Corporate Culture

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 canbecome 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:

Schedule Space to Review Annually

A mission statement can start to fall flat as company and client needs evolve. To address this, create space with your leadership team to ask questions like:

  • Does our mission statement still compel us to go to work in the morning?

  • Does our mission statement still encompass all of our current and future plans, is it relevant?

  • Does it reflect the organization’s theory of change

Generate Ideas with the Board and/or a Small Group of Long-Time Stakeholders

If the answers to the questions above reveal some necessary revising, bring your responses to these questions to your Board of Directors or small group of stakeholders who are invested in the future of your company. Enlisting the consulting services of LIFT Economy to facilitate this process helped Green Canopy ensure all group members had equal opportunity to participate:

  1.  LIFT began by surveying the Board and a group of Stakeholders, identifying words and aspects that feel stale or missing

  2. LIFT crafted test mission statements based on survey results to rotate around and generate ideas

  3. Leadership came together with a group of board members and stakeholders to review, revise and create about three new test mission statements


Take These new Mission Statements to the Entire Team

Every January, the entire Green Canopy gathers together for an entire day to reflect on our mission and values — we call it our “Mission, Vision, Values Retreat.” Getting the whole team’s buy-in on the mission and values helps everyone speak the same language and take ownership of their work and the company. McCarthyConsulting helped facilitate this process so that everyone on our team has equal opportunity to participate.

  1. Started with an ice-breaker game to get everyone loosened up and thinking creatively

  2. Put up the new mission statements on the wall from the small group brainstorming

  3. Gave everyone about five small sticky notes with 10 minutes to place their tags on the words or phrases from each that resonated with them, creating a heat map

  4. Took 15 minutes to break up into about five groups (for a company staff of 30+) to write five new mission statements based on the heat map

  5. Put the five new statements on the wall and gave everyone 10 more minutes to each place five more sticky notes on the statements and words that resonated with them the most

  6. Collected the top three new mission statements based on the heat map

Circle Back with the Board and/or Stakeholders

  1. Shared the top three new mission statements with the Board and Stakeholder group 

  2. Discussed if one or a combination stands out among the rest based on the theory of change and the direction the company is heading

  3. Gave everyone about 15 minutes and paper if needed to individually try out combinations

  4. Came together to share and craft the final version (a whiteboard works well for this)

  5. Shared with Green Canopy shareholders to vote on and ratify the new mission statement

Share with Staff and Stakeholders

Sharing the final results with staff and stakeholders gives an opportunity to buy-in to the direction of the company once again and fosters a new sense of pride and ownership in the work and company. 

Read more about our process for developing our theory of change, which greatly influenced this process and gave us clarity in our purpose and strategies. We also used a truncated version of this process at our “Mission, Vision, Values Retreat” to re-establish our corporate values for the year and how we want to operate as a team.

Amplify your Impact by Empowering Others

By: Krystal Meiners, Director of Marketing

What are the most impactful personal or business choices I can make to fight climate change? And is it my responsibility to do so?

As Green Canopy gears up for our first Empower Happy Hour of the year – I’ve been thinking about Forterra’s question of the evening. What are the most impactful personal or business choices that I can make to fight climate change? And is it my responsibility to do so? The second part always resounds with a bright, assertive “Yes!” in my mind. However, the other part of this question flutters and lands throughout my workday, across my desk, in and out of meetings; with answers both big and small. What are the most impactful personal or business choices that I can make to fight climate change?

My internal responses tend toward the personal solutions; challenges to buy local, volunteering for park cleanup in my community, reducing my consumption, eating more vegetarian meals, meditating on the power of fresh air, spending more time with my family outdoors connecting to nature. Beyond the personal, though, what are the business solutions that I can lean into to fight climate change?

In our Energy Performance Guarantee Program at Green Canopy, we have the opportunity to influence and incentivize conservation behavior with our homeowners. This guarantee amplifies our impact and empowers our homeowners to be able to live more efficiently and with a smaller carbon footprint than the average Seattle homeowner. We guarantee that each home that we build will perform as it was modeled by our third-party energy audits, or we will reimburse our homeowners the difference.

For the past two years, we have collected energy performance data through this program with surprising results. What we learned was that the majority of our homeowners were not buying into the program, and that the ones that did admitted that they did not understand their building systems well enough to operate their homes efficiently. Nearly two thirds of the claims that were submitted to us were showing overages beyond our 3rd party energy models. The average deviation from all of our claims was a 966kWh overage against the model. While that number is not a lot considering the average Seattle home consumes over 28,000kWh in a year, we still believe that this program is an incredible opportunity to influence, inspire and educate our homeowners. We want this program to be able to drive efficiency in our product in order to create real impact in our fight against climate change.

That is why our team is actively working to improve our process, educate our homeowners, and collect more data in order to achieve greater effectiveness. At the end of the day, we do more than just build homes. We want to live into our mission to inspire resource efficiency. The Energy Performance Guarantee is simply one business solution that we have that empowers our homeowners to live better, more efficiently and closer to the planet that we share. 

Stay tuned for more ideas in our upcoming blog series "Mission Metrics: Case Studies on Impact."


A Response from Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

For those of us that are deeply concerned with the current Presidential administration, I thought I would offer acknowledgement in solidarity and a potential response to consider throughout each day as you continue protesting in the streets across America.
Trump is a self-professed businessman and has proclaimed that he will create perpetual economic growth throughout his Presidency and beyond, even at the expense of equity and the environment. To which we can, and should respond with a resounding, “No!" Natural limits to growth exists as populations grow and resources diminish. Perpetual economic growth at the expense of equity and the environment simply cannot be sustained, nor should the idea be tolerated as acceptable.
For years the “buy local” movement has been a compelling response to the perpetual growth model and well articulated in Wendell Berry’s short book of essays, “In the Presence of Fear." Buying local, and all that it entails, helps to strengthen our local communities and economies as we work to address our environmental and social equity issues in a more sustainable and less consumptive manner.
Today we find ourselves confronted with a Presidential administration that is happy to operate as a bull in global and national “china-shops,” rolling back environmental regulations not to mention our constitutional liberties. Given this as the backdrop it is more important than ever to perhaps reconsider our consumption behaviors and retrench to our local establishments and communities. The consumer has the loudest voice in our democracy. If consumers change their behavior, companies take notice, and correspondingly so do politicians.
To this, I ask you to send a message to this administration along with me and thoughtfully limit your consumption of global brands, and perhaps in general. Will you join me in more deliberately and critically considering the purchases you intend to make? Can you think about holding off, or reflect on not going out to dinner or away for that vacation? Perhaps consider focusing on local purchases, “stay-cations”, dinners at home with family and friends and making your investments locally.
But you may say, “Aaron, buying local and limiting our national consumer trends by perhaps even 5% would certainly cause a recession!” Frankly, is there a better way to send a message to a President who has trumpeted his business and economic acumen? Perhaps there is, however corporate sponsors won’t continue clinging if their numbers go down. Protest with your pocketbook and send an economic message to a business baron and let go of fear of a potential self-induced recession
Recessions come and go, and if a recession were indeed to arrive as a result of buying local, perhaps it would be more easily corrected than otherwise. More importantly, a recession caused by conscious consumption puts economic control in the right hands; in your hands, the hands of the people and not corporations or politicians. Send a message and buy locally, invest locally, walk to a friend or neighbor’s house for dinner, take transit, and walks in the dark and beautiful woods instead of heading to the movies.
If you ever needed an excuse or a little nudge to buy local and perhaps even less, the excuse sits in the White House and the nudge is constantly viewed on your news push-notifications. Take action throughout your every day. Consider more critically and deliberately as you buy products and consume goods. Mindfully, in the moment, think about buying less, buying local, investing local. Let go of fear and embrace the power of your pocketbook to create change. 

Share an easy, yet meaningful idea as a comment below that may be helpful to others as we all align to living and buying more locally.

Ends or Means?


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.


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.

The Transformative Power of Frameworks


What impact could we have if we were all just a bunch of tree huggers united under a green canopy? Our logo is definitely symbolic of the work that we are doing to change the course of climate change - and certainly everyone knows that we have sang our share of kumbaya - but it's the fast, hard data that delivers our projects and helps us work toward improvement at Green Canopy.

Decision making and benchmarking frameworks are integral to Green Canopy’s operations. Our acquisitions team uses a data driven framework and metrics to identify and purchase attractive development properties. Our project managers use a framework for guiding construction related decisions from start to finish. The reporting outputs are used to inform and manage future acquisitions and projects.

These carefully crafted systems support us in driving toward consistent execution and continuous improvements. We learn from the successes and failures of our decisions by establishing baseline metrics and measuring and reporting against them. This ultimately makes Green Canopy a better homebuilder. And importantly, creates a stronger and more resilient company, reduces risk for our debt fund members and builds a more valuable brand for shareholders.

Investors face similar challenges, especially those pursuing positive social and environmental impacts alongside financial performance. Without a guiding framework, impact investors are left to untangle a confusing mix of information and options. An impact framework can be a transformative tool enabling investors to move beyond intuitive guesswork toward more systematic and objective decision making.  

We hope you will join us in attending an event, Impact Investing with Purpose, being hosted by The CAPROCK Group and SNW Asset Management on Tuesday, October 20th, 6 to 8 PM at Seattle Impact HUB. Green Canopy board member Kyle Mylius will moderate a panel exploring the evolution and use of impact investing frameworks and metrics. Panelist Luni Libes, a familiar face to many of you from Fledge and Pinchot University, will offer insights into The Pinchot Impact Index, the subject of Luni’s recently published book. The event will close with a preview of CAPROCK’s iPAR impact investment framework and evaluation platform.

Women's List for the Mountains


Excerpt from the Washington Women's Cookbook, 1909

1. Sleeping Bag, consisting of three bags - one inside the other.
(1) Waterproof shell, of khaki or rubber or parafined canvas or oiled silk
(2) Double wool blanket bag
(3) Comfort padded with wool bats, the comfort folded and sewed together as a bag.

2. Tramping suit:
(1) Bloomers or knickerbockers
(2) Short skit, knee length, discarded on the hard climbs
(3) Wool waist or jumper
(4) Sweater or heavy coat

3. Three pairs of cotton hose

4. Three pairs of boys' wool socks to wear as the second pair of hose to prevent chafing

5. Mountain boots to the knee with heavy soles, heavy enough for hob-nails and these must be placed in the soles before starting, using 3 1/2 eighths Hungarian nails in the instep as well as in the heels and soles 

Say Hello to Cora! 2902 NE 53rd

It's always fun to research names for our homes. It is one of the identifying features of a Green Canopy Home - and most of our homes are named after women who have made history and who have helped us get to where we are today. I couldn't help but highlight one of our newest acquisitions. The moniker for this home certainly is a story worth being told! Our latest project is Cora - after Dr. Cora Smith Eaton.

Cora was one of Seattle’s leaders in women’s equality during the turn of the century. Additionally – she was the first female secretary of the Mountaineers Club and also the first woman to summit Mt. Olympus (not to mention she summited all 6 of Washington’s major mountains). 

Cora was also a doctor of medicine and was the first woman doctor to practice in North Dakota before moving to Seattle. She was licensed in several states by the end of her career and ran a practice with her husband Dr. Robert A Eaton.

And my favorite anecdote – Cora also helped author the Washington Women’s Cook Book – a PR stunt for the Suffragettes to help get the message of women’s equality to the women who were still stuck in their kitchens – and to help sway men to support women’s right to vote by saying even the Suffragettes can still put a good meal on the table. Brilliant! 

Cora's contribution to the Cook Book consisted of the list above (they have a section on packing food for a hiking trip) and a recipe for (drum roll please...) Tea. Yes - her meaningful, amazing contribution was Tea. The recipe is below - but in her heart of hearts, you can see where Cora's priorities were. She was an adventurer... blazing trails for all of us.

But clearly, none of us can live in the PNW without tea. 

She is one bad ass mademoiselle. Welcome to Green Canopy. 

A Recipe for Tea
In two quarts of fresh water, boiling hard, put a loose cheesecloth bag containing four heaping teaspoons of tea. Cover and let stand by the fire for five minutes, but do not boil. Then remove the bag of tea, as leaving it in will make the tea bitter. Or, if the bag is not convenient, pour the tea off the leaves after it has steeped for five minutes. -Cora Eaton


Mission, Vision, Values: Part 2


Contributed by Sam Lai

"It was great sitting next to you in English.  Stay cool over the summer and don't ever change!  xoxoxo"  

Every year, there is a common concern that is voiced by our team members when begin our Mission, Vision, Values review process. If we love our company culture...why would we ever consider changing our values. They are, after all, at the core of how we treat each other.  

"I love working at Green Canopy and I hope we never change!"  

However, when I consider what it means to grow-up, I'm reminded of how thankful my wife is that I've changed since she met me. Angie and I were barely past puberty when we met at the University of Washington. At that time, one of my greatest talents was a smile and my signature wink.  Seriously. The wink was the single greatest strength in my arsenal of babe-wooing skills.  For some reason, the wink doesn't do much for Angie now when I come home to our family of 5. Fortunately, I've grown up just a little bit I've added dish washing to my tool belt. We haven't lost that loving feeling, but we've certainly grown up.  

As for Green Canopy, we've grown up as a company too. We will remain focused on our mission to inspire resource efficiency. And many core values remain the same such as "authentic communication" and being "solutions focused." But how have we grown and changed? Below are some of the ways that are values are evolving at Green Canopy. In our MVV: Part 3 we will look at our final list of Values as well as how we have incorporated our shared values into our employee review process.

What's Changing?

1. "If it ain't broken, break it!"  
We started our company with a commitment to Innovation - While most builders exist only to make profit. Green Canopy exists to fulfill our mission...our profit allows us to continue our mission work.  
We started using the EPS score developed in Portland to baseline our projects' annual modeled energy consumption before most people ever heard of an energy audit. Oops.  I forgot, most people still don't know what it is!  Innovation is already at the core of who we are and we won't forget it. Today we have shifted our focus away from innovation toward "Professional Mastery."  The focus on systems and processes we've developed and continue to improve will allow us to build many more inspirational homes efficiently in multiple market areas...sounds innovative right?  

2. "Live-Work-Balance" 
In the past, this mantra was used to describe how we value each other beyond work.  However, the words seemed to set our personal life at odds against our work. Most of us see our personal purpose lived out in the work that we get to do here at Green Canopy. The new verbiage will sound more like "Fostering Community at Work."  

3. "Autonomy" 
This value came from Daniel Pink and his exploration of Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose being a prime motivation for individuals to excel in their work. You can watch the TED talk here.

Autonomy is at the core of the most driven teams, and since this cultural orientation is pretty well set at Green Canopy – we are shifting our attention to the next level, Accountability! This takes into account how our individual work connects to the greater team.

In the grand scheme, an outsider will not notice too much of a change in the way we treat each other here at Green Canopy. Many of the atypical values you'd never expect to see at a construction company will remain intact. We will continue to stay lighthearted and have fun. We will continue to talk about our feelings. And good god yes, we value vulnerability!  At the core of it, these values help us to communicate well, excel and to learn and grow quickly.  We know we have a mission to accomplish and we have to grow past our comfort zone to do it.  

Some days, I still wish that a simple wink is enough to be the hero. But my family is certainly better off with the fact that I've learned how to wash the dishes really, really, really well.

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.

Home for the Holidays


Contributed by Krystal Meiners; Director of Marketing

The holidays are usually a time for family, a time for friends and loved ones and a time of reflection and celebration for what you have. For many, it is also a time for worship or travel or even shopping.

What I find especially exciting about this Christmas – is that many families including my own and will be celebrating this holiday season in their very first home. All across Seattle (and the world really) there are people, couples and individuals building new traditions in a brand new place. It is a special time of year and a special moment to realize that, as a homebuilder, we are incredibly involved in the process of helping to build those dreams and traditions for people.

While our designers are not typically thinking of where to put the Christmas trees or menorahs – we are thinking about spaces in terms of entertainment, family, capturing moments, creating delight, delivering mystery and excitement, connecting to nature and cradling that low winter light from the Pacific Northwest. We think that the spaces we build can help shape these experiences into lasting memories that live with the home and create a safe and inspirational space for generations.

Green Canopy has built 20+ homes this year. We hope that that will equate to thousands of exciting, warm and happy memories for the families and individuals that will be celebrating this year in a brand new Green Canopy Home.

Welcome Home to our newest Green Canopy Homeowners and Happy Holidays to all!

Here are some of the inspirational spaces that Green Canopy has built this year:

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


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 “[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. 

Cultivating Seeds of Corporate Culture


"The more alive values are within a group the stronger the bond and the greater the resiliency of that group. It’s about so much more than happy hour beers."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy Inc.

Have you ever heard ANYONE say after coming back from Europe, “I had a great trip, but I just hope those Brits/Germans/French don’t lose their culture?” The very notion of a nation losing its culture seems silly. Sure cultures change, but they change over time. National cultural changes happen slowly and change is usually driven by a shock to the current way of life. 

For whatever reason, corporate culture doesn’t seem as “fixed” as national culture. Nations lose their leadership, have lots of turnover and people come and go all the time. And nations are influenced by other nations in ways that it is hard to imagine might happen in companies. So what makes company culture more susceptible to change? 

Fast Starts and System Shocks

I recently spoke with David Norris, CEO of MD Insider. We both agreed that companies tend to start-up rather quickly. People come together in the beginning more out of chemistry and shared excitement about the opportunity surrounding the product or idea. More often than not, they share a common national cultural framework so they already have a great basis to begin working together. They also have a shared language, and typically share the same historical perspective, political and economic frameworks (socialist, democratic, capitalist, parliamentarian), etc. Layer chemistry on top of a similar national cultural framework, and that can take the newly formed company down the road a fair bit.

The breakdown typically comes, just like with a nation, with a shock to the system. For a company this could mean jumping from four employees to twenty in less than one year, and then from twenty to forty in another six months.  When countries are merged together for one reason or another, we often watch as the individual cultures tear them back apart... Infighting can happen as larger and more powerful countries begin to dictate terms. Just bringing a similar currency to Europe has been challenging since adoption of the Euro. In the same way, with companies experiencing rapid growth, bigger personalities typically dictate cultural norms, and when those personalities move, for good or bad, so goes the cultural dictator.

Core Values As Cultural Seeds

To help ensure your corporate culture isn’t encapsulated and controlled in one or two, or even just a few key personalities, consider what is at its core. Culture can be defined as the shared values, language, beliefs, and customs of a group. At the heart of culture is how we interact and behave together. At the heart of culture is how we interact together and behave together… David referred to our shared set of core values as the seeds of culture. As the seeds of culture take root in your workplace, your teams will thrive and productivity will increase. 

If a group of people has a shared set of values, they can be pointed toward any mission or vision, and as long as they buy into the mission and vision, they will excel.  Core values incorporate our language, what we celebrate, how we develop, our rights of passage, and how we interact. For a country, these things may seem obvious. For companies, it seems less than obvious for many leaders.  In fact, I’ve heard more about the importance of the boss taking people out for beer as a means to “create culture”, than working on our values to create culture. Hmmm.

Whether a company’s values are implicit or explicit, they exist. The more explicit the shared sets of values, the more that group of people “live” their values. The more alive values are within a group the stronger the bond and the greater the resiliency of that group. It’s about so much more than happy hour beers.

Every Day Values

Companies often explicitly state their values on their websites and in promotional material, creating a veneer of credibility and sincerity. One of the most infamous examples of this is Enron’s four capital V Values: Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence. Clearly this broke down long before the company failed. So if our values are the seeds of culture then nurturing and cultivating these values throughout every day will help to keep them alive and healthy, rather than stale and static on a corporate website.

For a traveler, there’s a difference between that sense of “Love this place, but wouldn’t want to live here” and “I would love to live here!” It’s the same in companies. Living your corporate values and keeping them alive and healthy within the company means the right people will find they’d “love to work here”, and the “wrong” people will move along. A company whose employees work to keep their shared values alive within the organization will allow the company culture and the team to thrive through down times and times of change and growth.

B the Change, see the Change


"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.

Changing Times, Changing Minds


"64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy

A lot of research has been dedicated to learning more about Millennial attitudes as companies struggle to adjust corporate cultures to align with their thinking. This cohort has received a bad rap in most of the research, but at Green Canopy we have found that building a culture that unleashes the “Millennial Mindset” in all of our employees increases our productivity and our ability to execute our mission to inspire resource efficiency. For this reason, I believe that organizations should work to realign their corporate cultures to foster this mindset in their employees. A few fun facts below help illustrate the point that the future of successful businesses will be predicated on creating corporate cultures that are designed to attract and retain millennial minded employees of any age. 

  • Millennials (People born in 1981 or after) comprise more than one in three of adult Americans by 2020.

  • They will make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

  • 89% expressed a stronger likelihood that they would buy from companies that supported solutions to specific social issues. 

  • 87.5% disagreed with the statement that "money is the best measure of success," compared to about 78% of the total population. 

  • The top ideal employers of currently employed Millennials are Google, Apple, Facebook, the U.S. State Department, and Disney. Note: Five of the top 15 most ideal employers are government agencies (State Dept., FBI, CIA, NASA, and Peace Corps). 

  • 63% want their employer to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important. About half of older Gen Xers and Boomers felt the same.

  • 64% would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring.

Source for the above:

  • Not only do half of all Millennials choose not to identify with either political party, just 31% say there is a great deal of difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.[Polarizing politics are a vestige of the silent and boomer generations, and not necessarily part of the future of America.]

  • Despite their financial burdens, Millennials are the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists. More than eight in ten say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want (32%) or expect to in the future (53%).

Source for the above:

  • Millennials are connected. The idea of being required to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day strikes the Millennial as bizarre.

  • Millennials don’t want to simply pay their dues as did previous generations. For many companies, the default process is to promote based on tenure rather than talent. [Equal pay and promotion for equal work… Merit rules the day. What a concept!?]

Source for the above:


Image courtesy of Flickr: Valtech Sweden

The below excerpt was taken from an interview with Ron Alsop who did the research and wrote the definitive book on Millennials

“Kuhn: How can employers best capitalize on the millennial generation?

Alsop: I believe employers can best capitalize on millennials by making them feel that their work is important, giving them lots of feedback and positive reinforcement, and telling them that the company will help them develop their skills and career potential. This generation isn't loyal to any one company and is likely to work for many employers. But millennials will be more apt to stay with an employer if they can see why their sometimes seemingly mundane job is important to the company's success. They also want to build their portfolio of skills and experiences through mentoring, training and development programs, and the opportunity to switch jobs within their company…”

Evolve Into the Millennial Mindset

Frankly the work of today and tomorrow is important work. As the world’s population continues to grow and strain our finite planetary resources, all businesses of the future will have to consider and adapt to working more with less resources. Many more businesses will intentionally start and organize themselves to tackle some of the world’s pressing resource scarcity and climate challenges, while also doing well for their shareholders and by their employees.

As I synthesize all of this, the Millennial picture becomes clear. This mindset is a key to our world’s future success because Millennials are a large percentage of working Americans now and will be in the future. They are diplomatic peacemakers for whom success doesn’t necessary equal wealth. They want to work at doing good in the world. They would rather have a job of purpose and challenge than one that is boring and pays more. They are optimistic, believe in merit over tenure, and prefer coaching over being told how to perform. Rather than complain about the Millennial Mindset, we should celebrate it, seek it out and foster it in our work.  

The successful businesses of tomorrow will employ people with the Millennial Mindset that some love to hate. Their cultures will be designed to unlock the inner Millennial in all their employees and earn the right of retention for those they are so fortunate to serve. The stodgy business practices that made corporations great in the past, thrived in what is no longer our world: a very top down, heavily bureaucratic, do-as-you-are-told, perceived limitless resource reality. Thankfully, society has largely evolved beyond those outdated business practices. It is time for employers to do the same.

Water to Wine: Green Home Transformation in PDX


“He heard me on Seattle’s local NPR affiliate. He saw our ad, and he was determined to work for Green Canopy, learn our business, prove himself and show what he is capable of. He got the job."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

Ryan Nieto came into the office looking like a modern “Urban Jesus”. The moniker stuck. Thick long brown hair, beard, tats… full on Portlandia meets Seattle. He was working as a mechanical HVAC installer, installing air-conditioning systems at QFC grocery stores. He wanted to work for us as a laborer.

He said he saw the ad on our website. It wasn’t adding up for me. He was making good money as a mechanical installer and wanted to take a cut in pay and responsibility to work for Green Canopy. “Who was this guy?” I was thinking.

As it turns out Ryan is a veteran of the Marine Corps in Iraq. He is an avid bouldered/climber and outdoor enthusiast. He has the millennial mindset that the Green Canopy culture warmly embraces. And most importantly he leads with his heart and his mind. Which is another way of saying he follows his heart as his mind works the calculations. Love that. He came in bold into the office, eyes on fire and twitching, a vestige of hard times spent in a war zone. He heard me on Seattle’s local NPR affiliate. He saw our ad, and he was determined to work for Green Canopy, learn our business, prove himself and show what he is capable of. He got the job.

Green Canopy is the only for-profit homebuilder (that we are aware of) in all of America that was intentionally and deliberately started to combat and lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resource scarcity via in-city homebuilding.

We are run by a group of commited contractors, bankers, designers and most importantly, business people who are breaking the typical homebuilder mold and working hard to build an inspirational brand that helps to leave the world better off. We are funded by a similar minded base of over 40 shareholders and counting… We are lucky to have shareholders that are dedicated to investing their money where their values are for the sake of future generations. We are propelled by the Real Estate Agent community that understands their roll in residential real estate can be used to create transformational change for the better by promoting Green Canopy’s mission and vision of the future.

We are banking on the success of Portland to fuel expansion outside the Pacific Northwest region and into other markets across the country."With Green Canopy all started up and on solid footing in Seattle, it is time to take the most important step in our company’s short existence: expand and prove that our model can organically grow like a bamboo shoot into new markets. We are so excited to take this critical next step and expand to Portland! Portland is more important to the future success of Green Canopy than anything we are currently working on. We are banking on the success of Portland to fuel expansion outside the Pacific Northwest region and into other markets across the country.

And we are lucky.

As a city, Portland shares what is at the heart of Green Canopy. Green Canopy, like Portland, is brimming with purpose-seeking, millennial minds. As the show Portlandia famously put it, “Portland is the place where young people go to retire.” …Retire from the top down, do-as-your-told, speak-when-spoken-to, non-purposeful J. O. B. economy, to engage in the purpose driven economy where merit prevails over tenure, mentoring over micro-managing, and critical consumption over wanton consumption. Thank God that a city so dedicated to getting the new economy right, with local brands long dedicated to local, conscious, and sustainable living such as Powels Books, Ecotrust, Clean Energy Works, and so many more, represents the future success for Green Canopy.

Over the course of the last three years, Ryan has taken 10 old, run-down, drafty homes and miraculously transformed these into resource efficient, certified green, and the highest in quality rebuilt homes to inspire generations of future residents. Working out of the Ecotrust building in the Pearl, Ryan will be responsible for applying his hard earned homebuilding magic to manage the inspirational transformation of old homes to new, and building brand new homes designed to inspire and create awareness of the benefits of resource efficiency.

Ryan is Green Canopy is Ryan. We share the same mission, vision and values and are hopeful that these will resonate in Portland. So nearly three years on, Urban Jesus, is heading to the City of Bridges. Don’t expect him to walk across the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to get there, or go into business transforming water to wine… his assignment is much more terrestrial and perhaps mundane in nature. We don’t have a divine goal of saving humanity, but we are humbly trying to make the world a little better place through our work. Here we come…

Yes, Building Green Does Cost More


“This study adds to a growing body of work on the costs and value of sustainability. It provides further strong evidence that a sustainable approach need not add significantly to building costs. And, where there are additional capital costs, these can be repaid relatively quickly through the reduced costs of operating the building."-Yetunde Abdul, Non-domestic Group Manager at BREEAM UK | New Research Challenges the Perception that Sustainability Costs

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

At Green Canopy we build homes that cost less to own and we guarantee that. This is a benefit that is enjoyed directly by our homeowners. Year over year they will see their energy bills pale in comparison to their neighbors. While Green Canopy builds the homes - it is the customer that collects the savings from "green" not the builder.

That is why when someone asks "Doesn't it cost more to build green?" the answer is a resounding "Yes." The cost of building a Green Canopy home is higher... much higher, but the process is also more thorough, and as a result the homes are simply better. However, selling these amazing homes at a competitive price in the market and making a profit doesn’t appear easy when the cost to build them is higher… so we are dedicated to innovating our building processes and managing within the cost constraints of the marketplace.

At Green Canopy, we have always been dedicated to efficiently managing our supply chain and process management systems to compensate for the significantly increased costs of bringing green, efficient and more sustainable homes to the market. The challenge of building the highest quality homes that are better for our families and the planet and doing so within the cost constraints of the market has always been identified as our number one challenge… and we are up for the challenge!

I recently read this great piece commenting on a new research study: New Research Challenges the Perception that Sustainability Costs. I have heard discussions and arguments for years that building green, efficient and more sustainable homes cost more. The discussions and research studies assert that the additional costs of building more sustainable buildings isn’t drastic especially when considering the reduced cost of ownership. It is wonderful that this new study clearly shows how to recapture the additional cost of resource efficient construction! Unfortunately for Green Canopy we don’t live in our homes, so we can’t benefit from the operational cost savings that we build into the homes.

However, the women and men of Green Canopy love the challenge of building green homes and selling them at competitive market prices. We continue to push ourselves and figure out new methods of project management, design and material procurement. With every home we sell we are living up to the challenge and bringing the best in housing to market. As a result of this dedication to quality and innovation, we can competitively price our homes in the market, they in turn sell fast, and our homeowners save money. We know that if we can outperform our competition we will build a thriving business, while creating beautiful and resource efficient homes that will rest on the surface of the Earth inspiring generations of future homeowners to come.

Cultures of Respect, Trust & Love


Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

I recently read the PSBJ article by Rachel Lerman on elephants under the corporate table. In the article she recapped an interview between Joe Wallin of Davis Wright Tremaine and Dan Levitan, the founder of Maveron. It was striking to hear Levitan, a venture capitalist, talk about not underestimating the importance of a “holistic team where there are no elephants under the table.” He noted that the most agile and high-functioning teams have love, respect, and appreciation for each other.

It sounds like Levitan is a millennial at heart. Corporate America is changing rapidly. The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s Mad Men era of, “do as you are told” and heavy, top down management is a thing of the past. And as this interview illustrates, the importance of healthy corporate cultural development can no longer be denied. The millennial generation has been given a bad rap and pointed to as entitled and fickle job-hoppers, however my experience is that inside every top caliber talent, whether they were born before or after 1981, exists a millennial mind and heart.

"When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens."

High functioning people need to be inspired to work hard. As Elon Musk recently said, “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard, putting in long hours for a cause is easy.” In addition to having a cause that inspires, high functioning people need to feel respected in order to contribute their all. Furthermore, they will not work for a team that they themselves cannot respect. Just look at the non-profit world. Nonprofits are all about great causes yet, we all probably know at least one or two that can never seem to live up to their potential. Having a great cause or purpose in today’s corporate America isn’t enough… creating inspiration at intersection of people and the cause results from a deliberate focus on corporate culture.

When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens. Think of that framework as a tapestry of shared values. Everything from who washes dishes in the corporate kitchen to how board meetings are run… those values present themselves to the rest of the team. If there is misalignment or inconsistency, no matter how noble the cause, the ecosystem of the organization will begin to break down. Respect and love for each other is so important.

Equally important is trust, where confident leaders motivate not through the force of their egos, but by letting go of control and empowering their team to take responsibility for their own decisions. Having autonomy is a must for top tier talent (micro-managers suck) and talented people are the very people that we all want to work with. Good managers will let go of control beyond what feels comfortable and play to the strengths of the team. Playing to someone’s strengths is simply another way of saying, don’t ask people to do what they are not good at. If a team member was hired for a job that they are not good at or interested in, then management should recognize their complicity and move the individual into a role that they are good at and interested in mastering.

Lastly, when thinking about the insights of people like Levitan, consider how far we have come in managing top talent in America, and then consider just how far we still have yet to go. Thankfully, the millennial mind has been born and is demanding more from corporate America. It demands that managers earn the right to retain top talent… top talent isn’t only interested in money.

The problems we face as a nation and as a species balancing on stressed and changing ecosystems are pressing to say the least. Establishing corporate cultures that are designed ultimately to respect people and play to their strengths is a must for the successful businesses of the future, and a must for a fragile species in need of corporate solutions that address resource scarcity on a planet in transition.

Inspiring at the Intersection of Corporate Attitude & Climate Action


I met my wife, Susan, 14 years ago at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. I was a banker and Susan was forming a non-profit mentorship program for at-risk youth in south Seattle. She was attending the meeting to recruit mentors and came away with a lot more than she anticipated. We lived very different lives at the time however we shared similar values of social and environmental justice.

Over the course of the next several years I continued to feel juxtaposed in life. I was working to make money, and really wanted to be making a difference. The juxtaposed feeling culminated in meeting another couple on a hiking outing in 2003, when I was asked what I did for a living. When I responded that I worked in banking, the couple immediately looked at Susan and asked what she did for a living. When she said that she worked in the non-profit sector, they quickly struck up a conversation leaving me feeling like a third wheel. Ugh… it was time for a change.

I guess I share many of the attitudes of the millennial generation, meaning I am far from alone. I am ambitious and demand a lot from an employer in order to earn my respect and retention. I am fine working long hours from the office and from home if I am inspired, and I believe in perhaps a naïve notion that I can live an aligned life.

When I reflect on my own experience and look out at the world around me I see the intersection of two major factors that are driving our company, Green Canopy, and the future of business:

1) The prevailing cultural attitude of the “millennial” shared by so many born before and after 1981, and;

2) Society’s hard charging transition into a new world paradigm of severe resource constraints and climate upheaval.

The success of Green Canopy and other companies is limited only in our ability to positively respond to these two things.

The first of these requires that we inspire our employees and earn the right of their respect and continued employment. And whether the business of an organization is about addressing environmental challenges head on like Green Canopy or not, the most successful businesses of the future will intentionally conduct their operations in the most resource efficient manner possible. Simple, yet oh so difficult.

“At Green Canopy we recognize that we are firmly planted with everyone else somewhere along the spectrum of hypocrisy.”

After the culminating hike in 2003, I spent much of my time trying to create alignment in my life by finding ways to apply my skills and experiences toward environmental issues. That eventually led me to quit working at my father’s bank in order to start my own enterprise. And in 2008 I shared an idea I had recently been mulling on with a longtime friend. After a short period of time Sam and I began developing the plan and finding the right partners that would lead to starting Green Canopy over one year later.

At Green Canopy we recognize that we are firmly planted with everyone else somewhere along the spectrum of hypocrisy. Our mission is to inspire resource efficiency and – while we are extremely intentional and deliberately try to always make the most resource efficient and less environmentally harmful homebuilding decisions – we have yet to perfect our efforts in building the utmost in green and resource efficient homes. Sometimes we are faced with no other alternative than to make the less resource efficient or more wasteful decision. It sincerely frustrates the team when this happens. We certainly have green building design and development standards that we never sacrifice, but the cruel realities of market-based economics sometimes force our hand. And yet many times these very same constraints open up new possibilities. However, at the end of the day we are far from perfect. So when I talk about our company it comes from a position of deep humility and a desire to inspire others to take action.

Inspiring at the intersection of the prevailing cultural attitude and the new world paradigm of severe resource constraints is clearly tricky. How we go about it at Green Canopy is through delivering – for our employees – what Daniel Pink has written heavily about: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Intentionally building a company designed to deliver these three essential things to its employees took a lot of thought and dedication to cultural development. As a result of our culture we cannot help but to give employees autonomy to make their own empowered decisions, the ability to master what they are already interested in, and a binding sense of purpose. Inspiring at the intersection happens right there, with the binding sense of purpose. Developing a cultural framework that allows every employee to meaningfully engage in addressing that purpose is part of the work.

When Susan and I reflect on the journey of the last decade and the sacrifices that we have made as a family to get here, we know that it was well worth the struggle. We are aligned through our work and in our day-to-day lives and we are proud that through this career we are making a meaningful and lasting difference. Also, despite the hike and my feelings of career shame, my banking skills definitely come in handy at Green Canopy. The future of business requires innovation on every front, including capital.


Gearing up for Fall... or six Reasons we did not Blog this Summer


So blogging during the summer was a bust for Green Canopy – clearly. I can offer any number of excuses, and I will, but let’s first just say that reading blogs about residential real estate, building, the economy or any number of relevant-to-work-not-pleasure topics while on vacation is not something that Green Canopy endorses anyway. We hope you all had an amazing summer. And now that you are gearing up for the holidays and getting back into the swing of working, school, shorter days and rainy weather that keeps you inside and perhaps on the computer longer – we hope that you will come back to our blog.

There is a lot going on at Green Canopy and we are now considering switching things up a bit with the blog. We are going back to our roots. Our 4 Roots to be exact. Instead of focusing solely on the real estate market we will be blogging under the themes of Value, Innovation, Beauty and Energy Efficiency. Every Green Canopy Home grows from these 4 Roots and we are working hard to develop a program that defines each of these and answers the question “What is a Green Canopy Home?” Many of you may have read about our 3 Roots and our Brand Pillars, V.I.B.E., and this is something that we have decided to simplify and combine into one cohesive concept. We want to put our work out there in a way that is transparent and inspirational in a message that comes from our whole team and not just the geeky marketing genius that is me. I will be interviewing our project managers, photographing and documenting our projects and process to share with the world. Sure this has been done before – but not by us. And so what? We have a story to tell and a lot of cool behind-the-scenes shenanigans to share. Join us!

6 Reasons why Green Canopy did not blog this summer:

  1. Umm… the weather. More time spent outside digging in the dirt and enjoying the Emerald City in the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Best. Summers. On. The. Planet.

  2. Too much going on. Green Canopy moved from Fremont to Georgetown (there is still a draft blog about this sitting in the queue -  and while it was fantastically funny, it just never got released or finished – email me if you are interested in reading a draft blog about our move).

  3. Too much going on Part 2. We launched a number of things this summer including Green Canopy Custom, our Presale Program and have been working on the Green Genius Awards behind the scenes.  A lot to blog about without a lot of time.

  4. Alder Fund. In case you haven’t read about this here is the Press Release from a couple of weeks ago. Green Canopy was busy this summer raising millions of investment dollars (literally) to fund the construction of our homes so we can keep churning out the good work!

  5. Children and babies and family and fun. While it may look like Green Canopy never stops, having just purchased our 50th property (GO US). We do stop and make time for family. I could take a moment to blog in the evening when I get home – but sometimes the weather is just too perfect and a family walk is more exciting than a blog. Not to mention – our very own VP of Operations is now a new DAD! Congrats to him and his family. We really cannot wait until he returns. Our CEO can hardly manage without him.

  6. And the 6th reason why we did not blog… Well, let’s just chalk it up to Growth. We are growing. We are hiring, we are getting bigger and better and bolder than ever before. We are succeeding and we are rocking Seattle’s socks off. We are building homes as well as relationships and making the tides rise because that’s what we, as builders, do during the summer to help us get through the winter.

So stay tuned for the good and the bad to come through the seasons.


The Green Canopy Team

Why Don't Agents Bike to Work?


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!)