Most housing markets around the country have hit bottom and are now on the road to recovery, a recovery that will be a slow but steady process. For most of us in the homebuilding industry there are still several months of challenges to be faced and many days filled with hard work in front of us.
The past few years have certainly been difficult but, as the recovery comes to be and our industry returns to prosperity, hopefully we will remember the lessons that we learned and maintain the skills that were necessary to have seen us through what is arguably the toughest market seen in our lifetimes. One of those lessons that I have been reminded of lately is to remember what is truly important in life.
Our older son is getting married next spring and his fiancée’s sister got married last week. I cannot begin to imagine the stress on a family having to plan (and pay for) two weddings within six months but our son’s future in-laws graciously invited us to the celebration, we happily accepted and flew to St. Louis. Meeting the future “Machatunim” for the first time (Yiddish is apparently the only language which has a word to describe a son or daughter-in-laws’ parents, probably due to the importance of family in Jewish culture) is always an unusual experience and meeting them in the midst of a wedding would not be my first choice for this encounter but they and their friends and relatives could not have been any nicer, friendlier or more gracious, warmly welcoming us into their family. They also appeared to be truly pleased that our son was marrying their daughter so the weekend could not have been any nicer.
After the wedding we took the opportunity on Monday to fly to Chicago to visit our family that still lives in our “hometown”. My aunt and uncle reached 102 years old this year and we did not want to miss an opportunity to see them as well as my cousins who we truly like. We had a wonderful visit with my uncle who, although he had just returned from a hospital stay, appeared to be in relatively good shape and was pleased to see us. And my aunt, who suffers memory loss, recognized us immediately so the visit was very good.
I have a special place in my heart for my uncle who first introduced me to the homebuilding business. He was a scattered site builder and my very first job, I was eight years old at the time, was driving in the car with his superintendent on Saturday mornings with a tax plat book on my lap marking vacant homesites for possible acquisition. As I recall, I was paid $25.00 cash for three hours work and that is probably why I found the industry so attractive. Of course, I have been trying ever since to again reach that same level of income, inflation adjusted.
We returned home Thursday at 5:00 PM and received a phone call from my cousin one hour later that my uncle had just passed away. I will be eternally grateful that we had the opportunity for one last visit.
I was visiting with a client this week whose market is still severely challenged. It has been my pleasure to work with this client for the past twenty years and I have come to consider several of their team members as close personal friends. That is perhaps one of the best parts of this business – that I been fortunate to have made so many new friends. During this visit we reviewed recent progress and discussed opportunities for improvements in three specific communities. Due to financial limitations and other conditions beyond their direct control, many of these recommendations will probably not be implemented. And although this will result in sales achieving something less than their full potential, and I am somewhat of a perfectionist, that is acceptable as I know that reality is usually something less than optimal, I believe that the client is always right (my golden rule), and, most important, these are my friends and I will continue to use my best efforts to help them maximize performance regardless of whether or not my recommendations are followed and my efforts are successful.
We in the homebuilding industry have faced serious challenges over the past few years and probably will continue to face still more in the days ahead until the recovery is fully manifested. We have been under some real stress and often during times of stress we tend to forget what is really important. Thanksgiving arrives next month so let’s take the time to recognize that even though business may still be challenging, we have much to be thankful for and most important among those are family and friends. But that’s just my opinion.
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