Beyond the Build


All For One and One For All

You’ve heard the Three Musketeers shout it as a show of selflessness and solidarity. It’s the national motto of Switzerland. I’m proud to say it’s also a mantra of the Stewart Perry team.

When the economic downturn started affecting commercial construction, our CFO Del Allen and I were forced to take a hard look at ways to reduce cost. As a guest blogger, Del has shared a few thoughts on cutting general and administrative budgets. Even with these changes implemented, we were challenged to lower our biggest operating expense–PAYROLL. This was almost unimaginable. Every person on staff brings something unique to the table, and we wanted to do whatever it took to avoid losing any of that talent by letting someone go.

They say recessions inspire innovation, and that’s exactly the mindset we tried to embrace. We decided to set up a furlough system where everyone in the company, myself included, takes five unpaid days every two months. While this isn’t the ideal scenario, it did allow everyone to keep his or her job, health insurance, retirement plan and profit sharing. I’m pleased to say the Stewart Perry family has adapted to the lowered pay with a positive attitude. They were glad to make a joint sacrifice for the sake of the team.

You’ll remember I said this wasn’t a perfect plan. We’ve learned that less revenue is not always commensurate to less work. Many of our folks have come in on a furlough day or two because they have a passion to get the job done right. Everyone is grateful for the extra effort.

However, the benefits have far outweighed the negative aspects of furlough. I’ve seen a greater camaraderie among team members. Personally, my appreciation of our team continues to deepen. When someone isn’t here, I’m more aware of that person’s role in the overall success and seamless operation of the company. Our people are what set us apart, and trials have only made that more apparent.

As for right now, it seems our business opportunities are picking up a bit. Maybe it’s the spring. Maybe it’s a microeconomic envelope that we are in.  I’m not sure, but hopefully we are rocking along the bottom, trending upward. I’ll be glad to have my entire team there with me on the other side.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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