True to the Core

Editorial Director Paul Deffenbaugh introduces you to T.W. Lewis and details what you could learn from this National Housing Quality Awards Gold winner.
By Paul Deffenbaugh | September 30, 2008

At the heart of every business is a set of values that decide the company's direction. The values are the philosophy that underlies all decisions and allows owners, managers and employees to make choices with clarity.

But if a company does not articulate and communicate those values, then everyone infers what they think the values are, and they might be wrong. Consider a company with no mission statement. It might repeatedly send the message that employees need to control costs and that salespeople need to increase revenue. If that message is not leavened with any other principal, such as customer service or a focus on excellence, the result might be employees who believe the company core value is to make money.

In this issue, we recognize T.W. Lewis of Tempe, Ariz., for earning a National Housing Quality Gold Award. The most significant reason the team garnered this recognition is that the company had the strength to hold true to its core values both during the run-up in the industry and the downturn. That strength of character came from a leadership team that was focused on their values and mission statement, and they communicated the focus throughout the organization. Nobody at T.W. Lewis doubts that the company “cares more about quality than quantity,” is “guided by specific values,” and is “customer friendly.”

T.W. Lewis employees know the mission is to “become the best home building organization in America, as measured by product quality, customer satisfaction and profitability.” That is as clear an articulation of the vision for a home building company as I have ever seen, and it comes directly from the founder, Tom Lewis. This is his vision, and he makes sure everyone at the company understands it. That's leadership.

Because of those decisions and the leadership team's discipline in following its core values, the company resisted the inclination to increase production during the run-up. They refused to sacrifice quality for quantity. T.W. Lewis is fulfilling its mission and, perhaps most importantly, it is profitable even during this downturn.

Thanks to its profitability, it can continue employing great people, serve its customers and provide a strong economic backbone to its community.

Maybe it seems ironic that a company with such clarity and discipline is doing a better job of making money than some Wall Street companies that focus solely on making money. But it isn't ironic.

All American businesses can learn a lesson from T.W. Lewis and reassert the central values of excellence, sustainable growth, customer loyalty and profitability.