Beyond the Build


Every Marine is a Rifleman

Organizational structure. It’s something I have struggled with over the last few years, seeking just the right approach. I’ve observed that some in the industry have thick playbooks, and some have no playbooks at all. Others claim they are team players within their companies, but reality is, the “boss” never holds a rifle.

A recent visit with Ron Yaeger, a former Marine Lieutenant in the Persian Gulf theater of operations, cleared my head on the subject. He shared that first and foremost, every Marine is a rifleman. After you pull back the layers, the one thing a Marine should never forget is how to operate the rifle, stay sharp and put rounds down range of the target.

As a Marine’s career progresses, it’s all built around this concept. It is common to see a Colonel shooting next to a Private at the range, honing the proven system every Marine learns in basic training. Confidence is created on the battlefield, knowing the Marine beside you can perform.

Ron feels some of the best Marine officers were prior enlisted. That reminds me of the leaders in our company who started out in the field with shovel in hand, working through different jobs. They understand the field–how to plan, coordinate and push, but never too hard.

After talking with Ron, I decided our playbook is pretty good after all. We ensure every project manager is a rifleman first, then we add layers of knowledge. Our playbook is thin. Except for me, everyone in the company manages at least one project, whether they are a project manager or a vice president. This keeps us all sharp, in the game and constantly qualifying on the range. I think this type of management also bonds our team. Everyone’s pulling the wagon, creating profit for the company. They never forget the guy beside them.

And for me ? I walk the halls weekly speaking to all of “our riflemen” to make sure they know I and others have their back.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

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