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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Relationships (Catskills Homes and Real Estate

Ask my ex, and she would unceremoniously declare me unskilled in the relationship arena. On the business front, it has been 20 years of hardcore relationship building that has made all the difference, especially when it really counts. To be honest, I'm as proud of these deep trusted relationships than the sale of 165 Catskills homes in which live countless families whose lives Catskill Farms' has enhanced.
I know a lot of builders, developers - some new, some not so, but their business comes down to who is working with them. Considering how hard that team was to put together, I consider it our main competitive advantage.
Most of our construction relationships are now 10+ years old, at least 5 years. Dozens if not hundreds of homes together. Some of our best were forged in the great recession where we kept busy and some real talented subcontractors needed new customers because their go to contractors/builders didn't have any work. We needled our way into that space.
Our banking relationship with Jeff Bank gives us so many advantages I wouldn't even know where to to start. My main lender at the bank has moved up the ranks and is now President of this 100+ year institution. With customized lines of credit that are created for my needs, and molded and evolved as our business has grown, has supplied a constant source of funding for Catskill Farms. It's easy to say 'why wouldn't they lend, we've always paid our bills', but that's just not the way it works. For 18 years they've found a way to keep me from shopping other banks - they may literally be the longest business relationship I have, which is unusual since most businesses that have grown from literally zero revenue to $10m+ a year outgrow their banking partner. While the full board has needed to review any request I make, they still find a way to say yes most times.
We've outstripped the resources and talent of our book-keepers, our lawyers, our accountants, engineers, etc.. over and over. Spend all that time investing in a relationship, and two years later your needs don't match up against their skills anymore. Kind of like the canals that decorate our countryside - was any transportation scheme so arduous, labor intensive and so important and so quickly replaced with the next best thing (the train). So you stick it out and hope it works out but it never does - growth causes problems, constantly.
Be it our accountant, banking, or insurance, the day to day is satisfying, but what really counts is when you are in a pickle, when you need some individualized, personalized, creative action from one of your relationships, and they go to bat for you, and test out all their relationships, and bring home a real favor that plucks you from a corner of trouble - they can't do everyday, but when it mattered, the relationship was there. I personally feel help - regardless of which direction to which problem - be it construction, finance, insurance, law or employees - big-league help is just a call away.
That may sound obvious to persons not familiar with the inexperience and lack of relationships most entrepreneurs start the race with, where every problem is a problem they own wholly.
When I look back on this journey now, or in 10 years, as fulfilling and perhaps even more than the homes and families and sales and the $300m+ of Catskill real estate investment, will be the relationships I forged with some fabulous professionals.

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