Beyond the Build


One Step at a Time

Fifteen years ago, I was officially broke and near bankruptcy. The good news was that only our CFO and I knew it.

It was a perfect storm. My marriage was breaking up, my business partner wanted out, and the company had a negative net worth. The bank called me and told me they did not like us anymore, and planned to end our line of credit, and the surety company cut off our surety credit for performance bonds. Beyond all this, I had three teenage children who were counting on me.

I will be honest, it was a tough 5 years, as I crawled out of the valley and learned how to walk again. It took a lot of Unisom for me to sleep at night.

Through all of this, I learned a lot about myself. I visited my psychologist every Monday for 5 years. As I was finishing up there, I shared that in strange way, I was glad I went through all of this, because the trail I walked changed me for the better. (But I sure as hell did not wish to go through this part again.)

I am a better person today. I am more understanding, and I’m more empathic to those around me. When you find yourself in what I call “death valley,” you are not alone. You did not get there overnight, and you are not going to get out overnight. You have got to keep putting one foot in front of the other, maintaining faith in yourself, and eventually you will get up to the top of the valley. Trust me. I have been there.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

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