Constructing With Integrity

November 14th, 2010 by Rich Christiansen

Over the past 10 years I have developed a respect for Alan and Leslie Layton.  My respect however has not been for Alan’s accomplishments in the business world but rather the relentless service that he and his wife have given.   Alan and Leslie have been one of the examples in my life of how I believe service should be done and the level of intensity at which it can be attacked.  Although my relationship with Alan has been on a more personal level,  I  have superficially been aware of some of his philosophies and approaches in the business world.

Alan was central to helping Layton Construction grow from a family business to a main stage commercial construction corporation.

I took the opportunity this week to discuss with Alan what enabled the scale and growth in Layton Construction into a world class organization.   I was delighted with the response because it resonated perfectly with the past several posts I have been making.

Alan shared the following story with me.

Back in the late 80′s he was attending a conference with several of his executives and the question was asked from the stage  ”Who has a mission statement in their company?”   Alan raised his hand at what point the speaker asked if any of his executive staff was there.  He responded that they were.   The speaker then proceeded to ask the executives   “what is your companies mission statement?”   These individuals stuttered and stammered and could not recite it. Alan stated that he was embarrassed and the members of his staff were very apologetic.  Alan then realized that what the speaker had said was true, and he wrestled with what he could use to unify the company.    He settled on the phrase:

Constructing with Integrity

Alan  went on to explain in detail the three components of what the  mantra meant:

1. What We Produce – Build using the highest level of quality and not cut corners.  Use the best materials and the best methodologies available to Construct with Integrity.

2.  How We Deal With People  -  Behave ethically and treat all people equally and with respect.   Construct relationships with Integrity

3.  The Organization We Build –  Remove posturing and politics, but build our organization and interactions with each other with respect.   Construct the organization with integrity.

These simple three words became the North Star – the guiding beacon,  indeed the Catalyzing statement for Layton Construction.

To Quote Alan:  “Everyone understood it and it was very rewarding.”

At one point at a company function they took a camera around and just began asking team  members  what Constructing  with Integrity meant to them.   Here are a few of the statements they made:

“It means I can live the same way on the job as when I am home with my wife.”

“It means I don’t ever apologize to anyone for what we do”

Alan believes that this Catalyzing statement coupled with  employee ownership in the company was what enabled the scale and durable growth in Layton Construction.

As we were closing Alan made some intriguing comments regarding the second aspect of what allowed Layton Construction to scale so effectively.  It was structuring an employee ownership program.

In my next conversation with Alan I will explore more about how he structured the employee ownership program,  and of course I will share it with you.

Thank you Alan for your insights and also for being a good man and a great example.

The closing questions that I ask you are:

Are you constructing your life with integrity?

and

What is your catalyzing statement?

I Dreamt of Michaela Last Night

November 8th, 2010 by Rich Christiansen

Several weeks ago I received an emotional letter from one of my childhood  friends.  Blaine’s father Don Tuft was one of my hero’s and inspirations in my life.  In Bootstrap Business there are several stories and examples taught me by this amazing man.

This friend Blaine Tuft  is now a medical doctor who has been deployed to Afghanistan.  With permission from Blaine,  I share with you verbatim a section of his letter.

“Last night was a sad, memorable night for me.  We had a 12-year-old girl brought in after she picked up a mine (while she was  out in the fields with her livestock).

It blew off both  her hands and completely blew her eye out of the socket.

When she finally got to us we had to tell the father that she had catastrophic brain injuries and would not survive.  The father was very stoic and did not cry.  We withdrew care and she passed quietly.   The father said some Muslim prayers and recited scriptures over her.   We then had one of the women clean the body and turner her face East towards Mecca, as per their customs.

I tried to show compassion to the father and sat down by him in a chair and touched his shoulder to express my condolences at which point he literally jumped out of his chair.  I don’t know if he was surprised or he thought I was asking him to move. I guess our expressions are not the same as theirs.

This morning when I came back into work he was sitting outside the doctors work room–no sleep all night, wiping away tears…through a translator I asked him if I could bring him something to eat…he said “no”.  He just wanted to leave to take the body back home.

The mortality rates are extremely high in the country especially with childbirth but death of a loved one inflicts horrible wounds regardless of the country or circumstances.

I dreamt of Michaela last night and woke up feeling very somber.”

I frequently make the comment to team members,  partners, and individuals aspiring to become entrepreneurs the same comment that my mentor Dr. Peter Horne made to me.

You can replace anything in this world.  You can replace a job, you can replace a car, you can replace money. What you can never replace is your family, your trust relationships, and your health.

Let us not forget why we embark in this amazing adventure of entrepreneurship and do it with intent to deepen not diminish the precious trust relationships in our lives.

Catalyzing Statements

November 6th, 2010 by Rich Christiansen

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Want to really focus your team and get amazing results?

Set a really big goal and then form a Catalyzing Statement around this goal.

Catalyzing statements hook people emotionally and are the driver that propels individuals towards a challenging goal.

About a month ago I heard  Rick Sapio give several examples.   I would like to share his and then give a fun one that I ran across in Japan this week.

Fed Ex – When It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight —  If you want a GREAT laugh, watch this FedEx Commercial
Microsoft Bill Gates – I picture a world with a PC  on every desktop and in every home – 1975
President Kennedy – We will put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the century.

These catalyzing statements go FAR beyond placing a goal. They emotionally charge us and align us. They emotionally allow us to seek and believe and go forward.

A good example of this is Bill Gates. Prior to making the  unifying statement the goal was clearly set to have Microsoft be the largest software company in the world. Great goal, but where is the emotion and the emotional buy in.  It came when he stated  ” I picture a world with a PC on every desk and in every home.” That inspired us, we visualized this and indeed it enabled the goal.

This past week I have been in Asia. I was able to spend a bit of time in Japan and visited a company in Tokyo called Fujita. From the instant I entered this business I knew it was different. The tone, the conduct of the staff, and the presentation of the board room was simply different. They were focused and clearly were on a mission.  There was not the usual motion that I frequently experience in Japan.   Indeed the meeting I had was successful and at the end of the communication I could not help but poke a bit. I asked the individual I was meeting with to explain more about the company, the founder, and the history. His answer gave it all away. With out a second of hesitation here was his response:

“Fujita’s vision is to bring American culture to Japan”.

Wow, now that is powerful.  That is a hairy, big, audacious, and crazy goal.   “Bring American culture to Japan!”

You see they are not in the hamburger or movie business.  They are not selling clothing. They are not in the import / export business. Those things are simply vehicles.

They are going to change Japan from eating sushi to Big Macs, and guess what…they did.

What I did not tell you earlier is Fujita’s founder  Den Fujita is responsible for bringing McDonalds to Japan. He was also responsible for bringing Toys R Us and BlockBuster to Japan.

Fujita and McDonald

As I have considered this, I realized that this type of statement not only motivates us and inspires us, but also allows the company to change and extract us from the weeds when necessary.

Next time you set a big goal, create a catalyzing statement!   Hang on because it will rock your world with what happens if done properly.