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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Taking things too far....

 Would anyone argue if I said that we've taken the Chinese of 'wish for an interesting life' too far?   Seriously.  

A real life experience: My friend Leo in Nortbern California, married, 18 year old daughter.  

So his daughter is going to Bard, expensive, private.  She had to/is quarantining for 14 days in a crappy hotel.  Then released to campus, for who knows how long.  What is certain is if campus doesn't stay open, Bard won't be refunding much of that $70k.

Leo, lives in an area north of San Francisco.  Just evacuated with his wife.  In his VW 1984 Bus; he quotes, " I never expected to want the same thing - VW Bus - as much at 50 yrs old as 18 year old'.  From a huge fire appearing unexpectedly near Santa Rosa, which was the scene of a huge fire a few years ago.  So, he's on the road, in his VW bus, newly emptied nest, taking nomadic photos of the hazed-in sun from the smoke of the fires.  Beautiful, if it's only impact was for the eye, and not on tens of thousands of lives.

What was pretty...

Turned smoky and scary.  North of SF somewhere.

For me, and others I'm sure, this is the Year of the Black Swan, the phrase used to describe an unexpected event with society-wide impacts.  It's what happens when everything is going good, defenses are down, chickens being counted before and during hatching.

We had the Virus, whose impact has been dramatic, across the board.  As a parent, seeing a kid lose 4 months of their youth - no school, no sports, a bit isolated - that's no fun even if money's not a problem.  Now sending them back into the abyss as school starts up next week, trying to decide if isolation and shitty academics is an equal trade with their health and safety.  I think I'd be less inclined to send them back if I didn't watch a little league league have a great summer of games.  Hundreds of kids at our little ball park, decided 2 months late to play the season, and played 3-4 nights a week for the last 6 weeks.  We didn't let Lucas play - he wanted to play lacrosse anyways - because back in late May things were still pretty hairy, but in retrospect, a lot of kids used that league as a real life saver for the summer - and zero persons got sick.  Zero.  So we worried that school would be the same way - we take the side of precaution, then it all turns out fine, and he misses something he wouldn't have.  

That said, we are preparing for a shutdown, and this year if it happens we will definitely be prepared, meaning mostly, gather some kids each day to study and learn together from the zoom classes, forced to get up, get dressed, add some structure, and lessen the isolation.  I guess this is what they are calling 'learning pods' except ours won't be high-end, just kids hangin' learning together, having lunch and recess, etc...  Still, no sports, no this, no that.  Gets old.

My primary lead man carpenter in Ulster County learned in Mid-July his 10 year old daughter has I guess what they are calling brain cancer, that has spread to the spine.  So she's been in the hospital since the moment they found it, and he's been off work without working 5 of the last 6 weeks.  That is an incredible disruption to our best laid plans - I don't mean 'delay disruption' to the clients who read this, I mean more like everyone's job is different now, as we rearrange the pieces on the chessboard.  More chance for error, more chance for expensive mis-fires, more chance for employees getting overworked.  This synchronized exactly with us signing up a dozen new clients and we were ready to blaze away.  We subcontract a lot of our work out, but it still hurts.  That's professionally.  Personally, every single member of our team has a heavier step because of it, as a friend and co-worker goes through I guess what could be safely called the worst thing a parent can go through.

On the Lazy Meadows Real Estate side of things, where I help my existing homeowners resell their homes when that day comes, and also help families who inquiry with Catskill Farms but don't quite fit with what we offer, my one and only agent Caroline Akt springs it on me that she has been planning for 6 months to launch her own shop.   She has her office set up, she has her broker's license, she has her fed/state tax ID.  Which is fine, but since I mentored her, trained her, introduced her to my 2 decades of top-tier relationships, taught her how to speak not as an excavator's wife but as a high-end salesperson, passed 100% of the leads that came through the door to her, one would've hoped for a more proper notice, since she knew as well as I did her actions would literally shut the door on Lazy Meadows' efforts until I could find an agent, which is like saying 'until I do the impossible'.  Disloyalty, dishonesty and treachery.  Now, don't get me wrong, I know this happens all the time, but since we are such a small shop, it's impact, and the awareness of the impact, is what stings, since that's just bad business.

It reminds me when Henning Nordanger of Hennings Local restaurant worked for me as a carpenter.  He was earning a good wage, but more than that he met Larry who worked for me, and Brian, who worked for me, and between the 3 of them they launched an idea to start a restaurant, used most of my employees at night to get it up and running and then, in order to launch, stole my primary lead carpenter to help open his business.

What gets me over and over in these situations is just the lack of proper procedure - why not say 'thank you, here's what we are doing, don't want to blindside you', instead, it's always just the opposite, where I'm viewed as so successful that to use me as a springboard, and take whatever is needed to get it done, is fair game.

2 problems with that - 1, I'm not THAT successful, and 2, if I am, the team I assembled has come through blood sweat and tears, so it's personal.   And 3rd, even though I said 2, it's just low class.  But what should expect when I live and work in the 2nd poorest county in NY State.  That means a lot of more than you might think when it comes to situations like this - though, that's not fair to all the local rednecks, since Henning is from Norway or something.  I guess it's just that people's dreams blind them to their own actions, and they mistakenly think taking the short-cut, or failing to pay your respects to your building blocks, is the best way forward.  Maybe, but maybe not.  I think the single most important attribute I have as a business person is the ability to read the room, not so I can take advantage of it, but so I can strike a balance in it.

Then of course, my website was deleted.  Gone, and I'm probably 50 hours into a new one.

Lumber prices are up nearly 75% since February.  See here for an illustration that brings it home clear, so now I'm forced to have 15 conversations with homeowners about this pricing that I have no choice but to pass along, since there ain't no way I'm eating $150k of lumber increases while I'm building homes for people to feel safe in.  I'd rather go on vacation.

I'm doing a 3 lot subdivision in Phoenixville, PA, whose rental income should come in handy over the next 2 decades.  Great area.  This conversion from 1930's community hall to 4 bedroom single family residence turned out great.

Thing about it though, all these distractions in no way lessen the day to day obligation we have to our clients, past and present.  Obligations which are serious, large in volume and demanding of our full attention.  Nor does it relieve us of the obligations of running a business, managing cash flow, insurance, employees, taxes, mortgages, and the hundreds of daily tasks that result from living in the fast lane.

So what is one to do when you are supposed to a rock star, but your band is breaking up?  Like you've done since you strung the guitar for the first time - reinvent, reimagine, refocus and reenvision how you get here to there.  I've learned this many times, but no better time to improve your business than when it is going through unexpected trials - embrace the chaos, reorganize, and take chances you wouldn't have when everything is going smooth and you don't want to upset the apple cart.  Status quo is good, smooth sailing is good, until it isn't, and then you want a leader who has been tested at the helm so you can may be steer into the waves as opposed to trying to run from them, or duck and hide.

Consider, confront, solve, act. Too bad that doesn't work out to some sort of acronym that I could use going forward.

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