Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

Are We “Contractors,” “Connectors” or Both?

I’ve found that networking and connecting are two very different things. To me, “networking” means interacting with your contacts, having a clear objective top of mind. “Connecting” comes from a genuine interest in people and creates a bond based on shared interest.

Most people would rather talk to a connector.

Through the experience of years, one of the trait we’ve found across successful service industry businesses is the ability to be a solid connector. This includes construction, real estate development, design and a variety of trades in our industry. The skill comes with the job description.

Maybe a subtitle below our contractor name should be the word “connector.” We do it every day and it helps make us more successful. We get an opportunity to price a project because of quality, good delivery and a reputation for honesty. Beyond this, connecting goes a long way toward being successful.

This means a deep-seated desire to help others, expecting nothing in return. Trust me, there will be plenty of payback long-term, but that’s not the point. It’s like planting in the spring: You’ve got to have the right soil and the right seeds, and then patience.

If you have not read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, there’s a great chapter on Connectors. I keep copies in my office to give to people so they can better understand the concept.

Here are a few ways I connect:

  • Whenever I think of someone, I record the idea on my iPhone using the voice memo button. I use this as a reminder to follow with a call or note.
  • As I read the Wall Street Journal or trade publications, I’m always thinking about appropriate articles to send to those in our circle of good companies.
  • I send out lots of congratulations. People always like to be recognized for their good work, and doing so makes the world a little bit better place.
  • Above all, I try to help others be financially successful, connecting the dots to others. I have found over the years, putting good folks in touch with other good people often means we get a seat on the plane as well.

How do you surpass networking to connect?


Merrill Stewart Jr.

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