When the Belt was founded in 1882, mission or vision statements would have been foreign concepts to employees.
But 136 years of tradition went into creating a compelling statement of purpose for a modern railroad.
Director, Strategic Planning and Compliance Harold Kirman worked extensively on drafting the statement of purpose, which includes a vision, mission and core competencies statement along with a credo. He believes the existing statement needed an update.
“Our previous mission statement did not reflect the amount of effort that our folks put into our success each and every day,” he said. “Our people have a great story to tell, and they work hard every day to make this place run. That is worth celebrating, and I felt we needed to make our strong spirit a part of what we say about ourselves.”
Kirman began work on revising the statement of purpose a year ago. Inspired by a love of writing and history, he enjoyed observing BRC operations independently as he worked on the project. Ideas would come to him in the middle of the night. As he’d jot them down, his labor of love would grow. When President Michael Grace joined the Belt family, Kirman discussed revising the statement of purpose with him and sent him a sample of what he’d written.
“He was all for the idea,” Kirman said. “At that point, I found myself writing down what I was seeing each day, and the ideas came from there.”
Kirman shared his ideas with other BRC leaders. Working on the statement of purpose collaboratively became a regular activity; ideas grew more refined and the statement began to take shape.
What do you think of the statement of purpose?
“It tells me that we’re a family here, and the company is dedicated to making sure employee go home safely to their families.”
-Carman Apprentice Austin Geiselman
“It makes you feel good. Everything is based on safety and everyone’s prosperity.”
-Carman Apprentice Robert Alstott
“I sent quite a few early morning emails,” he said.
The more they worked on the project, the more apparent the need for it became.
“We want to help our people and others understand what we do, how we do it, and that we are successful because of the efforts of our people,” he said. “These statements are intended to get everyone on the team moving in the same direction, together.”
Kirman believes that a statement of purpose has the power to bring a team together.
“Running a railroad takes hundreds of unrelated things and tasks coming together,” he said. “Everyone at every level makes an impact. The important thing is getting everyone to understand that they are making a contribution, and it’s important to our overall success.”
The vision statement urges employees to strive for continuous improvement, and Kirman believes retrospection is key to achieving it.
“Everyone will have great moments and failures,” he said. “The key is to remember what caused the great moments, and to learn from the failures. In this way, you are always growing and moving forward as a team.”
The mission statement calls for a “laser-like focus” on safely moving freight. Kirman, believes that everyone employed at the Belt moves freight and the statement serves as a reminder.
“Regardless of your role, you make a contribution and it allows us to accomplish the mission as a team,” he said. “It’s not just any one person. Understanding that is important.”
It’s all about people for Kirman.
“Locomotives, track, cars, all of the traditional assets are important, but none of those things move without the people who make it happen,” he said. “If you focus on people, the rest will come.”