Mitch Cox founded Mitch Cox Development Group in 1979 in Johnson City, Tennessee. Over the next thirty-five years, the company grew and grew. Today, Mitch Cox Companies (MCC) consists of a realty company, a construction company, an accounting company, a hotel management company, an architectural firm, a residential association management company, and a marketing company.
From the beginning, Christian principles have always guided the company in its daily business affairs.
The purpose of this essay is to articulate these core principles and the process by which they were unearthed.
The purpose in publishing the core principles of Mitch Cox Companies is not to raise noses nor tout accomplishments. Rather, the purpose of releasing the core principles and the process by which they were extricated, is twofold: to ascribe all credit to the Sovereign Giver and to inspire others to think about their businesses as ministries.
At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, Mitch Cox Companies turned inward and the individual divisions began to fend for themselves. Instead of projects involving the whole of the organization, the companies within Mitch Cox Companies worked separately with clients in order to stay profitable.
Over the past year and a half, the Mitch Cox Companies have united under one vision: God is in control. After reading The Business Card, written by Dr. Steve O. Steff with Scott Gajewsky, a book about how a company’s culture and people were radically transformed from the top down by putting their allegiance to Christian biblical principles on their business card, the Mitch Cox leadership team wanted to do the same.
But with five separate companies, each with their own mission statement, something had to change. So, in a leadership meeting with a large paper flip-board, the companies coagulated their mission statements into the following:
To be a real estate solutions company that outperforms the expectations of our stakeholders by consistently achieving our projected returns, reporting on a timely and accurate basis, and upholding transparency in all matters.
We are a company grounded in Christian values of humility, honesty, integrity, respect, kindness, and a sense of community responsibility. We strive to create eternal value by honoring God in all we do. This is reflected in how we conduct our business and how we care for our employees — our greatest asset.
The statements above contained several problems. First, while the statements basely applied to all the Mitch Cox Companies accurately, they did not mention God — the true purpose and mission of the organization. Plus, the mission statement was missing chutzpah — memorable, passionate language that people can get behind daily.
Second, the core values statement was taken directly from The Business Card book. They were not organic to the Mitch Cox Companies organization, even though they accurately embodied the intentions and beliefs of MCC. Rather, they were copy-and-pasted from the case-study, Christian company “PolyDeck.”
The Wisdom of Others
To assist us in developing our own, organic core principles, we looked at other publicly Christian companies. How did they express their ministry focus? What mediums did they use to convey their biblical foundation? How vocal were they in expressing their Christian faith?
Barnhart Crane & Rigging
Barnhart Crane & Rigging specializes in the heavy lifting and heavy transport of major components used in American industry. To us, Barnhart Crane & Rigging was the most exemplary example of what it looked like to be a publicly Christian company. Their core principles were found only on their website’s about page — no mention of God on their social media, newsletters, or blog.
This demonstrated to us a subtle, background approach to sharing their Christian mission, letting their quality and results prove (rightfully so) their Christian faith.
PacMoore Contract Manufacturing Solutions
PacMoore is an Indiana-based Christian company operating in the contract food packaging industry. PacMoore’s ministry is part of its corporate identity — it’s difficult to read about PacMoore without inevitably stumbling upon news of a company missions trip to Africa, CEO Bill Moore giving a sermon, or the company funding church outreach function.
The insight we gained from PacMoore was that a more vocal, evangelistic organizational identity results in incredible ministry reach and Kingdom impact. The level of discipleship at which PacMoore operates would not be possible without the proactive and outspoken stance it takes on their Christian core principles.
Interstate Batteries is a billion dollar, privately held corporation, known as the No. 1 replacement brand battery in North America. Their Christian values are published in the corporate identity pages of their website.
The biggest takeaway from Interstate is the emphasis that personal faith is not counter to the business culture but personal faith IS the business culture. Interstate’s Chairman, Norm Miller, heralds the Christian message by writing his 1550-word personal testimony on the website and publishing a commercial entitled, “God’s Love” — a compilation of testimonies of how God’s love has changed people’s lives — which airs on national television.
Tyson Foods, Inc.
A sizable corporation, Tyson Foods employs 107,000 people in over 300 facilities across America. As a diverse company, the Christian mission is allayed by using the words “faith-friendly” and employing a chaplaincy team that ministers to all faiths.
Tyson showed us the value of the word “strive.” “Strive” communicates a humility and sense of journeying towards a goal rather than pretentiously staking absolute arrival.
As we continued to work through our own organizational identity, we began drafting ideas based on the examples given above. Next, we turned to the wisdom of organizational guru, Patrick Lencioni.
Patrick Lencioni wrote the book, The Advantage, in which he addresses common misconceptions about organizational health and provides key disciplines to come up with an organization’s most winsome “core identity.”
The fundamental principle Lencioni stresses in identifying an organization’s mission is: to create clarity. The author asks six critical questions:
Why do we exist?
How do we behave?
What do we do?
How will we succeed?
What is most important, right now?
Who must do what?
Close, But Not Quite
Focusing on the first four questions above, we began drafting and re-drafting our core principles. Finally, a year later, we arrived at a purpose statement, vision statement, mission statement and nine core values. However, while we feel we had found accurate statements, they were missing the important elements of succinctness and memorability.
Different Kinds of Values
In his book, Lencioni outlines how dangerous it is to mislabel a company’s values as “core” when they may, in fact, be aspirational, accidental, or permission-to-play values.
Aspirational values are “characteristics that an organization wants to have, wishes it already had, and believes it must develop in order to maximize its success in its current market environment.” (P. 95) For example, a home-based, entrepreneurial small business being founded upon a value of “professionalism” may be more aspirational than core.
Accidental values are the “traits that are evident in an organization but have come about unintentionally and don’t necessarily serve the good of the organization.” (P. 98) An example of this is a company that one day realizes that the all their employees share the same socioeconomic status, introversion, and fashion sense. This unanimity came about unintentionally but is it an organizational value that is working towards the best of the company and its clients? Au contraire mon frére.
Permission-to-play values “are the minimum behavioral standards that are required in an organization. Although they are extremely important, they do not serve to clearly define or differentiate an organization from others.” (P. 96) Examples of P2P values include “honesty”, “integrity”, and “high-quality.” A business will not stay in business without these standards. To embellish them as core values is like promising not to travel in basketball. It’s expected to play the game.
After months and months of deliberation, discussion and distillation, Mitch Cox Companies applied these disciplines and the wisdom from the aforementioned Christian companies to arrive at the following core principles.
To create opportunities for others to succeed by honoring God in the work He has given us as a real estate solutions company.
So you’ve read about Mitch Cox Companies, the influences and sources behind our core principles, and now you’ve read our core principles themselves. Continue reading to discover why we chose the words we chose.
The following paragraphs seek to elucidate why each word was chosen and placed where it was.
“To create opportunities for others to succeed…”
Creating opportunities for others to succeed is the value that a Mitch Cox Companies real estate solution provides. Whether it’s developing a shopping center for business owners to occupy and make a living, building apartments for young married couples to begin their new life in together, leasing space for an artist to pursue her creative dreams, or managing a hotel so that traveling nurses have a place to stay, the value we create is giving others an opportunity to succeed through either a building or time. We design, build, lease, sell, and renovate buildings for our clients to pursue their visions. We manage commercial property, commercial associations, residential associations, hotels, and apartments so that others have the time to pursue their visions.
If we create opportunities for our clients, community, team members, investors, and vendors to succeed, then we succeed. If we fail to create viable opportunities for our stakeholders, then we will not grow as a healthy organization. Our growth is contingent upon the quality of opportunities we present to our stakeholders.
“…by honoring God…”
The most important purpose in the lives of the team members and the leadership of the Mitch Cox Companies organization is to honor God. This is what the organization was founded upon. This is what motivates the team members each day. This is the most foundational and primary purpose of the lives of the Mitch Cox Companies team members.
How do we honor God? We honor God by striving earnestly to submit to His authority as written in His Word, striving to serve others with humility and love, and seeking to be like Him daily in our thoughts, words, and actions.
The word “by” signifies an important implication. If we strive to fulfill our primary purpose of honoring God as a real estate solutions company, then, as a result, we will create opportunities for others to succeed.
It is important to note that the word “by” is used and not the word “thereby,” which would mean that we are the ones creating opportunities for others to succeed which results in honoring God. But this is not true. God is the one who creates opportunities for all and He has allowed us to be a part of His orchestrated plan. Our responsibility is to honor God in the opportunity He has given us — as a real estate solutions company — and as result, we get to be a part of His giving others an opportunity to succeed as well.
Our mission is to create opportunities for others to succeed. Why do we do it? Because we are striving to honor God.
“…in the work He has given us…”
This third phrase affirms the preceding three words, “by honoring God” by recognizing that the only reason Mitch Cox Companies is able to do business is because God has given the organization the business to do in the first place. All opportunity, success, failure, growth, and responsibility come from the Lord according to His sovereign plan.
To not include this clause would not give credit where the credit is due.
“…as a real estate solutions company.”
A mission statement is supposed to define the line of work in which a company is engaged. At Mitch Cox Companies, real estate is our field of expertise. We use the term “full-service real estate” to describe our capabilities in providing solutions in brokerage, construction, development, architecture, property management, hotel management, real estate investments, and real estate marketing. This clause is included in our mission state to demonstrate the type of work in which we are engaged.
Also, the word “as” holds a significant meaning in this phrase. In our primary purpose — to honor God — we could have been given any form of business, whether it be a non-profit, retail sales, technology, engineering, municipal, etc. Regardless of our organization’s field, the purpose would have still been to honor God in its daily operations through Christian ministry. At Mitch Cox Companies, we seek to honor God in our daily operations through Christian ministry “as a real estate solutions company” because this is what the Sovereign Giver has chosen to give us.
The mission statement above is intended to answer three of the four of Lencioni’s six critical questions.
Why do we exist? To honor God.
What do we do? We provide real estate solutions.
How will we succeed? Create opportunities for others to succeed.
For the question — How do we behave?, read on.
“The answer to the question, How do we behave?, is embodied in an organization’s core values, which should provide the ultimate guide for employee behavior at all levels.” (The Advantage, P. 91)
Before reading The Advantage, Mitch Cox Companies had a list of nine “core values,” including leadership, outperformance, fairness, high-quality value, insight, client-focus, transparency, timeliness, and confidentiality.
Transparency — We will hold ourselves to a high standard of openness to maintain a culture of trust.
Outperformance — We will strive to exceed the expectations of our stakeholders with enthusiasm and determination.
Fairness — We will strive to provide our clients, suppliers, partners, and team members fair solutions founded in integrity.
Confidentiality — We will value the information we receive and the information we dispense with due care and respect.
Without these biblical principles, Mitch Cox Companies would not be the company it is today.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about the journey of Mitch Cox Companies to build an organizational culture that is submitted to God and His Word.
We invite your comments and questions and most of all, your accountability to hold us to these core principles.