Fire Side Chats, By Chuck
Bypassing the written form as of late, I've taken to doing some videos, which actually capture the essences of my business message of that day a lot better than the written form, if for no other reason because you can chase and roll out complimentary themes and ideas as you free verse - whereas, in the written form, not only is that a big effort to go off on tangents, from a purely mechanical perspective, most people can't be expected to read that much prose.
Catskill Farms' Owner Chuck Petersheim shares some thoughts on recent sales, the year that was, and honest dealings.
Ending the week on a high note
No, New York did not legalize marijuana. You still have to make the trip to Great Barrington or so I've heard, I wouldn't personally know. But sometimes, the accumulated victories of the week just outshine and outweigh anybody anyone anything that could possibly attempt to detract from the achievement. This is one of those weeks where even on a Friday beaten, tested, tired, agitated, I can still smell and taste the sweet vintage of victory.
First, the iPhone picture upload issue I was having seems to have been resolved, though it is untested, it appears to be resolved. I am a guilt free Tic-Toc aficionado and end up sending out an assorted variety of TicTocs to a small band of friends who appreciate the TicTocs if not the hour I send them, I found a series of quick videos that are named 'iPhone hacks that will change your life' and to be honest they say that accurately without hyperbole. This one shows you how to change your iPhone settings so that the new proprietary formatting which allows more photos to be saved with less space (HEIC) but less able to be used on foreign platforms, how you can change that setting so you may be taking up a bit more space on your phone but you're able to use the pictures more widely. I have not checked but I have changed the setting and I believe that I will be able to now post pictures from my picture roll to my blog and other assorted platforms that have been blocked frustratingly as I've mentioned.
We sold a house today, Barn 36. This is one of the first homes we sold past pandemic of 2020 since our homes have a 9 to 10 month build out timeframe. So for all the money that has been made in pandemic real estate ours has only yet been booked but not cashed in with 24 contracts on the books that we are busy building and selling. This is the first one meaning this homeowner got a deal of a lifetime because prices during the build have gone up 20% at a minimum. That's a lot of money to leave on the table, or to accumulate while you're building a home. Month by month house by house starting in June of last year we began to come closer to the market rate prices of what our homes go for but we never could have imagined even in our most boastful monologues that our homes would be as valued in the marketplace as they have demonstrated to be over the past 10 months. It is simply remarkable and validating to be valued like we are being valued in the marketplace by a wide ranging variety of home buyers. A Catskill Farms' home comes to market - A Catskill Farms' home quickly gets snatched up at a great price.
Also we were finally able to make Lemonade out of lemons with a drilled well at lot 67 in Saugerties which we would love to close but we're not able to because for the only the second time in 20 years we had trouble finding water on the site. Which is frightening for everyone involved considering most people don't drill wells till you are well into the project. Meaning you can have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested when you realize that you may have trouble getting water to the site. This has many ramifications including but not limited to instilling a complete paranoia in any other projects you may have going. Clearly this doesn't happen very often because otherwise there would be a law that says you need to drill your well first before you build a home and everybody would drill wells before they buy land so it is a rare occasion to struggle to find water 200, 300, 500, 700 feet into the earth. But sometimes it happens, and the amount of effort it takes to pivot, adjust, decide is immense. Well drilling is one of the most expensive least nimble aspects of building home. It's a big industrial rig with a big drill on it that drills into the ground a foot at a time searching for water in small crevices that can be expanded and drawn from. We finally hit water, after a 3 month ordeal. Not cheap, not easy, very distracting from other things, but had to achieved.
So, right when we are acknowledging the 1st anniversary of the biggest disruption most of have and will see in our lifetimes - Catskill Farms will be selling off the deals it made post pandemic over the next 9 months, as well as bringing a few more to market that no-one has heard of yet.
So I take a moment to recognize the achievement knowing full well it's just a matter or minute, hours or days till something big happens that needs to be fixed, solved, resolved or remedied - taken the shine off of and posing a tripping hazard to any victory lap.
Presenting, Barn 36 -
At the Airport - St Petes, Florida
At the Airport !
Funny, as a frequent leisure traveler, I haven’t been anywhere on a plane, and really only a rare occasion outside a range of 2hrs from my home, in a year. All the annual rituals - the holidays of course with family, but also the yearly sojourn to NYC with my son we’ve pulled off since he was 2 months old, the Stowe trip, the vacations and jaunts and weekends and plans - all cancelled.
So I step on a plane to St Petersburg Florida to check out a city I’ve never been but have heard great things about, I feel a sense of something - relief, maybe - as life seems to be about turn that corner into the home stretch of return to normalcy. We have a sane president, Trump fading from view, government acting responsibility and marshaling the full extent of American talent to pull us to safety, with none of the day to day counterproductive nonsense. The Democrats are certainly taking advantage of the old adage of ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ with their passage of that $1.9Trillion stimulus, investing and supporting much more than that impacted by the Pandemic. I’ve found the same to be true - when shit hits the fan and chaos ensues, look around and see what else you can fix that isn’t directly related to the root cause of the disruption - you are already disrupted, what’s a little more? Truth is, all of us shy from upsetting the apple cart, even when it’s clear the apples are rotten, since it just invites misery, but once already slathered with a little misery, a little more hurts less.
I’ve been so single-minded I’m worried about the process of turning it off. Astonishingly, single-minded and wholly effective, summoning talents and resources and depths that go unnoticed and untested during the normal course of events. Coming out the other side twice the man I was going in, which is really unfair to the ladies to be honest.
I was standing waiting in line, and it occurred to me the feeling I'm feeling, and I felt a phrase turn come to mind. Emotional Hibernation - all of us shut down, hunkered down, repressed, deflected, reasoned and waited our way through a wholly unpredictable and wholly unexpected and totally disruptive life event. I feel we all need a big cry when this is over. It’s been real and we all did our best. It feels like WWII is ending, and we are all ready to hit the streets and celebrate.
And sometimes that’s what you need - an event so big and traumatic and disruptive that you have no choice but to pay attention. It triggered a change of the presidency, it demanded and accelerated change in the work place, it pushed the skills and talents of all our gov’t, corporate, business and educational in ways unimaginable.
Those of us running things - if we survived, our skills are 3 fold what they were a year ago. You reacted and acted or you went out of business. You looked into the abyss and mapped a course forward, a course shrouded in fog the entire time, every assumption truly untested, every decision a best guess. And the one thing that really helped in this regard was there was little distraction from working - single minded focus wasn’t some heroic accomplishment - there was nothing more to do. Kids activities cancelled or curtailed, among the hundreds of life events that suck and compete for our time were not competing. You could dial in, stay close to home, focus in, think and strategize and work. Traveling takes time and effort over and above the actual travel and ‘time’ is a zero sum game - what use at one place is not available for another.
The old patterns are returning, but like anything you’ve missed, they come back better appreciated and sweeter. The kiss, the rendezvous, the sporting and concert event, the meal with the grandparents. (me wearing my flamingo shirt my son gave me in front of a bunch of real life Flamingos in St Petes).
My flight routine is familiar - headphones and a newspaper and normally some writing. I always listen to Buenos Vista Social Club, and I only listen to it while flying, so like the music is closely associated with flights, travel, and going in and out of naps on a plane. Sometimes I’ll move onto George Harrison’s early 70’s All Things Must Pass, and sometimes Mark Ronson light and groovy bits.
The flight was full, middle seats used up, lines at security and onboarding the plae, so I guess covid restrictions are only being enforced with schools and other things where the little guy can't fight back. The fucking guy sharing my row in 1st Class definitely didn't spend the weekend respecting covid rules, I would bet on that as a sure thing.
Most excitingly, when we landed, there were 5 police cars waiting, and they called a name and guy walked forward and got arrested - not for not wearing a mask, though he wasn't - but for something a lot more serious it appeared.
Ruminations on the Entrepreneurial Life
While we all recover from the PTSD of the Trump years, I'm noticing the relief in small ways. For instance, I'm now finding myself listening to long Audible books while driving instead of circling around news and talk news radio stations for the latest outrage, source of comfort, hope for the future. I used to devour long history books on tapes, starting with the 50 hour Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich back in 2013. The narrators voice on that one became as familiar as my wife's (and since I still look for books he speaks, and my wife and I are long divorced), his voice proved to have more longevity. The current book I'm listening to in on Roosevelt and mostly the war years. Fascinating guy and times. And writer Doris Kearns Goodwin, of Team of Rivals (lincoln) fame and others, writes well, and interestingly.
That's not fair though. I hear my ex's voice all the time. How my lunch packing skills and choices are bizarre, how the lost socks mystery that surrounds Lucas is somehow my fault, how the movie we watched over the weekend was inappropriate, etc.... I'm just joking - we have a great and valued relationship that we work on daily.
I'm also reading Britian at Bay, which is a story of Britain from 1939-42. One of the things it tries to do, as least over the first 150 pages, is give the Chamberlain as an appeaser and failure another look, and recast him as a more 3 dimensional character
A lot of you close readers are probably remarking about how 'wow, looks like Chuck got the picture thing figured out'. That would not be correct, I'm posting in my old blog and copy and pasting in my new blog, because my new blog hosted on my new website doesn't upload/fancy the HEIC format that is automatic on Iphones.
That's right, I paid $15k for a fancy new website which I love and I go to blog and celebrate my victory, and, boom, issue with photo uploads.
Couple of drone shots -
One would think that would turn me off to my web designer, who is locked down outside of London somewhere with his girlfriend and baby. But no way, in my business, life ain't perfect, and since I deal with literally 100 vendors a week, results that aren't what I wholly expected are par for the course. Vendors coming up short is par for the course. Shit not working the way it's supposed to is par for the course. But anyone in my position knows that even the best laid plans don't always work out, and typically you aren't working with the best laid plans, so the idea that it's not working out how you had it pictured in your mind's eye, well, that's just something you get used to. The real trick is not letting it go too far, calibrating the anticipated imperfection so it actually works, maybe just not exactly how you thought it might. And giving your partners a break - christ, they are a hardworking bunch. Of all the attributes that help vendors make the cut with Catskill Farms for mutual benefit, hardworking is at the very top. Everything else comes after that.
My baseball coach growing up (ages 8-14) told me that my competitive advantage will always be that I know how to work harder than other people, inherently, because coming from Lancaster PA, you are surrounded by hard-working people, small businesses, etc... Everyone seems to be industrious, and have a side hustle.
I've been also having fascinating conversations with leaders in their field this week - my bank president and I caught up, then a super interesting conversation with a client we are building a home for who is a producer at a well-known news program. Perspective and insights from a broad range of people has always kept us safe from -'owner knows best' trap many small business get caught in. Though, I do think that I know best, it's just that I know best because I'm tapping into and listening to a very broad range of market participants.