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Monday, October 3, 2011


We do a lot things well over here at Catskill Farms. We are good businesspeople, we are talented house designers, we are hard nosed construction managers, we are productive members of the community, etc... and so on.

But I think what really makes us stand out is how much our clients trust us. On many levels. Families who choose to build with us are not just entering a business contract with us, they are giving us the reins of one the biggest financial and lifestyle decisions they will make in their lives. And we are part of it from the very beginning to the very end.

Our entire business model is built on trust. How many builders will build you a house, allow you to collaborate and customize, while footing the bill till the end? That takes a lot of trust from us - faith that the client will accept the parameters of our design process, faith the client will come through in the end with the money to buy the completed house. After 100 homes, I think we lost one or two clients early in the process, who weren't able to see it through.

Our sales contracts are all about trust - compared to the detail that could be included in the contract, ours goes the other way and eliminates all but the most general description. Sure, we know what piece of land we are building it on, we know the size and the scope of some of the discretionary upgrades that have been selected, but in terms of kitchen layout, bath layout, electric/plumbing layout, colors, doors, floors, etc... - we kind of improvise and design as we go - an organic Saturday afternoon decision making process, in the house (not on a piece of paper). So by all means, for anyone who has been through a build process, leaving the details for later sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it works for us, it works for our clients - because there is a respect and trust that the self-interest inclinations are kept at bay.

Our clients come to us for lawyer recommendations, for financing recommendations, for house material recommendation - that cautious adversarial balance of power share the risk thing is left back in NYC. Thing about it, if we failed to deliver on these issues of trusts - if the lawyers we recommended didn't do a thorough job for these savvy clients, if the banks weren't equipped to handle the diversity of uniquely qualified candidates, if the kitchen guy was found to be marking up the products excessively - in sum, if Catskill Farms didn't enforce a discipline among all of our associates that we refer our clients to, our clients would lose that subliminal faith that makes solving problems together possible. Catskill Farms ensures that no one along the process looks at our clients as 'easy marks', which is the typical way the game is played up here.

I think we take our job very seriously - the entire business and business philosophy was founded on an idea that there must be a better way - that people choosing upstate living don't have to buy that 'old wreck of a home' and buy into 'that old house fix up fantasy', they don't have to spend their hours, and mental, spiritual and financial resources trying to get their house to work right and stop with the weekly, expensive surprises.

The inspiration for our business was founded on the simplest of notions - let people buy a cool home that works, so they can move onto the 2nd phase of getaway living - entertaining, coolin' it, doing nothing, cutting wood, reading a book, buying the perfect rockers for the front porch.

From what I have seen, you can't ever fully recover from a rocky landing at your upstate home - if the whole process - the purchase, the financing, the fixup, the move-in, the cable company, the phone company - if the whole process sucked, well, that carries over into the whole success of the idea.

So our idea was simple. Let's be trustworthy enough that people can pin their upstate aspirations on us, and they can leverage all of our knowledge and relationships in order to succeed themselves, and come in for a soft landing and get going on that easy country living.

Trust to us means something simple - delivering on the expectations you have set with people. If you set those expectations sky high like we do, then you better be ready to get dirty and get it done for them.

And to get these savvy, sour New Yorkers to trust us goes against their instincts, and giving them a great process where their trust is rewarded, -well, for me, that's half the reason it's worth doing in the first place. As they quest for a return to traditionalism in lifestyle and housing, we give them a return of good old fashioned trustworthiness as well.

It's really something you can hang your hat on.

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