Can a Commercial Contractor Change the World?

Commercial general contractor reviewing a job site

A friend once asked me a life-changing question. A good question can do that, can’t it? While answers matter, questions are change agents. They cause us to expand our minds.

We were catching up over coffee, talking mostly about business. He took a slurp and asked me above his cup:

“Why should anyone care what your company does?”

He did not allow me to give a pat answer like “we want to provide the best value in the commercial contracting world” or “we want to build relationships”. No, he insisted on a deeper response to this question.

My answer took unpacking like a Russian nesting doll. (You know, the doll inside of a doll inside of a doll.) Eventually we got to the root of our company’s why.

Here is what I came up with: because we want to leave this world better than we found it.

I almost got in a fist fight with one of our subcontractors one time. I was there to visit the job, and he found out I was the one managing the project. Apparently we hadn’t paid his draw yet for whatever reason, and he was furious. He got a couple of inches from my face—he is a pretty big boy, by the way—and said through clenched teeth: “YOU OWE ME MONEY.”

His clenched fists at his side indicated he expected an answer and that he was ready for a physical response. I do not think he expected what happened next.

I looked him straight in the eye and…apologized. Then he melted. His shoulders dropped and his face loosened. We stepped back a foot or two and I asked how much we owed him and when it was due. I called our accounting department and we got it squared away. We left with a firm handshake, and we work with his company to this day.

The moral of this story is this: every interaction is an opportunity to leave someone better than you found them. The man had payroll to make and bills to pay. His family needs to eat. And it doesn’t matter why we were late (or even if we were); he needed to be heard and his concerns needed validation.

Suntech builds buildings. That is what we do. But what we do is only part of the story of who we are. We are a diverse group of people from different backgrounds. And while each of us is unique, the organization collectively moves toward the goal of positively impacting people. That is who we are.

We do not perfectly execute our why. There are times when we fail to operate by the Golden Rule, which is to say there are times when we are human. Of course we aren’t perfect—no one is. But no matter how many times we fail, we will continue trying.

The world is a big place, and we are a small company. We cannot change it all. That’s a God-sized job and we are mere mortals. But we are given a context—specific clients, subcontractors, vendors, community officials, etc. whom we absolutely can impact.

Can a commercial contractor change the world? I don’t know. But we sure aim to try and change our piece of it.

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