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Posted on Nov 3, 2017

Values in Leadership: A Great Tool for Decision-Making

Values in Leadership: A Great Tool for Decision-Making

The Bob Barker Company started as a supplier to restaurants, originally selling slushy machines. This was expanded to include chicken fryers, icemakers and many other products. But the journey to becoming America’s Leading Detention Supplier began in the early 1980s, when Bob Barker bought a friend’s small jail supply business.

The initial list of items sold to prisons included personal care, bedding, clothing and security equipment. Bob then began a cut-and-sew operation to manufacture uniforms and mattresses, and expanded his business beyond the borders of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

By the late 1990s the company had grown to over 200 employees, and by 2005 Bob’s son, Robert Barker, was leading the business as president and CEO.

Mission – Vision – Values

In my interview with Robert Barker, he says that he uses the company’s mission, vision, and values as a filter for all of the critical decisions of the business, and often for even the smallest decisions too.

The Mission, Vision, and Values of the Bob Barker Company are outlined very clearly for all to read.

Mission: by living our values and pursuing Bob’s passion for customer service and innovation we are creating profitable growth and positively impacting lives

Vision: transforming criminal justice while honoring God in all we do


  • Integrity
  • Service
  • Excellence
  • Innovation
  • Unity

When it comes to evaluating the many decisions made throughout the operation or the output of the business, Robert has a simple test that’s based on the vision statement:

“Is this God-honoring?”

The most useful and powerful test is often the simplest.

Values and Decision-Making

The company’s five values are also a powerful filter for decision-making.

A number of years ago, Bob Barker had developed a mission, vision, and values for the company. But they were too long and complex for anyone to remember them. The vision was one sentence, the mission was three sentences, and there were 10 values statements.

So about seven years ago, Robert led a process to refine and simplify these with the goal of making them easy to remember, and so that they would be used as an actual arbiter for decision-making.

Of particular interest to me was how Robert describes that the 10 former values statement mapped easily and cleanly into the current 5 values (an exercise that I find many companies could benefit from). This then made it much easier for team members to commit to memory and use as a tool for decision-making.

Important Business Impact

Robert explains that when he introduced the new vision, mission, and values to his leadership team there was more than just hesitation. Some were frightened of the potential negative impact, possibly losing customers and losing business. There was also a real concern that team members wouldn’t understand why God was in the company vision statement.

But what the company has actually experienced has been quite the opposite.

They’ve seen more opportunities in business over the years, not less. Additionally, they have also attracted some very exceptional people to work for the company that they would not have otherwise. The reason? These people are also passionate about the mission and vision.

Robert has also learned that importance of values alignment. Having team members aligned to the values is just as critical as the results in performance they achieve.

An insightful example Robert shares is having to terminate someone because they couldn’t get the values piece right, even though they were a high performer. He says that when team members are not aligned with the values, it’s better to let them go because “they are like a cancer to the business”. This is a mistake that plenty of leaders make, he says, where they look the other way regarding the values piece just because they’re a top performer with great customer relationships or they really get the job done in the warehouse.

Bottom line: Robert says leaders need to protect the values and culture of the business by making sure the people who aren’t able or willing to live by the values exit the business.

To listen to the whole interview with Robert, visit: Values in Leadership.


This is a new Business Leader Series called Values in Leadership, where I share relevant insights gleaned from interviews with successful business leaders. I welcome your comments or questions by emailing: