In last week's blog we brought you Making a Statement by Professor Malcolm McDonald, talking about how getting the mission statement right can change your business for the better, forever. This week, we bring you a leader's perspective on mission statements. This article is based on an interview with Ben Walker when he was the CEO of CEMAR, now a Thinkproject company.
Does your business have the potential to change lives? Could it create social, environmental and economic benefit?
Ben Walker, co-founder of CEMAR, whose cloud-based contract management system is used on some of the UK’s largest construction projects, believes their business can.
“The construction industry has been slow to digitise, but doing so promises delivery of infrastructure and buildings more beautifully, more affordably, more predictably and more sustainably. Among other benefits, this will relieve pressure on the people working in the sector, free up time to focus on their professional contributions and even improve mental health in what can be a high pressure, sometimes political environment.
“CEMAR is used internationally on £100bn worth of projects, to manage contract workflow, compliance and administration. If we can improve efficiencies by even 0.1%, that’s £100m of costs saved. Many of these are public sector projects, so savings translate to more budget for schools and hospitals. Our small company in Gloucester is making a large impact nationally!
“Our Group’s mission is to create ‘construction intelligence’ by combining people and technologies, to enable better industry results. We capture raw data, arrange it into information, from which users can derive knowledge and ultimately wisdom. We approach this in a way that the market is ready for and which our capabilities allow.
“But a mission without purpose isn’t motivating, is unlikely to inspire passion and not so fun to participate in.”
“I used to struggle with what purpose, vision and mission were. I now have a picture in my mind that works for me; a way of making sense of how mission and vision fit together.
“It starts with the North Star; a sense of purpose. A worthy reference point that you are always working towards. In construction we can equate this into social, environmental and economic benefits. If you google employee happiness/productivity you find that a meaningful purpose is more important than a high salary.”
“I see vision as a measurable milestone in time, you’ll achieve it and move on to the next vision. The mission is an expression of how you will meet the needs of the market in ways that will deliver each vision in turn, while contributing to the purpose.
“That’s what I really liked about Malcolm McDonald’s masterclass; he stressed the importance of listening to the market when you are shaping a mission. Professor Steve Kempster’s work on Good Dividends is thought-provoking too and argues that a worthy cause and business co-exist well.”
“We had a four-year vision that we relentlessly focused on and achieved. We wanted to be the best contract management system in the UK. About a year before achieving that we started to ask, what’s our next vision? We realised we needed to go global.
“If we couldn’t scale up internationally then our larger clients may look elsewhere. Then, as luck would have it, we were approached by Thinkproject a German Group who were interested in acquiring us.
“We’d been approached several times before but had always said no. This time was different. Thinkproject has the same mindset as us. Our purpose is fully aligned. We chose carefully, predominantly on culture.
“During the acquisition someone commented how we had been lucky. Feeling slightly uncomfortable with this, it was nice to happen upon a quote from Roman philosopher Seneca who said, ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’.”
Having achieved so much in the 15 years since CEMAR was founded by Ben, his father Andy and brother Dan, now CIO, what’s next for Ben?
“I’m on the GOLD™ program continuing to focus on my leadership. It’s only recently that everything has clicked into place for me thinking about vision, mission and purpose. Hearing a range of other people’s perspectives and strategies can be as helpful in crystallising your view as a masterclass speaker’s explanation.
“As the vision renews once more and the mission takes shape – we have to re-engage with the purpose. I think it’s important to feel enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. We’ve engineered our environment to have fun, enjoy winning and celebrate our team successes.
“You could deliver a mission without passion for a purpose, but where’s the fun in that?”
This article first appeared in the QuoLux™ Leading magazine, June 2019, and is from an interview with Ben Walker, the former CEO of CEMAR, a Thinkproject company, on his perspective on Malcolm's article on mission statements. Ben participated on our effective leadership program, LEAD™, and then joined our strategic business planning program, GOLD™; he is currently participating on our innovation and competitive advantage program, GAIN™, and is now a Non-Executive Director at Thinkproject.
In his Masterclass on LEAD™, Malcolm takes the delegates through a framework that enables them and their company to realise the true potential of their market and the marketing potential of their business. If you would like to meet and learn from Malcolm like Ben has, you could join our next LEAD™ program, starting April 2022. For further information about it, please get in touch with Jo Draper.
In next week's blog we will share an article that asks, 'How important is innovation to your business strategy?'
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