Half of…a Whole


Bill Cosman

Bill Cosman

Fifteen years ago we would meet at 6:30 AM at a coffee shop somewhere in between wherever we were and wherever we were going. I can’t remember the exact content of the conversations but the aesthetic of them hasn’t changed. It was dark outside, early yet, with the promise of the day unfolding as the sun slowly alit upon whatever front-window café table we occupied. The coffee was bold and black, steaming, preferably from a large styrofoam cup than any attempt at a ceramic vessel large enough to contain the appropriate jolt. There was always a half a pencil tucked behind an ear or through a button hole or at the end of a lead marked trail into a shirtfront pocket. And the subject matter never waivered from a new way to look at the same problem, a better shot at fixing what we talked about last time, or what we needed to rip out and do again because even if he was the only one that could see it, and even if it cost us, it mattered enough to do it right.

He says that construction found him. Maybe it saved him. Finally something to occupy his head; a head never previously satiated by enough problem solving complexity. In the early days he ran crews from dawn ‘til dusk, fearless, safety be damned, bang, bang, bang, hammer to nail, collar tie to rafter, rough raw hands, go to bed and do it again. Build homes as if nothing else on earth mattered. This last part hasn’t changed either. Then along came F.H. Perry Builder and an office job and more complexity-thank goodness. Problems came in multiples, effectiveness came in leading people along a common path towards a future mark, things began to matter…more…and less.

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My business partner Bill has always felt like he had the best job in the room. Maybe he learned that from his Dad—a company man who loved going to work, loved the humble effort of showing up, loved making a quiet difference. Bill has succeeded at carrying on his father’s legacy for meaning and contribution and effectiveness in a workplace. That’s the “matter more” part. But it matters less now to Bill if he single handedly carries the torch. You see he lit it, back then in the coffee shop with the styrofoam cup, in himself and in me, and he carried it for a long while. He became peerless in his sensibility for construction sequencing, the intricacy of the building process, an eye for “right” and “craft” and “integrity”. And he passes that torch around to our team.

The qualifications for torch carrier are pretty stringent around here. There isn’t such a thing as “luxury” or “high end” in Bill’s assessment. There isn’t “top quality” and definitely not “good enough”. There is only a standard, a rule, a test—new and improved isn’t always right or better. There is a sequence and a problem to solve in process, craft, person, relationship. As if nothing else on earth mattered. It’s not easy to get to be a torch bearer around here but once Bill passes it to you, he’ll be the first one next to you to help you keep it lit. That’s how we roll.

I just thought you’d like to know.

Now who has the best job in the room?

My best always,
Bill’s partner,
Allison