In his book “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For”—a read I recommend to all contractors—author Roy M. Spence writes that every extraordinary business is driven by purpose. At the Family Business Institute, mission and purpose are synonymous and to the point: “building better contractors.”
However, if you’re a company with a long mission statement in need of trimming, I posit it is not a reflection of your business purpose. After more than 30 years observing contractor mission statements, I will bluntly tell you that almost all need major tightening up. It’s a particular shame because that statement is often the first impression your company gives potential customers and employees.
Crafting your business’s mission statement to give a true sense of your company at a quick glance enables customers and employees to more easily determine if you will be a good fit for them and vice versa. It makes an incredible difference—to business and to employee and customer satisfaction—when their personal missions align with the company mission.
I used to walk into contractor offices, see a long, meandering mission statement framed on the wall, and then ask the CEO to recite it. They never could. If the CEO can't recite the company mission statement, surely the new employee who just signed on a month ago can't either.
Here are three rules for writing or honing your business’s mission statement:
- Use wording so that even a 10-year-old could understand it.
- Keep it to one sentence. No exceptions.
- Make it short and memorable enough that any single one of your employees could easily recite it.
Spence writes about in his book the blueprint for transforming your business to be something other than a commodity. I know I will get pushback on this, but construction is a commodity. Most goods and services in any economy are commodities. Think about it: If you weren't putting the new roof on the hospital in your city, could some other contractor do it just as well and with a similar schedule as you? The answer is yes.
Spence lays out four steps to establishing your business as a necessity instead of a commodity, with three of those focusing on your mission:
- Build an organization that truly makes a difference in the marketplace.
- Become a leader on a mission.
- Bring your mission to life so your constituents know it.
- Transcend the generic, often uninformative mission statements many businesses have.
In construction, your most important “constituents” are your employees, customers, trade partners, suppliers and anyone who helps you keep the business running. They should be on that mission with you to the extent possible, and for them to understand the mission, you've got to advocate for it. You've got to be out there talking about the mission 110% of the time.
Spence writes that your employees will be responsible for making the difference you want the business to make. If you can gather people who are on the same mission with you, they're going to multiply your efforts. One person can work exceptionally hard and touch a lot of lives, but if you've got many people on the same mission, it's exponential how many lives you can touch. Make it your job as a leader to have a compelling vision, rally your people to your mission, and they'll expand your efforts exponentially.