All in a days work -
I do a lot in a day. Here’s some of it:
Sullivan County -
- Backfilled a new foundation in Narrowsburg, a house that quickly went into contract.
- Laid out 3 new homes on 3 new pieces of land in Narrowsburg I am purchasing. Marked driveways and house clearing locations, as well as dug deep pits for septic engineering.
- Checked up on 2 underground electric projects we have been waiting months for the poles to set. Poles set last week, this week we dug, now we pester NYSEG utility until we get electric.
- Continued with the fireplace and siding work at the Wanger residence in Forestburgh, as well as the rough mechanical plumbing work.
- ¾ done with a ¼ mile long underground electric trench in Olivebridge. Every hurdle possible encountered - hard rock, lots of rain in an open trench. 3 days turned into 3 weeks. Ugh.
- Installed a kitchen at Farm 74. For Sale
- Finished the 2nd accessory building we are including in some of our homes. A 150 sq ft structure with big doors, windows, insulation, electric and heat.
- Continued framing a house at Lot 7, Ashokan Acres. Under contract.
- Siding, and rough electrical work at Lot 6, Ashokan Acres. Under contract.
- Finishing up the Kaufman residence in record time.
- 9 employees, payroll, bills, mail, ordering, designing, warrantying.
- Couple of sales calls
- Couple of calls with attorneys, surveyors, accountants and what have you.
- Managing a rental portfolio of 6 homes.
Team and Southwest Travel
It’s official - you can ween yourself off your cell phone. Takes about 11 days of vacation and then it becomes less important and always at your fingertips. I’m surprised my phone isn’t calling the authorities due to the lack of screen time and some built in alert/concern setting. By the time I wrapped up the vaca, my screen time was done to about 1 1/2 hours - down from about 6 hours a day.
My brain is a funny thing. It did stop working business 24/7 (or every waking hour) but then it just went ahead and started obsessing over something else that had been pushed off stage due to the workload.
But what is true is the new team I put together is fantastic. I mean, like, Wow. I always hate complimenting someone too much because so often - like 80% of the time - when it comes time to course-correct them, all of a sudden they are like ‘but you said this and that’ (positive) and I’m like ‘yeah, that was yesterday and it’s not like it’s some free pass for the rest of your career and like duh both things can be true!”. It’s actually more true for the field guys than the office people.
But, no seriously, finally, I’ve built a real team, with a lot of overlap. It’s a real accomplishment and might just sit here and blow my own horn and pat my own back and struck my own ego, and shout out a few ‘hails to the chief’ because frankly, wow, that was a journey. When I got back yesterday, office and projects were in such a state of proper oversight I was caught up before mid-afternoon. That included some significant exercises that took real skill like prepping a house for sale, a couple of important punchlists, and a host of other projects. Plus, we had a ton going on across 15 projects and 4 counties, and frankly, it's all moving right along.
Problem is, it increased our annual overhead a lot - so I’ll need to be Chief Rainmaker (since I’m out west on Navajo land I’ll adopt native american title). I’ll know in the next 6 months how much business was slipping thru my fingers like the desert sand over the last few years as I shift my focus from operations to sales, where I’ve always excelled since I know my product so well, and my product is engineered and reversed engineered to meet the marketplace, and its ever-shifting whims and desires (sounds like my girlfriend, if I had one). It's actually a pretty vibrant marketplace for us right now.
This trip out west has checked the boxes- it was supposed to me and 2 long time friends from college but life got in their way so I went anyways. It was a loosely planned and highly successful trip/journey. Santa Fe, NM. Monument Valley AZ. Flagstaff, Sedona then Palm Springs. Such much changing terrain, culture, wealth. Me and my little Toyota Corolla, which zipped along at 85 mph+ on those western highways no problem. I tend to take a lot of 2 lane roads, but when I did hop on the highway wow you can cover some distance at 90mph.
I'm not sure where else in the world you can travel such 'short' distances and experience such a wide variety of terrain, weather and culture, but especially terrain and weather. Snow in Santa Fe, cactuses in Phoenix, 90 degrees in Palm Springs, and everything in between.
All the locations I enjoyed visiting, but Palm Springs was special indeed. As a snow-bird, vacation spot, I know the vibe since thats what I do, but Southern CA is a cool world onto itself. We were there during the week, just before the season really hit, and that seemed like a really sweet spot/time to be there.
You can definitely tell Lulu was spoiled while I was away cause I keep catching her on the furniture and when I left her on the bed (which isn't that common), she snuggled up high, instead of down on the foot end.
My shoulder is getting better. I'm 12 weeks into this journey - 3 months -and I'm still committed to twice a day PT and 'stretching'. I put stretching in quotes because when you stretch, you expect some 'pleasure' and positive feedback, and that just wasn't the case for week 1-10. Total pain and suffering like I've never experienced, and 1/4 by 1/4 progress over extended periods of time. Getting in a pool, and having some weight-less range of motion activity really seemed to help. I've been committed to this recovery, but I can see how a person less committed could really end up struggling to ever exit out the back side of this journey. It's a long process, it's a painful process, it's a fearful process since you aren't quite sure it will all be worth it and how successful recovery will be. But as the pain and discomfort subside, and mobility is back to 60% and trending positive, I look back on the last 12 weeks (the previous 8 from late August to Late October) and just say 'wow' - that was really something to go through all of that and not miss/lose a step - in fact, accomplished more in that stretch than most would believe possible.
But that's just my way. That's how you end up where I'm ending up, on top of the heap- work hard, work consistently, work persistently and never let a hurdle let you change your orientation for long.
Humpty Dumpty is back to together
You hear all the time how expensive turnover is - really in any size business - but how especially in small companies that are busy, talented, and run at full capacity. I’m only now realizing the full extent of the cost of my project manager/designer/assistant/designer/draftsperson/client concierge/receiver/shipper/office manager leaving in February.
I’m realizing it because I finally put the band together again, and this time I actually put it together in a reasonable fashion, with reasonable expectations, and reasonable chances of success. In the last year I took a position one person handled for 8 years - building 15-20 homes a year - and teased it out into 3 positions, all with a specific lane, all with cross-training and cross-participation in the company - ie, redundancy.
But I literally lost a year of my life doing it. One morning started like any other, and by the end of the day my world was turned upside down in terms of lay in store for me. Mind you, I can’t say I was hands off, but I definitely wasn’t in the weeds. I soon was, way in the weeds, and I can say unequivocally that was exactly what the company needed. I was exposed to every process, relationship, excess, scarcity - no one and nothing could hide from me, and what I realized was how many of our partners were phoning it in. Nothing against them, but the previous employee just let this slow creep of other people letting her do their work, organize them, baby them. That was the first thing that changed - as most of our vendors largest customer, each and everyone of them is giving us 2x if not more what they gave us 10 months ago - i.e., they are doing their job, doing it better, doing it with more foresight.
Also, and I’ve mentioned this before - I have good relationships with my partners/vendors/suppliers, but it was a little hands off. Not now. Now I’m in there, solving problems with them. And I’m an expert. Everyone benefits from my participation. Everyone benefits from my intrusive and curious knowledge of each job.
But, as I started this thread, I’m only now adding up the costs. I’m realizing it because now that I have an executive advisor (sort of like executive assistant but more, much more), on-staff designer/architect, a person dedicated to scheduling, ordering and receiving, a finance person and a backup book-keeper, and I’m booking business like nobody’s business. Selling houses, signing deals, buying land, planning for the future - using my full set of newly honed and insightful skills in meaningful ways. I bet this turnover cost me $500,000. Not in lost revenue, but in lost profit, it was that disruptive.
But there’s an old saying in politics that you should never let a ‘good crisis go to waste’ a similar thing holds true in business - when in chaos, take care of all the things you need to because the incremental chaos is marginal - when things are going well, you hate to rock the boat. When the shit hits the fan, keep throwing more shit at the fan until it washes itself clean.
We are cleaned up, ready to roll, and I’m excited about it.
I’m also on vacation in NM/Utah/Arizona/California, and I’m just starting to hit my vaca vibe. First stop Santa Fe, which I now love.
An early Saturday after wrapping up work, and now I’m off for 2 weeks of a seriously earned and seriously needed vacation out in the Southwest US, after 2 night in the NYC.
I’ve been having some bad luck with my big city timing and hotels - Jacksonville, for the Georgia/Florida annual party/football game, the hotel prices were off the charts, partly because I thought the game was in Gainsville and thus had to book the hotel late after I figured it out. I happened to be in Kansas City when Taylor Swift was in town and normal $125 room was $700 (though I was in town for the beginning of the Kelce/Swift romance), and now going into NYC today, and the marathon is happening tomorrow, meaning rates are top tier.
Took my son to the Fl/Georgia game for his 15th birthday - left on a Friday and came back on a Sunday. All in, over $5000 for plane tickets, parking, hotel, game day tickets (sure we were in the 10 row), eating, souvenirs, river ferry, etc… Not sure when I became the guy who can lay down $5k for a birthday weekend for my first and only son, but I am he. It’s not as gross as it seems - I literally haven’t been on vacation since sometime last year, and our annual sojourn to far off destinations didn’t happen this summer because Lucas wanted to stay local and hang with his friends - so in terms of actual vaca spend, we are well below our average. Hope to correct that forthwith.
Just put away the Van life camper for the winter. Unhooking the hoses from the exterior faucets, putting the plows on the trucks, just getting ready for a winter of unknown ferocity that may or may not be right around the corner.
We listed our first mini micro cottage yesterday and got several offers within hours. That was encouraging, and takes me back to 2007 when these small homes filled a market need. It’s fun revisiting them, tweaking them, making them fun and alive. Unique to the marketplace for sure. Sought after for sure.
We remain busy. I leave the office for 2 weeks after spending most of 2023 restructuring the company which took several effort and several tries, all stressful and time-consuming. But each one resulted in a little more information about what I was trying to achieve. In the end, I more than doubled our office staff with high caliber individuals which should create a better client experience, and create a level of redundancy that was sorely needed. It should also open up some capacity for chasing more leads that we previously let slip through our fingers. It’s also expensive, so need to keep booking business.
So here I come Santa Fe, Durango, Monument Valley, road tripping, and finally Palm Springs CA, filled with spa days, reading works for fiction, hiking, and recharging.