Beyond the Build


How to Use Outdoor Challenges to Teach Teamwork by: Paul Broderick

In the construction industry, project managers and superintendents sometimes do not get to spend much casual time together, but we all know that jobs run more efficiently if each understands the importance of the other’s role and both strive to work as a team. When I started brainstorming ways to bring Stewart Perry together, my solution was inspired by the way I bonded with my father, a tradition I later passed to my own family.

As a boy growing up in Missouri I learned to canoe and fish the tiny rivers and lakes around where I lived. As I got older, I put outdoor pursuits aside. After my son went to college I started realizing that I truly missed spending time with him. I decided to come back to the rivers I had loved as a kid and convinced him to go rafting with me down the Ocoee River in Tennessee.

We had a guide so all we had to do was paddle when we were told, and it was safe enough for me but exciting enough for him. I came back and convinced my wife to do it and we all went back 5 weeks later. I felt lucky that at this step in life when we were all running in so many different directions I was able to find one thing that we all enjoyed and could do together.

I loved the camaraderie of being in a situation where individuals are put together and they can’t get distracted or separated from the group: they are all in it together. When you’re going down the river in a raft, you’re forced to work together as a team. It is a bonding experience, and it stays in your memory.

Because of this, I proposed the Stewart Perry project managers and project superintendents take a trip on the Chattooga River and got a great response. We decided to tackle section IV on the border between Georgia and South Carolina. This is the toughest section of the Chattooga, where they filmed the movie Deliverance. It is a really remote river, nestled deep in a river canyon with high rock walls and gorgeous view. The trip was a complete success: we drove up from Birmingham Friday afternoon, and then rafted all day Saturday and drove back that evening. When we got back to work on Monday we had a new understanding of each other.

If you consider a similar excursion for your team, I recommend scheduling weekend rafting trips in late April or early May. In the fall everyone is always traveling for football season, in the winter it is too cold, in March everyone is on Spring break, and in the summer lots of people are on vacation.


Paul Broderick is a Project Manager at the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
Merrill Stewart Jr.

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