Beyond the Build


Ending Up Where You Are Headed

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

– Lao Tzu

Have you ever seen a picture that sticks in your mind? One that does not make much sense when you first see it, but when you “get it,” you cannot erase it from your thoughts?  This happened to me a few months ago with the picture above and quote belonging to Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. I suppose another way of saying the same thing is, “To stay on the right course, every ship needs a good rudder and compass.”

In a way, FMI has served in this capacity for us, acting as an outside source of trends and knowledge, keeping us on track within our industry and challenging us along the way.

The Fails Management Institute was founded back in the 1950s when an accounting Professor, “Doc” Fails, started helping small businesses work smarter. The company has steadily grown into a nationwide advisor for engineering and construction firms. As Dr. Fails is famously quoted, ‘You don’t build a business, you build people, and then people build the business.”

Several years ago, I joined a peer group of five other contractors who are spread out coast to coast, and we meet twice a year, in-depth, for a full two days of discussion. If you and your business are not a member of a group like this, I suggest you consider it. We are not in direct competition with one another, and therefore can share ideas openly and honestly, including our financial statements. So far, I have found it to be worthwhile.

At our meeting last week in Philadelphia, we discussed topics from strategic planning, innovation and technology impacts, analyzing risk across several platforms and the need for a board of advisors. There will be a lot of homework for me before we host the next spring meeting here in Birmingham.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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