Company Culture

Creating a Mission Statement That Matters

Creating a Mission Statement That Matters

Green Canopy builds homes, relationships, and businesses that help regenerate communities and environments.


GREEN CANOPY IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE A NEW MISSION STATEMENT THAT HAS DEVELOPED FROM MUCH THOUGHT AND COLLABORATION.

“Mission statement” is one of the first terms inside startup guides, marketing courses and business plans. It can feel like fluff on an entrepreneur’s checklist of a million-and-one things to manage — a checklist that also includes terms like revenue and retention rate.

And a mission can become fluff that has little real impact internally or externally. Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy says, “Where intention and attention go, energy flows.” A mission statement helps set intention and attention, ensures stakeholder alignment, guides strategy, and helps differentiate — creating a sustained competitive advantage and supporting the long-term success of an organization. This has been Green Canopy’s process:

Ends or Means?

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Contributed by Andy Wolverton, CFO

Green Canopy gladly spends significant time and resources to nurture our corporate culture; a culture centered on our Values. These shared values reveal themselves in the norms, mantras, behaviors, and language of the company; they are the bedrock of culture. Rather than let our values develop organically by default or be established top-down, every member of the Green Canopy Team participates in the process of establishing our shared Values from the ground up.

At the beginning of every year the Company holds what is called our Mission, Vision, Values Retreat. The Team at Green Canopy has created an innovative approach to building and managing Culture that creates alignment throughout the Company. At this Retreat the Team re-calibrates to our purpose, Mission, and the direction that the Team is driving the Company, Vision. The remaining and majority of the Retreat is spent focusing on our foundation; qualifying our shared set of Values. The sum total of the Values equates to a culture of integrity and constant improvement.

Once the Team has reviewed, revised and renewed our Values for another year, we roll into the first of two annual Cultural Reviews. These Cultural Reviews allow the Team to review each other and reflect on how each member has upheld - or better yet, how they can improve - their practice of and commitment to the shared Values collectively defined at the Retreat. The Company’s approach to managing and measuring culture ensures Team buy-in.

After all, it has been said many times before, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

But do the Values really matter in the day-to-day minutia of completing tasks and improving the bottom line? 

Productivity is more valuable than fit and the ends justify the means, right? In fact, Green Canopy may have agreed with these statements years ago. We, for many years, proudly labeled ourselves as a Results Oriented Work Environment, or ROWE, a methodology popularized by Daniel Pink, among others.  

While the benefits of being a ROWE are many and well-documented (and we agree!), we have come to understand being a ROWE is only half the equation. How those results are achieved is more important than the outcome. Why? We believe it is because of our focus on the prioritization of long-term goalsover short-term gains.

Since our Values define Green Canopy’s collective how, we prioritize Values Alignment during our hiring process and developed the basic quadrant diagram (below) for grouping our Team and new applicants.

The diagram includes two axes, Values Alignment and Abilities, each with positive and negative option, making four unique quadrants. The green-shaded row at the top shows the two quadrants Green Canopy prioritizes in our Team and new hires; with both including positive Values Alignment. We would rather work to improve the skills of a well-intentioned coworker with a shared set of values than a highly productive employee who is ambivalent to Green Canopy’s shared Values. More time, energy and resources are spent working with a highly skilled yet misaligned employee than developing an under-performing Teammate who strives toward self-improvement along the Values.

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When looking at the Values vs. Abilities diagram, the obvious priority would be to only hire those who fit within the top right box. They are the ideal and perfect Teammates, right?

However, in practice we recognize that the top right box is the area to strive toward and is generally an impossible space to permanently occupy. All of our Teammates have areas of their work in which they are masters of their craft 

Our aim is to live within the top row, and the goal is to continuously move toward mastery in all aspects of our jobs. That has us all in practice (1)  bouncing back and forth between Lacking Ability and Mastery within the row of Values Aligned as we learn new lessons in our life and in our work. Personal and professional growth and development require the understanding that we are all imperfect. However, the Green Canopy Team understands there is great potential for those who enjoy shared values.
 
(1) As a quick side note on work as Practice rather than a Performance, we highly recommend this HBR Ideacast (Ideacast #523) released May 5, 2016, with Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.

Mission, Vision, Values: Part 1

Contributed by: Krystal Meiners, Director of Marketing

I recently read an article from FastCo entitled “Why Are Construction Workers the Happiest Employees?”It was such a catchy headline – 1. Because I truly feel that I work with some of the happiest, most positive people at Green Canopy and 2. Because the article was literally published hours after our annual Mission-Vision-Values (MVV) workshop.

The article goes on to explain many of the reasons that construction employees are particularly happy in their jobs – the number one reason is that they feel supported by their team. The article couldn’t be more right. And our recent workshop revealed much of the same.

This workshop is one of my highlights of the year - it is always an experience that gets our team teary-eyed about the culture that we share and the support that we have for one another (OK, maybe I’m the only one that got teary-eyed BUT I know people were excited to share and inspired to continue building a great company). It is also a time where we define or vision and goals for the year.

While some would cringe at this type of corporate, stick-in-the-mud, trust fall, team building event – we have yet to have that experience during MVV. Probably because it is less of a team-building event and more of a realignment of the company - a chance for everyone to speak to the values that we foster as a team.

Each year we discuss and develop a set of values that enable us to work better, smarter and with more impact as we grow and change as an organization. It’s like group counseling for a group that already works well together. Our “counselor” is Neil; a lithe corporate culture connoisseur with a big brain and a dirty mouth. He leads our process and lends great perspective. He keeps us from getting hung up, and keeps the mic moving (further and further away from our CEO). Got to hand it to Neal – he knows what he is doing – and keeps people talking during a variety of group breakouts, Q&A and team sharing.

In part 2 and 3 of this blog series, we will explore the Core Values, Aspirational Values and work mantras that were developed by the team and that are currently being synthesized into a consumable format.

For now – I was hoping to share the thoughts of some of our team members on the process and what they got out of the shared experience. For many – it was their first MVV, which is particularly impactful to us as a company. Their first impressions and insight into the framework that keeps our corporate culture from stagnating is quick to reveal whether our values are perceived as lip service or not.

Here is what some of our team members had to say:

  • Dean Gorby; Project Manager and MVV Virgin:

  • I felt humbled after the workshop Friday, so many talented people devoted to such a worthy cause – the fact that the leadership put so much effort into sharing their vison with us and allow us to become part of it through participation, only makes me more committed to contribute to the success of GCH. I hope I can be a part of its future.

  • Canuche Terranella; COO & MVV Veteran:

  • I love hearing the perspective of the guys I don’t work with every day. I love hearing about what Accountability means to Oscar, what Autonomy means to Larry, what happens when you take an idea from sales and you interpret it from the perspective of the site super.  It’s a great moment of sharing perspectives and re-calibration to what we’re working on.

  • Eric Thomassian; Project Engineer and MVV Virgin:

  • I think it’s an important workshop to have because we have so many people from different backgrounds who have different values and reasons for being here at Green Canopy. As a mission driven company, it’s important for me to have the opportunity to lay out our values and mission for the coming year. It aligns and connects us together as one company towards similar goals. We know better what we can expect from each other and what we to be held accountable for as a Green Canopy employee.

  • Ami Nieto; Office Manager, Portland Lead and MVV Veteran:

  • The annual MVV retreat is a fulfilling and motivating experience for me as an employee at Green Canopy. For me, this year’s retreat was a reflection of the recent changes within the Company and a reminder to focus on the importance of our core values. I would appreciate an all-day retreat so that we would have time to talk more about our vision and mission. There is so much more we could talk about as a group that would provide value to the culture we experience each day at Green Canopy.  It would also enable us to synthesize the values as a team and come up with the “new name” for those values that are being changed. It feels like we are losing a bit of the group voice by having the Leadership Team take it to another room/place/time to decide on those values among themselves.

Every year, our CEO has shown the same video during our Mission Vision Values retreat. The video depicts a funny, groovy dancer in a field doing his own thing. Soon he has a crowd around him and everybody is having a good time dancing and grooving and loving the music. For the last few years – Green Canopy has managed to attract a number of talented individuals who are excited to join in the dance and enjoy the music. This year – Aaron challenged us. He stopped the music and said “Dancing together in a field is fun but what if this were a flash mob?”

He challenged us all to hone in, focus and master what we do at the company so that when we all dance together it is choreographed and succinct- intentional yet impactful. At the core, we are all dedicated and passionate people – but becoming masters of our work, masters of our budgets, and masters of this business is what is going to take us from passion to profits – from dancing in a field alone, together – to dancing together in support of one another.

Sure the article mentions that construction workers are happy because the industry is on the rise which leads to job security, etc. but that can be said about a lot of industries. The reason why Green Canopy employees are so happy – is because we are a team – with shared values that allow us to dance together.

Corporate Values & Corporate Culture: is it Legit, or is it lip Service?

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Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy Inc.

According to 2013 research published by Luigi Guiso, Paolo Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, The Value of Corporate Culture, 85% of S&P 500 companies have at least one section of their website dedicated to -- what they call -- “corporate culture” i.e. principals and values that should inform the behavior of the firm’s employees. Values are important to promote and advertise on corporate websites and reports, because it is imperative for companies to manage their image. External stakeholders expect companies to have thought about their values and publicly acknowledge them. The act of creating and promoting values can help assure external and internal stakeholders that the company has a higher degree of integrity and is guided to conduct their business in a way that is consistent with and based on their stated values. 

Start with Intention

I recently spoke with the CEO of a publicly traded bank who was extremely proud of his employees for going through the process to create and document their values. They were, “developed by a group of really passionate employees that love this organization and only want the best for the bank, our employees and our customers.” Their guiding philosophy relating to their values are stated as, “Our Core Values encourage us to act in a manner that “wows” others and provide us with the opportunity to guide our actions that allow us to become who we want to be. We take pride in our Core Values and strive to live them each day.” This is an example that provides insight into great intentions and proactive leadership. However, when I asked him, “What does the bank do to ‘strive to live them each day’?” he floundered. Wasn’t it enough to go through the process to create their values and then promote them both externally and internally?

Learn from Employee Perception

This is a great place to start. But organizations that want to leverage the power of corporate culture to increase productivity and returns need to do more. 

The Guiso, et al. study also uncovered some additional, interesting facts regarding advertised values. Notably, the value most commonly exploited by the S&P 500 companies was “Innovation” followed by “Integrity” and “Respect”. When the researchers attempted “…to correlate the frequency and prominence of these values to measures of short and long term performance,” they “...fail[ed] to find any significant correlation.” Basically they found that advertised values are not a great indicator of corporate and employee performance. Perhaps that is because it is easy to state your values, so everyone does. 

Another point to note in the research is the concept of perceived value. The study found that if the employees of the company perceive management to have a high level of integrity, there was a positive correlation, and good outcomes in terms of higher productivity, profitability, and the ability of the company to attract talent. In other words it isn’t enough to create and promote values, they had to be perceived and held within the employee base of the organization.

Living Values

So how do we know if a company’s stated values are not just something that they claim to be true, but are indeed perceived and held by the employees of the company? 

A few clues to consider in your evaluation process: 

  1. If the company has its values listed internally or in an orientation packet, but they do not advertise their stated values on their website, this would suggest a note of caution. Again, according to the research paper, 15% of all S&P 500 companies do not advertise values. If you don’t talk about your values or share them with outside stakeholders then it is hard to be held accountable to them. It may also indicate that their management wants to be authentic and doesn’t feel the need to advertise values, however it certainly begs inspection.

  2. Does the firm, large or small, value their Human Resources Department or efforts. In small, start-up firms many times HR is valued lower than marketing. The commitment of the leadership to focus on their number ONE asset, their human resources, is indicative of their values. In larger companies, is the head of HR part of the Executive Suite? In other words how high up are Human Resources valued? If the head of HR is nowhere near the top of the company, this would indicate a gap and that the leadership of the firm does not have a high attribution to corporate values. 

  3. Inquire how developed their internal recruiting processes are. If employees don’t want to recommend their friends to work at the company… something may be off.

  4. Can an employee who has been at the company around one year tell you the values of the company? If the company is living their values, it should be easy and even exciting to share with others the shared sets of values at the firm.

  5. Can managers and employees give examples of when others made decisions that aligned with the values of the firm? Clearly if no one can, I would question if their values are lip service.

  6. Lastly, ask the vendors and customers of the firm what makes the company different from others in same field. If examples of what makes the firm different line up with their stated values, you can assume that their values are not just lip service and that the employee on the front lines is living the firm’s values. 


I am sure you can think of many more “sniff tests”. The fact that anyone can truth-test stated values should give employees, investors, and customers alike a leg up in identifying if a company is truly anchored by its values (which correlates to performance and profitability) or if their stated values are just the lip service of corporate collateral created in the back halls of the Marketing Department. 

B the Change, see the Change

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"If we don't pay attention, we risk running businesses at the expense of our communities, our planet and the future." 

Contributed by Krystal Meiners

It’s been nearly one year since Green Canopy became a certified B Corp. Our company, at that time, was a small and tight-knit group that was dedicated to living out our values and our mission. Our work was meaningful and the team was excited about growth.

It couldn’t have been a better decision to certify at that time. Our small and nimble team had created a rich corporate culture that everyone was excited about preserving. We were mindfully crafting systems for hiring, communication, and human resources that would ensure that our culture and values were protected as we grew. Certifying* was part of that process… but one year later we are finally seeing just how important it was.

Since then, Green Canopy has nearly doubled in size. We have started new business channels: from Fund development, to Custom Services, to RePurpose (a whole-house deconstruction program). We have gained talent, we have restructured; we have evolved. All the while, managing our culture, resources and social capital in a way that is intentional and meaningful. 

B Corp means a lot more to how we do business now. It enables us to do business the way we want to do business – the way we started out with our high-fiving, adventure-loving, sustainability-minded (Fbomb-dropping) nimble team not long ago. But now it allows us to do more. It holds us accountable, it guides us and gives us tools for growth. B Corp helps us do business better.

I asked some of our team, both new and old members, what B Corp means to them and how it allows them to do business better. Here is what they had to say:

  • Ami Nieto, Office Manager: B Corp certification has fueled our passion for sustainability and keeps it at the forefront of our minds in every business decision we make. It has changed the way we hire people and tuned our focus on attracting talent that is committed to our mission as a Certified B Corporation. B Corp inspired us to raise the minimum wage of our company to $15/hour. For being a company of less than 50 employees, this change is years ahead of other companies in our region and our industry.  We now offer stock options to all employees upon hire. We also contract with more local and sustainable suppliers. We have chosen to bank locally with an independent institution (Beneficial State Bank). Next year we hope to go completely paperless!

  • Bec Chapin, Director of Custom Construction: Being a B Corp takes the mission of Green Canopy out of the house and into the lives and operations of the company. It is about running business so that it is sustainable to the world, communities, and employees; and because of that, our clients. For too long we have run business for the benefit of the shareholders and forgotten that it is also a big part of the ecosystem of our lives. If we don't pay attention, we risk running businesses at the expense of our communities, our planet and the future. 

  • Caitlin Hoeberlein, (Spec Construction) Project EngineerI specifically sought out B Corporations when searching for job opportunities in Seattle. Previously, I worked for a small B Corp in New York, and I loved the attitude of people and the environment over profits. It was important to me that the company I worked for also supported those ideals that are so important to me.

  • Andy Woverton, Controller and Director of Fund Development: Being a B Corp is important to me because it is an important signal of how Green Canopy cares about our employees, responds to the communities in which we build, provides information to our shareholders and stewards our environment. The B Corp signal projects positively to current and potential future employees, neighbors and investors.

  • Nate Morr, RePurpose Site Supervisor: Being a B Corporation is important to the deconstruction work I am doing for the company because it allows me to be creative in the reuse/recycle of materials from the homes we deconstruct. Rather than solely being focused on the most efficient and economical method of material diversion, I can find unique ways of repurposing material that is beneficial to the environment, our community, and our company’s practices as well. For instance, having the Union Gospel Mission's 118 Design Program work with us to deconstruct and reuse reclaimed lumber is an excellent story for the diversion of our material that, once we streamline our processes, could be extremely efficient and economical while being 100% mission-aligned.

  • Sam Lai, CMO: I love that Green Canopy is a certified B Corp. Most home buyers today are still indifferent to energy efficiency in homes, but when someone buys a Green Canopy home, their super-low utility bill and amazing year-round comfort becomes an undeniable benefit to the homeowner. However, the societal benefits are less tangible. B Corp's rigorous environmental and social standards help to communicate how our homes are also better for communities and our environment. 

Each member of the team finds the B Corp certification meaningful for their own reasons, but putting some structure and accountability around those values strengthens our community and purpose. In the year since we certified, we have improved in all areas of our business and are currently working on a Corporate Social Responsibility Framework. This framework will help us develop a set of action-oriented goals for improvement, as well as help us improve our reporting and the measure of our impact. The steps we are taking, including even just revisiting team commitment to it through writing this post, help us collectively see the change and be all  the more intentional about B-ing the change.

* A B Corp is a for-profit company that is committed to gains in social and environmental capital rather than just monetary profits. It is a certification that is awarded by B Lab in Pennsylvania – an organization that scores companies based on a set of social and environmental metrics. Green Canopy’s score at certification was an 86.

Why Don't Agents Bike to Work?

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There are a million reasons. Period. What a hassle. Period. BUT… Can it be done?

In celebration of Bike to Work Month/Week/Day here in Seattle – I thought I would challenge Agents (especially our greenie followers) to challenge their notions of why it is impossible to be a bike commuter in this line of work (i.e. real estate).

I recently read an article in Wired Magazine about some tech-guy out of Portland. I have no idea what the article was about – but I do remember one of the interview questions. The reporter asked if Portland was indeed like the show Portlandia. Hilarious show, right?

And his answer was: “It’s pretty close to the real thing.” He goes on to state that his most “Portlandia Moment” was reading a bike blog that was discussing a new tow-able hot tub. Commenters were excited about the possibilities and even went so far as to discuss mobile midwives being a primary user of the tow-able hot tub! (WTF?)

While the blog comments also dive into other harebrained uses for the tow-able hot tub, I am left scratching my head. If Portland has Bike to Work Midwives, why can’t Seattle have Bike to Work Real Estate Agents?  Why is this idea so far-fetched?

In comparison – it seems like a pretty doable business model and maybe even a clever way of making a sale.

Imagine it: You’ve got a client couple (maybe even relocating from Portland) who work at Googlezon and want to see a few homes in Ballard. You meet them at the home on your bike, help them unload theirs from their Suburu Outback, look at the home and muse about the neighborhood. Then you take them to the next home while stopping to sip some water in a nearby park, muse about how awesome it is to be so close to the park. Onward to the next home! Talk about the bike lanes, then finish off near Burke Gilman for a beer at Populuxe Brewery and grab a bite from their food truck Fridays! Wow, Ballard is awesome via Bike! Let’s buy that super energy efficient home and save money on Energy and Gas! We <3 Seattle! All without having to circle Ballard at 5pm to find parking (that in itself is a huge time-saver)!

Here is a sample map using several available Green Canopy Homes!  LucyDinah & Maritime Lofts.



I asked our resident cyclist, Canuche (who bikes or runs to work EVERY DAY, like a total goon) what are some tips for Agents who may want to try out some different wheels for Bike To Work Day this Friday.

Here are his tips for making this doable:

Plan in Advance: Plot out your course and see if your client would be up for it!

Don’t go overboard. Maybe you want to show two houses in the neighborhood/maybe just one? Maybe you show them a place and you bike to a coffee shop to talk about it.

Bring Water: In a reusable bottle, of course.

Don’t overthink it: You don’t need a lot of gear to have a relaxing time and you don’t need to look like you just finished the Tour-de-France when biking 1 mile between homes.

Don’t invite the clients: Maybe this is just something you do for yourself – to stay fit, be healthy and enjoy the competition and the FUN of Bike to Work Month.

While Portland is CLEARLY number 1 on the country’s most bikable cities, Seattle is still in the top 10 (according to Walkscore). Bike to Work on Friday or Any DAY in May! You can find more tips for Biking here, at Cascade Bicycle Club. They are The producer's of the Bike to Work Challenge here in Seattle and can help anyone get started!

If our construction guys can do it…. So can our agents, right? (Yes, some of Construction Project Managers have been biking this month!)

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