Building on a legacy
This entrepreneur draws on generational passion for community and design-build craft
Leah, you are a leader in the male-dominated homebuilding industry, which must not have been an easy feat. What was your inspiration not only to work in the industry but to have the vision to start a company? My family. My great grandfather founded Edwards Construction in 1905 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My grandfather took over the family business, and my father still operates the company today. My grandmother and mother worked alongside my grandfather, drawing plans; my mother cultivated the company’s client experience and operations processes. Growing up it was impossible to go anywhere without running into someone who lived in a home my family built, or a trade professional who worked with Edwards Construction. I watched with admiration as my family members used those serendipitous moments as opportunities to meet a need. While the men and women who came before me were good stewards of their clients’ investments, operated the family business with integrity and took pride in their craft, they were ultimately beloved for being builders of people. They used the family’s construction company to bring out the best in clients, employees and colleagues, minister in times of need and invest in the community.
Of the many challenges you faced in your personal and professional life, is there one that stands out as the most difficult to overcome? My inner critic. I’ve learned, and am still learning, that I will never master it all and cannot perfectly chart a route toward a desired outcome. This is, paradoxically, liberating. Loosening up on the reins frees me to take the next bold step.
Is there one piece of advice you can share to inspire others to achieve their vision? It’s common to think only about vision within the context of business. However, it’s the vision for your individual life that gives context and energy to your business vision. Start by establishing your personal vision.
Three Lessons Learned
You carry the wisdom of four generations. What are three of the most important lessons you have learned, or are learning?
1. Be as intentional with failure as you are with success. Choose what to give up, and focus on doing a few things exceptionally well that will move the needle.
2. Give what you did not get, and give more. When you are in a position of generosity, ironically you are also in a position to receive.
3. Learn to cultivate stillness. It is in the quiet moments that meaning is discerned, paths forward are revealed, the needs of others become known, and creativity flourishes.
Principal, Bellwether Design + Build
Come in: 212 Bluffton Rd., Ste A, Bluffton