The construction industry is built on relationships. Having a background of mutual trust and respect, on top of a history of solid performance, can catapult your company over the competition when it matters most. If you are new to the industry, this is intimidating. You need the jobs to build the relationships, and you need the relationships to get the jobs. Creating a set of core values for your company and broadcasting them to your customers will signal to a GC or owner that you are a solid worker and an aligned partner. Core values will win you more business, attract and retain the best talent, and give you and your team the most fulfillment from the work you do.
Core Values Defined
Core values are the principles that guide YOU and consequently your company’s actions, the individual actions of your leadership team and employees. They are the foundation of your corporate culture — how you speak and behave toward each other, your customers, your larger community, and the world at large.
Core Values Start with You
In an article from Winning the Business titled Improving the Win Rate for Your Organization, growth consultant Jeremy Brim writes, “the biggest determining factor in win rate and the growth trajectory of organizations … is the behavior and commitment of their leadership and how that is cascaded down through the organization.” You have to create a culture of winning. You do that through established core values of perseverance, integrity, and excellence.
It’s okay if your core values are aspirational – they should be. Present them to your team with an action plan that takes you from aspiration to reality. Core values must be statements that truthfully and accurately embody your company’s culture. If not, they are meaningless at best and harmful at worst.
Values Matter Every Day
To reap the benefits of core values, you have to actually live them. In the HBR article, Make Your Values Mean Something, the core values of Enron are listed: Communication, Respect, Integrity, Excellence. That sounds great, until it was all revealed as lip service.
You can’t put your core values on the wall, or on your website or letterhead, and call it a day. Just as in the rest of life, words and actions build reputations in the construction industry, not fancy displays with no substance. You have to embody, and live in each day, the core values of your company. This is why they have to start with YOU. Every day, in every decision, you must allow your core values to guide you.
Remind your team to allow the core values to drive them when making decisions and acting on behalf of the company. When your core values are a living practice shared by your entire organization, rather than a dead-on-arrival document, you all act according to those values. Acting with integrity and respect earns you a reputation for having integrity and being respectful. Striving for excellence in everything you do creates a reputation of excellence, because it becomes your and your team’s standard.
Establish core values to guide how you will work — then go do the work.
Core Values Drive Sales
Core values define culture, which guides actions. This includes how your sales team approaches new opportunities. Your core values are the cornerstone of your sales culture. When your entire sales team is aligned in their approach to new business, you get consistent results you can bank on.
Your core values set you apart from the competition. They create a positive identity around your company. They become part of what your company is known for. That can be a powerful influencer during the bidding process.
Imagine a steel erection company, we will call them Sam’s Steel, submitting a bid to a GC they’ve never worked with before. Sam’s core values include statements such as:
- We are accountable to our customers, our community, and each other.
- We always communicate with as much transparency as possible.
- We are committed to excellence in everything we do.
The bid includes a schedule of the way they will go about doing the work, how they will invoice for it each month, a cash flow prediction, breaking down the startup costs for the project, estimated weekly expenses, and how they finance their schedule and project costs. It also includes a testimonial from another general contractor. In the testimonial, the GC says that Sam’s Steel was great at communicating, open about challenges and ready with solutions, and that they performed excellent work with no major issues.
The GC can see that Sam’s Steel is already living by two core values: transparency and accountability. The project cost breakdown shows the gaps in cash flow, and the subcontractor has wisely already solved the problem for the GC. The testimonial lets the GC trust in Sam’s Steel plan and gives them peace of mind that the work will meet and exceed their standards. The trust comes in the details that Sam has provided and provides the comfort to the GC that Sam knows what he is doing!
Core Values Drive Hiring
There is a common misconception — in the construction industry and others — that skilled labor goes where the money is. The truth, according to the data, is that money is rarely the primary reason an employee leaves a job. In fact, according to a report from Hays US published in Construction Dive, 65% of surveyed construction professionals would take a pay cut for their ideal job. Even more telling, the #1 reason given for employees leaving was … CULTURE.
Create a culture that is hard to leave. Live your core values with your team as much as you do with your customers.
According to a report from Manila Recruitment, 80% of employees leave due to bad hiring decisions. That means their resignation is on You. If a recruit can’t perform the work, you failed to hire the right person. If a recruit doesn’t share your company’s core values, you failed to hire the right person.
Make your core values known at the beginning of the hiring process. Talk through them with recruits. These are our expectations. This is the code we live by. If someone does not align with your core values, they are better off elsewhere, and you are better off without them. Not because they are bad employees, but because they throw your company’s alignment off-balance. It only takes one employee who does not believe in acting with integrity, for example, to frustrate and demoralize the rest of the group.
Core Values Drive Personal Fulfillment
As the leader of your company, I can guess that you spend a LOT of time at work. Why not enjoy that time more, by being surrounded with people who share your principles? They don’t have to share every opinion you have (in fact, that would be boring and limit your creativity), but they move through the world making decisions based on the same set of values that you do.
That is what a team built on core values gives you.
When your team is built on core values, their performance, both on the jobsite and off, can be a source of pride. Invest in their ability to live those values in their own personal lives, and the feeling of pride and fulfillment only grows. You are now building a business with a purpose.
When core values guide your company’s actions, you reap the reward of new business, better employee retention, and your own personal happiness.
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