Transforming A Vision Into Reality
A son of a mason, he understood the trade. In fact, it’s all he knew growing up but his story isn’t like so many others who own mason contracting companies. This wasn’t a generational pass-down. Alliance Masonry was built with knowledge of the trade and a vision.
As a kid, Brett Sherman would go to his dad’s projects and walk around admiring all the commotion of a job site. Turning admiration into something real, he started working on the job site.
“It was a different time, the rules weren’t as stringent. You could be a kid helping your dad on the job site. I remember being ten years old being a tender on a job in Geneva.”
His dad made a career out of the masonry industry. He was a superintendent for a company, which was his path, not the same path Brett wanted to take at the time. Brett went to school to get a degree in law enforcement. He’d work construction during school breaks and summer, but, at that time, his path was strictly in the eyes of the law. Well, until entrepreneurship sounded more appealing. He decided he wanted to build something great, something he could call his own and create a positive reputation to support it. That was his dream, and nothing was going to get in his way.
Brett wanted to learn the business side of running a construction company. He attended SUNY Delhi completing courses in the Construction Technology/ Construction Management. While attending school, he was hired by a mason contractor who was working on a masonry project at SUNY Delhi. Call it luck, it couldn’t have worked out any better if he had planned it that way. On top of getting additional education to propel forward, he was able to gain hands on experience in the very industry he wanted to find success.
Once school was completed, he was hired by William H. Lane as a Chief Estimator and Project Manager. He worked there for five years, learning valuable lessons from Bill Lane about the business side of construction. He eventually would leave William H. Lane to work for Consolidated Masonry as the Vice President for thirteen years. Still having his vision in mind, it was 2007 when Alliance Masonry was formed.
Brett Sherman, President, and partners Dean Neu, Vice President, and Don Knapp, Secretary Treasurer, formed Alliance Masonry. Having a plan, vision, knowledge, passion and respect for the people that perform the work is the recipe of success for Alliance Masonry. Alliance has grown substantially from closing previous fiscal years near $40,000 to what’s projected for 2019 at about twelve million. Success doesn’t come without obstacles but their reputation and appetite to succeed supersede any room to fail.
Upstate Masonry Institute was lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet with Brett Sherman of Alliance Masonry, learn more about his story and what has helped him be successful not only as a business owner but as a resource and advocate to the masonry industry. All questions are answered by Brett Sherman.
Hearing your story is inspiring – the company has gone from five figure earnings to being a multi-million dollar company with no signs of slowing down, what do you attribute your success to?
Honestly, a lot of luck and my ability to spot good people. This company wouldn’t be what it is today without the team of people we have built, both in the office and out in the field. We always chose to travel so we formed crews in each of the areas we wanted to cover and those crews are more than just employees, they are family and we treat them as such. If it wasn’t for our field staff, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
It is the most important rule we live by at Alliance: Understanding. If the office staff doesn’t understand what the field staff goes through day in and day out, how can we really build something great? And vice versa. It is understood that the office staff—myself, the project managers and the administrative staff—support the field staff. We wouldn’t be a masonry company without the masons and laborers in the field.
You started your company in 2007, the following year we went through a recession – How did you make it out alive?
There was always work somewhere and because we always chose to travel we went where the money was. We bid every job we could and now twelve years later, it paid off we now pick and choose what projects we bid.
Alliance Masonry isn’t a generational company with certain guidelines and rules in place – you are writing your own rules each day. What made you decide to join the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union?
My dad. He was a union mason and I saw the type of people that came out of the unions. You have the ability to be trained by knowledgeable tradespeople that have a passion for what they do. We didn’t have twenty years to grow as a company, we wanted to grow quickly and needed the man power. Being a mason is hard work, it is not for the faint of heart – it takes a toll on your body, but the craft, the craft is irreplaceable. You don’t become a master at your craft without the proper training and resources, the Bricklayer and Allied Craftworkers Union delivers that.
The construction industry has changed immensely, what advice do you give to someone who wants to start their own construction company?
It is a daunting task to start a business, any business really, but to start a construction company today… be prepared. There are a lot more restrictions than ever before, there are a lot more guidelines that need to be met. You need to not only be the owner of the company, but an advocate for the trade you are representing. Reputation doesn’t just happen, you must work for it.
What advice do you give to an established contractor that wants to grow more?
I owe it to the industry to GET INVOLVED. You cannot sit on the sidelines expecting all the different groups to pick up the missing pieces. Contractor involvement is monumental; not only does it help the industry, but it helps you and your company- you build a reputation by being a resource. If you think for one minute an Architect, Engineer or General Contractor doesn’t want to hear your voice, you are mistaken. Nobody wants to design a building poorly or go above budget – when it comes to masonry structures and/or veneers we are the professionals, we are the master of our craft.
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