Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

Make Excellence a Verb, Then Make it Your Brand

The world of social media is bringing a change to our language. I’m sure grammatical purists are scowling when they see “like” and “friend” used regularly as verbs. I think Tom Peters’ definition of “excellence” fits right into that camp.

You may remember Peters from the mega best selling book In Search of Excellence, which he coauthored back in 1982. I’ve been reading his newest work The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. He argues excellence is “a way of life,” and “a way of being,” not a steady state to be “achieved.” For him, you do excellence. Sounds like a potential verb to me.

In the book, one of my favorite quotes shared is from Tom Watson, the legendary CEO of IBM. Watson was asked in an interview, “How long does it take to achieve excellence?” Watson snapped back, “A minute! You achieve excellence by promising yourself right now that you’ll never again knowingly do anything that’s not ‘excellent,’ regardless of any pressure to do otherwise by any boss or situation.”

Excellence is not a goal; it’s a way we can live and it’s who you can become. It’s a decision we each make to tenaciously pursue the highest standards in everything we do. Excellence has many rewards. It’s invigorating! It’s also very good for business.

In our company, here is what I have found about excellence over the years.

The desire to be excellent can be contagious. When we started out nearly 3 decades ago, we thought we “finished” a construction project, but we never quite got there. About 20 years ago, we encountered a customer relationship who taught us how to really complete a job. Now all of our projects finish the same way.

The road to excellence in any business starts with the small things. Learn to do them right first, then build from there.

Customers would rather deal with a “best in class” company. You can form a solid customer relationship based upon quality. While price remains important, it is balanced with the quality delivered.

The two hardest parts of any job are starting and finishing. Excellence is what should happen in between. I would like to think that getting all the details finished to customer satisfaction has become a brand for us. Set the standard high for your team, and it can be your brand too.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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