You Only Fail When You Quit

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President of one of the largest construction management companies in the region, Mack Stulb has been involved with some of the most visible and significant projects in Philadelphia. Among them: Distinctive high rises such as One Liberty Place and the Comcast Technology Center, world class sports arenas such as the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park, cutting edge facilities for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and cultural landmarks such as the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Barnes Museum.

On March 25, Mack, who joined LF Driscoll in 1984, was the guest speaker at GBCA’s Coffee Chat, aimed at helping young professionals. He discussed the merger of LF Driscoll with Structure Tone, his rise to the leadership of the company, and lessons learned along the way.

How did you get to where you are today?

It’s been a long journey; not a quick ride from point A to B. You could say that I’m the tortoise not the hare. I stayed with the company, making mistakes every other week, and the company stuck by me. I’ve been fortunate to have really good mentors and I’ve tried to emulate their positive qualities. I have a very loyal, hardworking management team and key people who have been with me a long time. When you’re a leader, you can never be who you are without great people around you.

Take risks. If you don’t, you’ll ask, “What was I doing for the last 40 years?” I’ve always wanted to step out of the norm, be bolder than others and take on bigger, more complicated projects.

Humility is a big thing. I’ve never puffed our feathers out because someone around the corner is going to pluck them off. Also, try to never badmouth a competitor. We’re all facing the same challenges.

Tell us about LF Driscoll then and now. You were acquired by Structure Tone in 2009. What’s it like being part of a corporate structure?

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The merger has been the best thing that ever happened to us. Our employees have dealt with it spectacularly and it’s been really positive from a financial standpoint. Structure Tone has some of the brightest businesspeople I’ve ever met. They let us do what we do, but if we have a problem, they support us.

Many of us have been forced to work from home because of COVID. How do you feel about it?

I was pretty inflexible about remote work before, but my attitude has changed a lot in the past year. Working from home saves on your commute and gives people with children some flexibility. In some cases, you can be more productive at home. Ultimately, we’re a team built on collaboration, communication and relationships. That’s really hard to do over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. I will continue to be flexible with folks, but ultimately, I want everyone back so we can run the business together.

What do you look for in an emerging professional?

Loyalty is key for me. Be patient. It will pay off more often than not. If you are treated right and paid well and have opportunities to learn and grow, stay at your company. I see young professionals with five years under their belt shopping themselves. Hopefully, they’ll want to come back some day.

How do you manage with everything on your plate? How do you turn it off?

You can’t turn it off. I’m stuck to my phone until I put my head on the pillow. I’m fortunate that I have a great leadership team, great middle management, and great loyal employees. They do the work; I try and focus on sustaining and building relationships in the marketplace and recognizing problems on projects early on.

Time management. Any tips about how to do it effectively?

Make a list and prioritize it. Knock out a few items every day and you’ll feel a lot more productive. Delegate to others if you can. You have to trust your team. You’ll be surprised; sometimes they can do it better than you.

Any other advice?

Make your own path, whatever it is. Be your own person. You’re going to have failures. You’re going to make mistakes. If you want to be bigger and better, you have to take risks. Don’t say no to new projects and don’t be afraid. You only fail when you quit. You’ll get out on the other side and you’ll learn from it.

Also recognize that you need to spend a lot of time building your career, but your family is important and so is your health. Don’t let the stress tear you up.