what felt like a nervous breakdown. I started my own business, Rachilli, right after leaving that toxic workplace one day and never returning, but at this point I was in a place of complete overwhelm exhaustion stress, and I was riddled with anxiety every single day. I ended up just diving straight into work and it was the only thing that really took my mind off how I felt. I was lucky enough at the time that I had a lot of connections in the web and design industry here in the UK. So I ended up working alongside other friends that were designers and going to set design agencies and doing some work for them. And little did I know, but given the state that I was in mentally and physically, I was still on to the little spark of something. In the end, It took me a few years to figure out what that was and it took something really drastic happening as well.
So around three years into running Rachilli, I started to realize I was feeling a little bit burnt out. I’d heard about it. I had never really experienced it but I was doing work that I wasn’t really enjoying. I was any kind of designer to any kind of business or person so I started to make some changes, slowly but surely, working with online businesses, getting to create products and digital products as well.
Burning out, badly.
And then on a cold November evening in 2015, I landed myself in hospital with a suspected heart attack and I was just 25 years old. I had burnt out badly. They kept me overnight while they checked my heart several times. It was found that I had actually had a severe asthma attack, which was a condition that I hadn’t suffered with for years previously, and then that had triggered several panic attacks after I found I wasn’t able to breathe properly. And all of the anxiety around that kicked my body into high gear and it literally took me to have some sedatives from the doctors before my heart rate started to lower and my body started to calm down. But that overnight stay in hospital made me realize that things had to change – so change I did.
I revamped my whole business. I took a drastic pay cut for over a year by taking on less work so I could focus on figuring out who I wanted to work with and who I wanted to be and why. I didn’t know it then but I was working through the branding process that I go through with my own clients. I switched my focus entirely at this point and I don’t have to make those major changes that I’d slowly started easing into and I was doing really well from it.
I’ve got featured in podcasts. I got interviewed and, you know, it was on a panel for industry expert magazines. I was loving what I was doing. I was landing great clients, but I was also living out of alignment, now on reflection, with my values and the person that I wanted to be. I was hiding my chronic illness from the world a lot. I was loving my work and sharing my truth that I thought I had to share and I was being authentic to who I thought I had to be but I was exhausted. And I was exhausted to the point that I burnt out again at the end of 2017 exactly two years and one month after my first bout with burnout.
And this time I was rushed into hospital via ambulance after complications with norovirus had left me dehydrated to the point of almost delirium and with an elevated heart rate. I felt like a complete and utter failure. Why did it happen? Like, I was happy in both my life and my work. I had changed everything around in my business. I felt like I was being the person I, and I’m going to use the air quotes here, “needed to be” but I had still burnt out again. And I was also struggling and moving day to day rather than dreaming of my big vision and anchoring into that sense of purpose and into my values. I wasn’t living my values truthfully and wholly in my life or in my business. One of my biggest values for example is to embrace my own natural flow in life and business. And the reason I do that is because my natural energy and motivation is a high at that point, and it allows me to create my best work. But instead I was pushing and hustling and constantly overworking myself literally to the point of burnout and hospitalization.
And spoiler alert. The only reason that you’re listening to this video now and watching these slides is because of my values. In the end, I realized that I had to anchor into them and start to truly really live them in both my life and my business. I focused on my vision and my mission. I created and launched things before feeling ready. I started talking more openly about my chronic illness, the impact that it has on my life, and on my business. I continue to land more clients, but started to feel more confident and more courageous and more creative. And I started to feel like the version of me that I’ve always dreamed that I could be— my most authentic self.
Creating your most authentic self.
And that isn’t to say that creating a set of values is something that will instantly turn your life and business around, because I can’t promise that. But what I can promise is the power that our values can hold. The thing is, values helped establish one of the most foundational parts of any business. They give us a stable platform really from which we can do our jobs more effectively with more impact and create more real and positive change in the world. Values also help knit people together over a common purpose or mission. It gives them something to anchor into and it helps make something that’s really rather intangible real. And we all know that the more motivated and inspired that we feel, the more impact we can create, the more things that we can put out into the world and we can therefore create better work.
And a set of core values can and should become an anchor in your business that not only you and your team and your employees, if you have them, can connect with and understand, but your audience and community and clients and customers can connect with as well, and it gives them this larger overarching purpose that they can then see and understand.
And so it might feel pretty impossible to bring to life a value like connection or flow, kindness or generosity. But what you can do is bring to life how those values make you feel.
Great design and, therefore, a great brand is all about forging connections with your audience and making them feel a particular way. So when we look at creating brands that are led by our values, we’re looking to harness the feelings and emotions that you want your audience to feel. And creating elements within your business that will help create and evoke those feelings. So creating visuals from these values is another lesson or video altogether, but if a value of yours, for example, is vibrancy and you want to feel vibrant in your work and you want your clients and audience to feel vibrant when interacting with your brand, you’re not going to want to choose dark cool colors as your main color palette choices because it won’t reflect that vibrant bright feeling that you want to evoke in others.
Another example is with my own brand. Creativity is at the core of what I do and that’s one of my biggest values. So I can’t, for the life of me, have a clean black and white editorial style brand and website because it just doesn’t feel right. I crave textures and patterns and colors which you can see from this slide. That isn’t to say that I can’t strike a blend and a balance between the two because having those two things mixed doesn’t automatically mean things are messy and distracting, but it’s all about finding those visual elements that complement the feelings that you want to evoke, and that’s why the power of your values in your brand can come into play.
Your values can also act as a guiding force within your business and they can become a powerful decision-making tool that you can hone over time. I like to call this your values compass. The way that I do this is that first of all you figure out what your values are. And then when you are creating your visual brand or every other facet of your brand such as your website copy to social media captions, the way that you speak online, the emails that you send out each week, or when you’re interacting one-on-one personally with a customer— it can help you with all of that and your values compass can also act as that guiding force. It can help you choose what to focus on and it grounds you into what truly matters. And I also find that utilizing my core values in this way helps you to say no more often which leads you into running a business and creating a brand that has the real impact that you want and is focused. All of which will help you to move forward with more clarity and more confidence, which is what we want.
Finding Your Core Values
So with all of that in mind, you then just need to figure out what your values are. So, how do we do that? First of all, I want you to ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers. You can do this in a notebook or in a Google doc, write a word doc, whatever feels comfortable for you. But I want you to really reflect on these questions, honestly.
So first of all, what are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your business? Then, how do you want your ideal clients to feel when they interact with any part of your brand and business? And then what makes you unique? What makes your approach to your work unique and different to your competitors? and I know that I say competitors here, but we all know that community over competition is what matters, but what I really want you to think about is what is it that makes you different from the way that other people do the similar kind of work that you do. And then what is your story? How did you get to where you are now? And what led you to this place? So a good example of this is sharing my own story with you this morning and chatting to you on this video about what that looks like. And then what is the big vision for your work? So what is it that really motivates you and really drives you with your work? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you really want to bring this work to life and bring it to the world?
And then the second step is to review your words and instead of simply just reading through, I want you to go through and highlight and look at any patterns in terms of what you’ve written about, you know, the words that you’ve used, phrases that you’ve used sort of spoken about and written down. You can start to highlight them. For example, when I did this for my own brand words, like authenticity, creativity, and helping people came up a lot. So make note of what those words are and ask yourself. Do those feel good? Do they feel right? Do they feel like they fit? Are they aligned with who you are as a person?
Then I want you to review them again and see if any of them stick out to you. Just sit with them for a little while. Do they capture what you want to create? Do they fit with your vision for your work?
And then finally choose a couple of them. Choose three to five maybe more— I have seven personally. My favorite number is seven and everything always seems to round out to that number for me naturally, but just choose maybe three to five that feel good and remember that they can change as well. What you choose now doesn’t have to stay the same forever.
So the main takeaway I want to leave you with is this, you know, burnout isn’t actually valuable. It’s awful. The results of it can be terrible and it can wreak havoc on your life and your brand and your business. But then it led me to discovering my values, it led me on that journey of figuring out what they were and how I could use them in my work. It helped me grow. It helped me become the person I am today and it helped me to help more people, which is at the core of everything that I want to do. And that has been life and business changing for me and for that side effect of burnout, I’m incredibly grateful. Now I never like to teach anything without leaving you with some actionable steps that you can take both individually for yourself and with your business to help you grow and to take real steps towards making a change in the world after this.
Value-Based Decision Making
So, first of all, create a set of core values – what motivates you and drives you both as a person and an individual or as a business. And then I want you to see where the cracks are and how you are showing up currently in your business and where that misaligns with your new values.And then finally, maybe start trying to filter the decisions that you make through your values and ask yourself if what you’re doing aligns with the values or not.
Now a little side note on that is that every time I’ve made a decision and I’ve run it through past my values and I’m like, “does this fit with who I am as a person with what I value was what the business values are?” Every time I’ve gone against that, I’ve come to regret it. So your values can be really powerful in helping you figure out the right decisions to make.
You know, the world is a funny old place – look at what’s going on right now. There is so much in the world that can cause us heartache and despair and that can bring us down. But if you’re here today and you’re listening to this video, we all have a responsibility and the privilege and more importantly the chance to make a difference and to lead by example to create positive change and I truly believe that positive, deep, impactful change can all start if we only focus on our values first. So let’s do it, Tiders. We’ve got this and you’ve got this and we can do it.