From Bob’s Desk: ‘Start with Why’

By Bob Bacon

I was recently in a training session related to ski coaching and was shown a YouTube video by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why.” 

Simon’s premise is: the best companies don’t just talk about what they do and how they do it, but why they do what they do. I was honestly stumped! I couldn’t really articulate why Elm does what it does. After all my recent collaborations and communications of the ELM Essentials codifying how we do our work, I couldn’t explain WHY!

It was a great question! I felt like I knew why I ran the company as I have for the last 23 years. I pretty much ran it the same way Bob Schmidt ran it in the earlier years. But it really seems like something I should be able describe, don’t you think? I run the place.

I finally figured it out. It began to come to me when I was working with Steve Plasse and Adam Gray, who were helping me with an electronic board problem. Steve is a talented troubleshooter, especially when things get unusual. Steve explained he was training Adam to take over for him when he retires in a few years. As I watched them work and thought about their thorough follow up, I realized they liked what they do working with us at Elm. Solving client’s problems makes them feel good. Then I saw video that showed Derek Helie walking on a jobsite all his safety gear on and a cell phone in his ear. He looks like a man on a mission. Derek has told me many times he is happy building big things for our clients. Things were clearer to me: you and I like building things, fixing things, solving problems, making things and we like being good what we do. What we do in our work and as a company is often rewarding!

Why? We do what we do, because it is personally rewarding and benefits our clients and our communities.

Simon posed a few other questions:

What is our cause? Our people, our customer and our communities.

What is our belief? That by being safe, efficient, talented and responsive, our customers will always value us.

I came up with two versions of why:

What is the purpose of Elm? To support our people with services, equipment and learning that will keep us a relevant and long-lasting company.

Our organization exists to help skillful people do their rewarding work, safely, responsively, with integrity and reliability. Elm will continuously invest and strive to evolve our people and our services to keep our work rewarding and relevant.

This is really why we have been doing it since the beginning.

Let me know what you think:

ELM Essentials

Safety: Above and beyond without compromise.

Service: Valued, skillful quality.

Integrity: Ethically responsible and trustworthy.

Evolution: Proactive learning and innovation.