so we have stayed in business until this point. i guess my documentation will be my own little journal of the downfall or survival of my own little version of American Enterprise, tinged with political and economic opinion. i do firmly believe we, as the nation we knew it, are done. this is my attempt at reasoning through our experience as builders in a flailing nation from the apex of greed in society, to its eventual destruction of current form. i dearly hope that as a nation and species we come out of this era with a new idea of existence and societal norms that is as evolutionary as the movement from serfdom to freedom was (until the ideal was corrupted by the corporate state and its cronies we elect). and i hope our present return to serfdom is stopped in its tracks and reversed.
so S and I discussed and decided to buy the assets of the company, rename and restart the operation right before the planes hit the twin towers and economy sank into hibernation. i say this in not a woe is me manner but in a manner of pride. the company we bought and distanced ourselves from became ours and we developed its structure and reputation in the fashion we decided represented us personally and professionally. though long-winded, we named the company after both of our last names so people knew the actual name behind the buildings.
the year before we bought out our partner, we built $5 million dollars worth of pretty things that people live in. the year after the planes hit we built $ 250,000 worth. the economy took a hit and we took a hit with it. ‘pay the boys before you pay yourself’ was the motto. make sure your subcontractors understand that payment for their work may be later than usually but it will come as soon as possible before they agree to do the work. it sucked, but didn’t deter us or make us ‘mad’, that came much later.
hopefully without sounding too full of pride i can say that we really focused on our reputation and succeeded in proudly stating that we have not to this date had a bad reference. we have treated our clients well and have put enormous amount of pride into every project we have constructed.
though undoubtedly helped by the free money policies of herr Greenspan and his minions, our company slowly built up over the fist three years and grew in reputation and size to a point that we were turning down as much custom home building as we were building as the free money boom started in full swing. we paid off the bank-note representing the asset purchase of the former entity and felt as if those years of full on shit were worth it.
in an effort to put things in perspective i will throw out some details about the company we built. we are purposely and luckily located in one of the most beautiful areas of the rocky mountain west, including what many would call two of your most idyllic mountain ski towns, plenty of fishable rivers, and of late numerous golf courses. i personally believe it is the most appealing places in the lower forty-eight, but that is my opinion. we employ between twenty-five and thirty craftsmen and provide local subcontractors and suppliers with about $2 million worth of work for themselves annually. we have built about $25 million in pretty things people live in since our inception. i will not deny that i am proud of what we have created and built, no matter how things go from this point on.
during the free money boom we did not fall prey to the ‘will give you whatever you want, just build a bunch of houses on spec’ banking mentality. we did purchase some industrial land and build a nice shop and office space to manage our company from, nothing fancy but definitely suitable for our needs. we invested in equipment and necessities to run a quality construction company. our bank would say we grew in a healthy manner.
our most important, and at times most difficult challenge was keeping quality employees, which is why we have always treated quality people in a quality manner. even during the post dot-com era of pain we provided our people with health insurance. not an easy task than and getting more difficult by the quarter now.
“as soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go”- Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
this is not meant to be an outlet of whiny musings. If it resembles such at any point i apologize now and want you to understand that at no point do i feel ‘victimized’ by anyone, anymore than you yourself may. because the bottom line is that we all are victims, some by our own decisions, some by the decisions of others. i am attempting to document the decisions i have made in an attempt to maybe enlighten myself and better understand my goals at various points of my ‘career’, and what guided me toward these attempted ends.
some background that can and should be skipped if bored by such egotistical jabber.
i am a custom homebuilder for now, and have been for many years. i, like so many, went to college and studied enough to do well, graduate, and go into something completely unrelated to the field in which i chose to matriculate. i always knew, since i was a teenager working for my brother-in-law as a carpenter, that i would build things for a living. pretty things that had function and were appreciated by my fellow-man. things that had inherent worth not only in the materials from which they were built, but by the proper methods and craftsmanship used to create them. there truly is no feeling like the pride one feels at the end of the day and looks at what one has created from a mixture of mind, body and matter. it is a cliché i know, but most of the time clichés are founded on truth.
at some point about ten years ago i decided that to be a carpenter alone was not enough for some reason and with a fellow project manager (hereafter referred to as S) at a high-end construction company, planned on starting our own firm. we were approached by our employer to join him in partnership. he was not excited about losing us and wanted to start to wind down his own career, so we joined up and continued his company under a new name and management. the dot-com bubble burst and towers fell. our former boss is a good man and a hard worker but the pressure of seeing the building industry grind to a halt as he fought a disgruntled client (hedge fund type, quasi regular talking head on CNBC) who was raking him over the coals had a very negative effect on him. i will never forget the day he walked onto a job site that myself and S were working with nine of our employees on, and started throwing things and telling all the guys that we were done, the job is shut down, we are out of business. S and I didn’t know how to react. all of the guys were wide-eyed and slinky-chinned baffled. they gathered in the front yard of the house and stared at our partner, than looked to us for facial clues, and back to the man they now saw as a lunatic, throwing stuff yelling what now became inaudible sounds with the occasional ‘DONE!” thrown in. the now broken madman left screaming ‘you better look for other jobs!’ When i dwell on decisions i have made, these are the type that baffle me in the light of history. did i decide to partner up with this man because it would be easier than starting from scratch? why at this moment, when i was watching a man have his spirit broken, did i not say to myself, ‘boy, this isn’t exactly an easy business to be in’. because it just seemed to be the right thing for me, and i loved building things. pretty things people live in.
S and I decided to buy the now mad man out, and it wasnt cheap in any way.
i have always understood that there is a basic narcissism at the bottom of every desire to create one of these things. The Blog- somewhere in the mind one thinks other people want to hear what you have to say, i really dont care if anyone reads this besides myself, i guess it is just a place to vent and tell a story. sure i could do it in Word and just save it on my computer- but maybe, just maybe, there is one person out there who can empathize with what is written and becomes the second member of the mad builder liberation front that really doesnt exist.