When some people observe 20th anniversaries like we are this year at Benchmark, they think about looking back and celebrating. But I like using a milestone year to refresh and launch the next chapter for our company.
To make this year even more meaningful, we’re addressing a nagging problem that I have not dealt with successfully in our first 20 years. But I think I’ve got it this time! I’m referring to how we describe our company purpose in a mission statement.
We’ve had two mission statements over time. For the first 10 years, it was, “To creatively improve the experience of aging.” A lot of people liked that. Sounds sort of cute but doesn’t really say much.
For the last 10 or so years, we’ve had – I hope this is familiar to some of you – “To build a great company, providing world-class senior living experiences.” Sounds nice, but what do we mean by world-class senior living experiences? We’ve never been particularly clear about it.
I love books by Jim Collins and other business authors who write about great companies and their mission statements, which have a few common characteristics. First, they’re usually very short. For example, Disney’s used to be, “Make people happy.” Everybody remembered it. But whether you’re a frontline housekeeper, food server or home office accountant – do you remember, “To build a great company, providing world-class senior living experiences”? Probably not.
So, first, a mission statement needs to be short and pithy. Second, it needs to be a transcendent idea. It’s like a cause, a mission. It’s not about what we’re doing today, but rather it’s a higher calling that people can get excited about. For example, drug company Merck is known for its mission “to preserve and improve human life” an aspiration far bigger than just making the best drugs.
Finally, a mission statement needs to communicate to everyone in the company what they’re supposed to do.
At Disney, if a kid drops an ice cream cone, everyone knows what to do: Help the kid feel better, perhaps by getting another ice cream cone. No one needs to stop and debate what to do.
But what does it mean to “provide world-class senior living experiences”? What are you and I supposed to do, and what’s the transcendent idea? It’s not just what we’re doing today. It’s a higher calling. It’s something we can get excited about together.
So those are three characteristics of great mission statements. Unfortunately, in 20 years, I’ve been 0-for-2, and I’ve lost sleep over that! It’s now our 20th anniversary, so I’ve got to get it right. And I believe we have!
I’m very excited about our new mission statement. The good news is it’s short – just three words. It’s transcendent. It communicates what we’re supposed to do. And, best of all, it allows us to have one unifying mission for everyone – residents, families and associates – something we’ve not achieved in the past!
Ready for the new Benchmark mission?
"Elevating human connection"
Our new mission statement comes from a few places. The first is from reflecting back on all the letters I’ve gotten over 20 years from customers telling us where we’ve nailed it. Where you guys, our Benchmark associates, have nailed it!
I’ve never gotten a single letter that says, “Thank you, my mom’s experience was so wonderful because of the beautiful building you built.” Not a one. Nor do I get a great letter thanking me for the great financing of the building, or anything like that. They also don’t say, “Thank you for the great activities program,” or the fact that the bills were accurate, or the fact that the food was great. Or even that the care was great -- they may mention that!
It’s always, always, always about the special relationship they have with the staff. About the way the staff made them feel, and about the fact that the staff went above and beyond what they ever expected was possible from moving into a senior living community. About the fact that the staff may have gone above and beyond what they themselves as a family could have done for their loved one.
It’s about the fact that it was an exceptional experience beyond what they thought was possible, in terms of the way they felt loved, the connection they felt, the bond that they felt, the way they felt embraced and cared for. It’s about the way we made them feel. It’s about that connection.
Equally as important is how perfectly “elevating human connection” captures the Benchmark culture that we’ve aspired to and nurtured over the last 20 years. A great company is one in which its associates feel special to be included and proud to work – with the company and each other. What I hear time after time when I talk with leaders and frontline associates in every Benchmark community is the bond they have with one another and how they consider their support for and connection with fellow associates just as important as their care for and connection with our residents and families.
So, here we are, at the 20-year mark, with a new way to describe the mission I believe we’ve actually had since we started Benchmark in 1997: Elevating human connection. Third time’s the charm! I believe we’ve nailed it. Let me know what you think.