Discovering Core Values

The following content is part of the Interstates Culture Series, a writing collection explaining how Interstates' core company values were uncovered and what they mean to us. These posts from our leaders spotlight the culture at Interstates and share what it’s like to work within our organization, focusing on our values of Dependability, Integrity, Trust, Quality, and Family

In 1996, Interstates was 43 years old. John A. Franken, our founder, was retired, and the second phase of Interstates’ story was about to begin. As Interstates leaders, we knew the challenge ahead of us. Most family companies – up to 70% – don’t survive the second generation of leadership, and that number increases to 88% with the third generation. We wanted to make sure Interstates beat the odds.

Our goal was to become an enduring company, one that didn’t grow complacent in the face of success, and one that continued to be passed down from one generation to the next no matter the challenges. To meet this goal, we focused on three questions: What’s next? Who are we? What do we really want?

The best way to answer these questions was to discover our core values. Note that we didn’t create them, we discovered them. It’s in our DNA; it’s who we are. And, for our core values to continue to stay with the company, we have made a point of talking about them and building passion around them. They will only grow stronger as time goes on because they show how we support, serve and treat others.

Ask the Right Questions

“You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  It’s an old saying, but it is so true. We found that the best way to discover core values was to ask questions of leaders, employees, and clients. Here are some examples that helped us get to the heart of understanding our values at Interstates.

  • Ask Leaders: What are the leaders personally passionate about?
  • Ask Employees: What do employees talk about? What do they get excited about? What is important to employees?
  • Ask Clients: What do they say about us? Why do they buy from us and choose us?

With answers in hand, we created a long list and looked for themes. We came up with 11 core values – way too many. Over the course of a year, we gave ourselves space to reflect on that list, sorting out the themes and values that didn’t feel right. We eventually narrowed the list down to the five values we have today. The goal was to discover the essence of Interstates. The process of uncovering our values also laid the foundation for The Interstates Way, which encompasses what it means to lead and serve here. We did not choose our core values. We discovered them based on our history, successes, failures, and, most importantly, our people.


Scott Peterson, Chief Executive Officer


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