Beyond the Build


Keep Calm and Carry On

One of my most important jobs is to instill confidence in our company, especially now—to help team members feel at ease about the work portion of their lives. I recently ran across this iconic poster, “Keep calm and carry on,” and it struck a chord with me. While the original words came from the British crown more than 60 years ago, I suspect the phrase still rings true; particularly in these times when we all are experiencing financial stress at home and in the office.

For historical perspective, the phrase was coined by the British government on the eve of World War II. The king produced a series of posters with the purpose of reassuring his people. Intended for distribution only in the event of German invasion, the poster was never actually used. It was discovered after the war by the owners of Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. Upon reproduction, the poster became a best seller with the English people. Its popularity is credited to the nameless artist who used the Crown of George VI as the only graphic device. Long after the war was won, people everywhere still find reassurance in the distinctive design and brief, but powerful message.

I’m going to have a couple of posters made for our office with those words. I hope it can serve as a simple reminder for me and my team members to think before we speak. We’re all a little more sensitive now. Because of the current pressures, a subject that wouldn’t be a big deal under normal circumstances might be more delicate. To me, when something is said out of character, the words can never be taken back or the relationship damage changed. So I’m encouraging my team to keep calm and carry on. We’ll come out of this low with a new sense of pride and resolve, and most importantly, a new respect for the folks we work with.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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