What Is Your Mission?

During my site visit to this issue's cover story subject Cornerstone Foundations, Harrisonburg, Va., president Tim Parrish shared with me his company's history and recent transformation (see "Taking Advantage of a Bad Situation"). Economic forces moved the company from a 70 percent residential/30 percent commercial split to 90 percent commercial in 2008 and 75 percent commercial in 2009. Despite this drastic change, Parrish was able to keep his company focused by staying true to Cornerstone Foundations' mission statement.

In 2007, when the residential housing market started its plunge, Parrish knew change was ahead for his company and he would have to ride the economy to stay in business and remain profitable. Not knowing what changes he would have to undergo, he wrote a company mission statement, printed it on magnets and stuck them on anything metal throughout Cornerstone headquarters as a reminder to everyone on staff the focus of the company. The mission statement starts, "Building solid concrete walls to serve and bring lasting benefit to the lives of our fellow employees, customers and community." It may seem a simple statement, but it was the guide Parrish needed to steer his company through the crumbling construction economy.

Through the changes he made over the last few years and his opportunities to grow, Parrish held true to his mission statement and it successfully helped him stay on course with his company's strengths and core values.

In a time when many construction companies are reorganizing, reinventing or refocusing their businesses, it's important that you and your employees clearly know your company's purpose and express it in a mission statement. A mission statement will give your company a sense of direction and guide you through business decisions. It should be short and clearly written, express your company's goals and offer motivation to your employees. A mission statement should help you keep your company on a path that takes advantage of its strengths and should give employees a clear idea of the strengths they need to build to further their roles in the business. After reading your mission statement you should feel your company has something to work toward.

Without a mission statement, your company lacks focus; you have no goal in sight and nothing to keep you from veering off on useless, and possibly financially detrimental, tangents. I think of having a mission statement versus not having a mission statement similar to the difference between driving through a city and driving through a mall parking lot: In the city you can rely on road signs, lines on the pavement and traffic lights to guide you safely from point A to point B; in a shopping mall parking lot drivers screech through empty parking stalls and ignore common sense rules of the road and right-of-way in an unsafe, free-for-all meander from Best Buy to Barnes & Nobel.

If your company lacks a mission statement, now is a good time to write one. If your company currently has a mission statement, review it to make sure you're following it or retool it. Resources on the Internet and books on strategic planning can guide you through the process of finding the purpose of your company and stating your mission.

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