Beyond the Build


Conducting the Job Site Symphony

In our industry, it’s common for project superintendents to start as carpenters, earning their positions as managers through years of hard work. Many of our guys advanced this way, but we do have a handful of folks who took a different path into construction. For example, one of our superintendents was a music major in college, playing the French horn and the Baroque recorder.

Things have obviously changed since then, but he recently told me he still feels like he’s conducting an orchestra when he is leading one of our projects. In his estimation, a project superintendent can be compared to a conductor in the following ways: 

  • It’s necessary to understand all of the parts, the styles and so forth. Whether it’s sheet music or the plans to be performed, the leader should know how things start,  how they finish, and what direction it takes to get there.
  • A good conductor is not a draconian leaders who pushes and prods, but rather someone who leads (ideally). The goal for both superintendents and conductors is getting their audience to listen.
  • An accomplished conductor or project superintendent also needs to have studied the piece of music or the plans well in advance of the music or the build. A good job always starts with good paper.

Not every one of our jobs works out like an orchestrated suite of music, but when it happens, everybody wants to be on that job. I promise.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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