Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Leadership Across Platforms

Leadership across platformsSeveral decades ago, in most of the larger southeastern cities, union contractors prevailed. As the market began to change toward a more open working environment, these companies formed what would be referred to as a “double-breasted operation,” where the ownership of one company was the same as the other, and yet one was union and the other hired trades without affiliation.

One major benefit the unions offered was training, which, for several reasons, has diminished over the years, across the board. In some cases, this goes beyond just the construction industry. Many of our project superintendents in the industry today started out as union carpenters. In fact, one of our project managers was a member of the union in the early 70s.

Construction is by nature a changing industry, and the basics are certainly still important. But our tools and methods continue to advance at an ever-increasing pace, so I’m not sure it’s important that a good project superintendent or project manager spend several years in the field as an apprentice. This was not the case a few years ago, but now it’s a matter of learning how to work the tools, using your head and communication skills, all while being strategic and tactical. The best know how to do this, and good leaders tend to float to the top. They are willing to take on long hours, travel when needed, and they take pleasure in building something from scratch.

This is not to say good construction skills are not needed, but to me, they can be learned in other ways with the present day tools available for project superintendents and project managers. As I’ve often said, folks who build are the salt of the earth, and I’m thankful for all the good ones.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.