by Joel Schlaudt, Churchill Designer, Creative Writer

Sometimes, you’ve got to make a trade — cash in on something you’ve held onto for a long time to get a bigger reward down the road. It’s the concept of bonds or even behind the stock market itself.

But not everything in business operates that way; in fact, sometimes the exact opposite is true.

The core values behind a brand, business, or company are some of its greatest assets. They appreciate over time, making them some of the most important investments a business can make. Granted, that sounds highly philosophical, but it’s a fact that can actually be reflected in tangible assets and numbers. Take, for example, the quick service food chain Chick-fil-A.

At the company’s founding, the entire business was built upon two values: excellence in service and quality of product. These values were so deeply incorporated into the very fabric of the corporation as it grew that the brand’s name has become literally synonymous with quality and efficiency in mainstream American culture. It is these exact values that have allowed the company to flourish and expand despite vehement opposition and even the occasional governmental pressure.

Now supposing Chick-fil-A were to start cutting corners: lowering their standards for the customer experience or skimping on portions to increase revenue. What would happen? Brand value would tumble; competitors would leverage the change to their own advantage, and the company would slump into a category of “has been” brands. The immediate pay off of increased revenue would pale in comparison to the long-term damage done.

Every brand has a set of core values that form the foundation for growth, operation, and decision-making. And at some point, each must face the decision of whether to hold on to those values or trade them in. But as appealing as a short-term payoff might be, it almost never makes up for the long-term effects. Taking the bottom pieces from the Jenga tower will certainly make it taller, but the loss of stability can bring the whole thing crashing down.

This is true in many different fields, whether it’s for personal branding, the reputation of a university, or the principles of a business. Values are never worth the trade, especially when they form the core of who we are.