Beyond the Build

Management

If Opportunity Doesn’t Knock, Build a Better Door

Milton Berle was on to something when he said those words.

In 1984, our very first customer had just raised $30 million dollars through an IPO and we were going to build all their projects in the U.S. I was in my early 30s and life was good. We had enough work to last a lifetime – I thought. In less than 24 months, our customer had burned through the $30 million and was bankrupt. We were left high and dry. Without our only source of income, we figured out that we would either have to closer our doors, or build better door, one that was inviting for new opportunities.

Our overhead consisted of me, my business partner at the time and our secretary. Our first new project was a fairly large one for us that the time. It had two partners and each partner wanted their own contractor, after a bit of back and forth,
I suggested that the project be shared between both contractors. Part of the pie is better than no pie, as the saying goes. This was our way of opening a new door, and we went on to build about 70 projects for this customer and the related company over the next 15 years.

If things aren’t going your way personally or in business, build a better door. Add a doorbell and a “flashing sign.” Do something. Stand outside and direct people in. Whatever you do, don’t hold out on luck to get you access. You might be waiting a lifetime.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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