(A) Unprecedented business disruption + (B) global pandemic + (C) heightened social division and unrest = (D) Chaos
Chaos –”complete disorder and confusion.”
For the better part of two years, we have confronted the global pandemic and social unrest together. As a direct result of the pandemic, businesses of every size and in every industry were impacted. Still to this day, many of them are experiencing unparalleled impacts.
For Summit and our partners in the A/E/C industry in North Carolina, we faced an additional obstacle. In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Transportation issued a dire warning about looming financial issues. COVID only exacerbated the financial challenges.
By 2020 when the pandemic began in earnest, Summit was already defensive, trying to react to detrimental variables out of our control.
Businesses and business leaders deal with adversity differently. A business must make money. Money enables a company to make more products/deliver its services and pay its employees.
The what, when, and how a business prioritizes its money through investments and business plan decisions separates different companies.
Summit developed two responses to the chaos:
- External Response: Due to the financial issues associated with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Summit diversified our markets and services offerings.
- Internal Response: Due to the pandemic and social unrest, Summit had to re-focus on our employees, their needs, and how we build on our “One Big Family” mentality under this “new normal.”
Both responses meant a change. Change is hard in regular times. Change during chaos is daunting.
We were running at full speed ahead, and then the emergency brake was pulled. In 2019, the Department of Transportation faced a looming financial crisis. Communications came down to companies like Summit that we would meet tough decisions and lean times. Our leadership – corporate, department, and project teams – faced a fork in the road with invoices mounting, new contracts put on a shelf, and statewide layoffs coming. How to manage the fallout while maintaining our business became the question. Long hours, frank and deflating conversations, and pouring over financial data became the norm. Fortunately, our founder and rockstar Jim Parker and our leadership team had survived tough times and in their hearts understood purposeful leadership. They made the decisions and sacrifices to minimize impacts to our employees while making thoughtful investments to diversify our portfolio. They held the line until a brighter day came, insulating the company from repeating this situation. We, still, are digging out of the hole. We learned the lessons, and as a result, we are more robust and more diversified as a company, which has positioned us for future success and growth.
Then came 2020. When it rains, it pours.
As lockdowns were mandated and we moved to our homes, we quickly adjusted to the “new normal.” Our Marketing, Human Resources, and IT teams stepped up to the challenges. They found and implemented innovative and informative solutions to protect our teammates’ health and safety and foster the collaborative approach needed to deliver high-quality work to our clients.
During this time, there were trials and tribulations. Our grit and perseverance were tested. Our leadership guided us with a sense of purpose and fairness. Our teammates dug deep and continued to deliver high-quality work products.
During the height of the pandemic and in the depths of social unrest, Summit formed an inclusive internal working group. Yes, during the fog of chaos, Summit’s leadership asked Summit team members to find ways to improve the firm, help our employees, and shape our future. Our leadership believed that an employee-driven approach would be a beacon to help our company ascend from the chaos.
First and foremost, our teammates deserve a lot of credit for being willing to have frank and candid conversations throughout the process. Their engagement and belief in Summit to participate in the process indeed were remarkable.
The working group’s directive was to understand who Summit is and develop a robust plan to articulate our strategic path through a shared purpose. We also sought ways to chronicle our progress and address our failures.
To start the process, the working group embarked on an internal listening tour. We leveraged small meetings and companywide surveys to understand our teammates’ fears, joys, and thoughts. We learned how leadership could better communicate. We discovered challenges brought on by the pandemic. We gained insights into what was and was not working in this new ‘normal.” We learned about our teammates through deep philosophical discussions and leveraged our diversity of thoughts and experiences.
Frankly, we learned about the who and what that makes Summit who we are. Our end product was a revamping of our “Purpose, Vision, and Values.”
Purpose, Vision, and Values
One thing to know about Summit is that we are disruptors that like to think outside the box and rely on hard work, collaboration, and grit to accomplish our tasks. We understand that change is hard and takes time. We believe that doing the right things for the right reasons will pay off.
The internal working group put pen to paper (actually, we typed in a Word document during many Zoom meetings) to revise our “Mission, Vision and Values.” Being the outside-the-boxers and having very creative teammates, we developed a theme – “#SummitIs.”
The working group believed that by articulating why “#SummitIs,” we would accomplish our directive.
After more than 40 hours of working group conversations, multiple companywide town halls, meetings with leadership, and countless one-off virtual conversations, we arrived at our new Purpose, Vision, Values.
Our President Troy Dover has a saying, “It’s easy to sell something you believe in.”
While Summit was already naturally doing many of the pillars of “#SummitIs,” verbalizing and socializing internally and externally helps hold us accountable and reflective as we move forward.
Our Purpose, Vision, and Values will be at the heart of every business decision we make moving forward:
- Our business plan,
- Our strategic business investments, and
- Our hiring decisions and workforce development approaches
This organic and inclusive internal process helped recognize what makes us Summit. By tying these foundational beliefs to our decisions, we believe we will build enduring success.
Company success means shared success with our team and partners. Team and partner success means client success. Client success means company success.
If this makes sense to you, let’s build success together as a teammate, a client, or a partner. Stay tuned for more insights on our Purpose, Vision, and Values.