Beyond the Build


Virtual’s Limitations

I have been in the construction business for many years. In that time, I’ve gotten to know a wide range of interesting people in the real estate and construction industry. These relationships have developed organically over time and often evolved into friendships or good acquaintances. The network of friends I have built through business is, in many ways, a highlight of my career. We email and talk on the phone occasionally, but the real fuel for these relationships has always been getting together. It might have been a meeting, a conference or even running into someone at lunch. Face-to-face interaction has always been our bread and butter. 

Most of 2020 has been about quarantines, travel restrictions and the rise of Zoom/other virtual tools. It reminds me of adjusting to the Internet several decades ago. In some ways, moving online adds to the efficiency of business transactions. In other ways, it makes it tough to pick up on nuances or to engage in a casual setting where you can get to know someone beyond the work formalities.

Our team is trying to find ways to adjust and still foster the personal relationships we find so rewarding and productive. We’ve considered conducting outdoor meetings at our place, perhaps around the fire pit or in the garden. We’ve also discussed opening web calls a little early, so folks have time to catch up before the formal meeting starts. It’s a learning process, and I am sure over time we will all figure out better ways build relationships and stay connected.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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