Defining your mission, vision, and values is key for uniting, motivating, and differentiating your firm.
Open up Zweig Group’s website, and their mission is immediately clear – big bold letters on the home screen read: “The leaders in driving performance and purpose in the AEC industry. Zweig is the number one advocate and trusted partner for top AEC firm leaders.”
The mission: drive performance and purpose. The client: top AEC firm leaders. In five seconds on their website, I know exactly what drives the people of Zweig Group and who they do it for. As an added bonus, I know they are a high-quality option because they work with “top” AEC firm leaders. Not just anyone works with Zweig Group – only the best!
Most companies in our industry have some generic mission statement – usually with phrases like “high-quality service” or “expert craftsmanship” – but it is rarely meaningful or truly descriptive of why the business exists. And, more likely than not, it isn’t actually engrained in the company’s culture. It’s just words on a website that “sound good for our clients.”
So the question is: Why is it so rare to find companies with a mission, vision, and values statement engrained into their culture? In my opinion, it’s because the founders didn’t think about it when they were getting the business off the ground. They were so focused on how to get the jobs done, pay vendors, and keep the lights on, that they never stopped to figure out why their people come into work excited or why their clients choose them. It’s totally understandable, but it’s a huge missed opportunity. And forward-thinking firm leaders are capitalizing on it whether you realize it or not!
As a 29-year-old vice president at Alliance Exterior Construction, a subcontractor specializing in exterior facade systems like glass, roofing, and metal panels, I find Zweig Group’s mission inspiring. We’ve been in business 32 years and are extremely successful in our market, but are currently going through our own process of identifying why we exist. So when I read Zweig Group’s mission, all I can think to myself is: how do you replicate it?
In my opinion, it starts with executive management asking themselves a few key questions. Each one corresponds to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Let’s go through each:
Mission: Why do we exist? The most basic organizational question: Why do we exist? This should be something you can answer internally and externally – you want your people and clients to understand your mission. It should be short, easy to memorize, and simple to say. Don’t flare it up with fancy words or jargon no one uses. Stick to company vernacular!
Further – and what Zweig Group does so well – it should communicate who you do it for. You don’t need to say, “We’re the best.” Rather, you can say, “We work for the best.” Your clients will get the picture. And so will your people.
One final point on mission: Don’t get caught up in the future. Your mission is now. It drives day-to-day operations. The future is covered in your vision statement.
Vision: Where are we going? Jeff Bezos sent an email to Amazon employees early in their history. In it, he boldly stated the company’s vision in a series of statements: “We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers. We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations. We will share our strategic thought processes with you when we make bold choices, so that you may evaluate for yourselves whether we are making rational long-term investments. We will work hard to spend wisely and maintain our lean culture…” Just to name four of Bezos’ 13 vision statements.
The point is, Bezos painted a clear picture of where Amazon was going. These statements are timeless and focus exclusively on long-term thinking. And notice that they are internal statements – your vision isn’t about your clients. It’s about your business and where you want to go.
If you want to create a clear picture of your future for your people, then a clear vision statement that answers “Where are we going?” is critical.
Values: What do we care about? And finally, maybe the most important ingredient of them all, is your core values. “What do we care about?” Stated differently, “What unites us?”
This can be a fun exercise for a business that has been around for some time. It’s an opportunity to reflect and figure out the common qualities of the business that helped it survive. When posed with this question, one member of our management team said, “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to define what the wheel already is!” I thought that was really smart.
Your core values are the most important qualities that unite your organization and allow you to succeed.
What comes next? After you define your mission, vision, and values, you can create your strategy. “How will we get from point A to point Z?” is much easier to answer when you know the basic building blocks of your business.
If you can answer that question, then you’ll differentiate yourself from the hordes of AEC firms out there. You’ll start having clients who want to work with you, instead of chasing clients for work. You’ll have to grow your operations or turn down work. You’ll have happy, healthy people running your business.
In other words, if you can get clear on your mission, vision, and values, you’ll give yourselves a fighting chance to be a lasting AEC firm.
Matt Verderamo is vice president, preconstruction & sales at Alliance Exterior Construction in Baltimore. Alliance is a specialty subcontractor focusing on glazing, metal panels, and roofing. Matt is also a proponent of mental health and career growth in the construction industry. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.