🚀 Get 50% off the Shed Suite Marketing Platform for 3 months!* Offer ends Monday, November 27th at 11:59 PM Eastern Time!

Building a Strong Foundation: Atlee Stewart's Inspiring Journey and Lessons Learned

Delve into Atlee Stewart's inspiring journey in the shed-building industry, revealing valuable insights on fostering a strong team spirit and embracing change.

Atlee Stewart is a seasoned professional in the shed-building industry, with a successful career spanning nearly six years. His extensive experience has provided him with a deep understanding of the industry and the essential factors for success. Throughout his career, Atlee has consistently demonstrated a commitment to time-honored quality, while maintaining adaptability in the face of business challenges.

Recently, Atlee sat down with Shed Suite CEO Jason Graber to discuss his journey and the valuable lessons he has learned along the way. From emphasizing the importance of not being consumed by competitors to advocating for a fun and engaging workplace, Atlee's insights are both practical and inspiring. In this article, we will explore Atlee's story and the key takeaways from his conversation with Jason.

Let's dive in.

From Lineman to Shed Builder: Atlee Stewart's Shed Industry Journey

Before Atlee transitioned to the shed industry, he had been working contentedly as a journeyman lineman, climbing poles and setting wire. Though it was sometimes dangerous, Atlee found the job fulfilling. "I loved it. I didn't expect to go anywhere," Atlee told us. "I'd been there for 14 and a half years and had a 30-year retirement program. I could have retired from there at 51, because I started when I was 20 years old."

However, a series of events led to a turning point in Atlee's life. His father-in-law approached him with the idea of working in the shed industry, as he was considering buying an existing shed business. Around the same time, two of Atlee's fellow linemen tragically died on the job. These incidents prompted Atlee to reassess his path: "That day, you can say stuff happens at any job," Atlee said. "It does, but something that day got me, and I was like, 'No.' You get confirmed inside. This is it. Yeah, this is it. So, that's when I started making changes to do something different. I just felt like I was assured that that's what I needed to do and everything would be all right."

The transition to the shed industry took approximately nine months, and while it was an exciting change, it presented numerous challenges. As the new office manager of Burnett Affordable Buildings, Atlee faced a steep learning curve. Fortunately, the former owner agreed to stay on for a year to teach Atlee and his father-in-law the ins and outs of the business.

"The number one thing I'll say to my benefit was that the previous owner, he started it from scratch and he built the first building in his backyard. He delivered it with his own truck and trailer. Then he grew it to be a substantial business," Atlee said. "When my father-in-law bought him out, he agreed to stay on with us for a year. So, we had a desk in the same office. I just followed him for a year and we got to the year and we didn't feel confident. So he stayed on with us for another year."

Now, nearly six years later, Atlee has never looked back.

Embracing Change: Letting Drivers Manage Their Own Schedule

Atlee has recently taken a new approach to managing his contracted drivers' schedules. He discussed how the company transitioned from having a dispatcher schedule drivers to allowing drivers to manage their own schedules.

Atlee explained the old process, saying, "We had a dispatcher set up in our office all the way until just about three months ago." However, after their latest dispatcher had to step back, Atlee started discussing the idea of self-scheduling with his drivers. He recalled, "I just brought it up to them. I said, 'What about scheduling your own?' They're brothers too, the two main guys are. One of them said no and one of them said yes. But then we kept talking about it, rocked on a week or so, and they said, 'Let's give it a try.'"

While the transition is still in progress, Atlee is optimistic that the new approach will ultimately benefit the company. He explained, "I do feel like it'll be better. I never would've said so before. I just thought, 'Man, I like it. We got it right here. We know what's going on.'" The shift in responsibility also empowers drivers to better plan around their personal lives and commitments, which Atlee believes will improve overall efficiency.

Atlee's trust in his drivers is a critical factor in the success of this new approach. He shared, "They're great guys, the ones we have. So, I basically feel like I have no reason not to trust them. So, they stepped in and started scheduling their own, and we're rolling." By letting drivers manage their own schedules, Atlee demonstrates how embracing change and trusting employees can lead to more effective and efficient operations in the long run.

Before you read on...

2x your shed business this year with Shed Suite.

Book A Demo

Focusing on Your Own Path: Not Worrying About Your Competition Too Much

In the business world, it's easy to get caught up in what the competition is doing, especially in the shed industry. However, Atlee believes that focusing too much on competitors can be detrimental to a company's growth and success. 

Atlee stated, "There's going to be a competitor down the road somewhere, and there's going to be days that you're looking at them and are like, 'Oh, they're doing this. I heard this and I think they're going to do this.' It can mess with you." Instead of dwelling on the competition, Atlee advises shed business owners to concentrate on their own operations: "Let's do our thing. This is what we do and we do it this way and this and this and this. Let's not worry about what they do."

He further elaborated that getting caught up in competitors' actions can be a distraction and ultimately drag a business down. "It's going to do nothing but distract you and drag you down," Atlee warned.

During the interview, Jason shared similar sentiments, acknowledging that it's easy to compare oneself to others, especially in the early stages of business. The key to success, according to Jason, is focusing on building the best product possible: "I just know that we're focused on building the best product that we can build."

Atlee agreed, emphasizing the importance of managing one's own business and not letting competition drag you down: "Let's take care of ourselves. Let's manage our own business. It don't mean don’t even look at what they're doing—because you can always get ideas here and there—but don't let it drag you down."

By sharing his experience and advice, Atlee Stewart highlights the importance of staying focused on your own path and not getting distracted by the competition. Concentrating on your own business goals and nurturing your shed company's growth will ultimately lead to greater success in the long run.

Shannon Latham and Atlee Stewart / Photo Credit: Shannon Latham of Shed Geek Podcast

Fun and Humor in the Workplace: Boosting Morale and Enjoyment

Incorporating fun and humor in the workplace is an essential aspect of maintaining a positive work environment. Atlee shared some examples of how he incorporates humor and fun into the daily operations of his company.

Atlee mentioned the use of cameras in his workplace, which serve as more than just a necessary security feature, but a source of amusement for his team. He said, "One thing that we do for humor around our place is, of course, I have 25 cameras. So, we record everything. So, we always go and play it back when something funny happens." By reviewing recorded footage of amusing incidents, Atlee and his employees can share a laugh and create a light-hearted atmosphere.

Atlee also discussed the importance of engaging and entertaining marketing campaigns. He recalled a promotional video they created, which featured an explosive stunt involving an old push mower: "They blew it up with Tannerite. I mean, it went 30 some feet in the air." This attention-grabbing video not only entertained viewers but also showcased the company's sense of humor.

In addition to humorous antics, Atlee's company also hosts employee appreciation events to foster camaraderie and enjoyment among team members. He shared, "We try to do one in spring and fall as far as that employee's day. We'll cook lunch for everybody and play basketball in one of the shops out there. We do a couple of cornhole games and just... stuff like that."

By incorporating humor and fun into the workplace, Atlee demonstrates the importance of creating a positive, enjoyable work environment. Companies that prioritize employee satisfaction and encourage light-hearted moments can ultimately boost morale, increase productivity, and foster a strong team spirit.

Final Thoughts

Atlee Stewart's experience in the shed industry and his management style demonstrate the importance of both industry knowledge and a positive work environment. By fostering trust and embracing change, he has helped create a culture at Burnett Affordable Buildings that values hard work and productivity while also promoting a healthy work-life balance.

His story serves as an inspiration for entrepreneurs and managers seeking to build successful businesses that prioritize both professionalism and employee well-being. By following Atlee's example, leaders can create thriving workplaces that not only achieve business goals but also promote employee satisfaction and happiness.

2x your shed
business this year

See how Shed Suite can streamline your business.

Book A Demo

Join our newsletter

Free resources to grow your shed business, insights from other shed builders and dealers, plus important new & updates from Shed Suite. One or two emails per month. No spam ever.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.