Sunday, May 18, 2008

Being Non-Judgemental

After closing on an investment property this week, I went over to assess and tally what would be needed to restore the property. As I walked the property I noticed some men a few houses down putting a new roof on. The truck behind the dumpster had a license from Tennessee. I walked over to find out their various skill sets. We would be needing a roof on a few of our other homes, but we also need work on the newly purchased home just down the street. Now, I'm usually drawn to those different from me and I'm used to a variety of personalities and characters. But these guys had a particular draw that was like a scene straight out of a Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett movie. As they walked towards me, I could almost hear the Davey Crockett song:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew ev'ry tree.
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.
Davey, Davey Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

I liked them immediately. They were an ebullient group with southern charm to die for. Some were burly redheads and the others were tall lean as rails with pure white hair. All had southern accents with hearty laughs and long bushy beards and mustaches. My favorite mountain man, Jesse, has pure wild white hair down his back with a matching beard and shocking blue eyes. He looked like he had walked off of a movie set. He was brusque and equally charming and respectful, saying "yes, ma'am" every other line, though he must be at least 15 years my senior.

After discussing what their skills were, I asked if they would phone me so I could take them through the house. Enoch, Jesse's brother, said. "I'll come over there right now and see what you need. We'll be happy to help you, ma'am. Anything you need done we can do it. That's a promise." Wow! I liked him too. My partner and I are buying quite a few of these, up to some 200 homes, and the more crews we find to do the work with excellence the better.

Now, I didn't know they're abilities, but I really liked their attitude. That's half the battle. They were aggressive, endearing and intriguing. We walked over, went through the work details for the inside and outside of the house. He gave me a quote on the spot which was considerably less than the other quotes I had received. Things were looking really good.

I wondered if they could start tomorrow with a few smaller projects and we would go from there. "Ma'am I'll send my other brother Caleb and Jake over and they can start now." He wrote out a proposal instantly and his brother were over in 15 minutes changing locks and tearing down a swing set and fort. They worked with precision and togetherness that was sheer beauty. It took them 4 hours to do the proposed tasks, going to the dump site twice; the fort was huge! I was impressed.

My partner and I both have other businesses. As our time is limited finding good crews is important. We want to keep our staff intimate and we certainly would not like or can't micro manage them. I phoned my partner to tell him that I had found these really great guys from Tennessee. He was not impressed. Perhaps he did not take to my colorful descriptions of the group of men from Tennessee I affectionately dubbed "my mountain men."

Being very conservative and not extremely effusive, especially about those whom he doesn't know, my partner was not impressed as I spoke of this unlikely crew. (Of course, he hadn't met them yet.) I tried to convince him that they had done excellent work so far and that their 80 year old father had accompanied the brothers who came later to the property, dressed with overalls and all.

Surely, these men must have come from reasonably good stock. The dad's presence reminded me of the generational closeness that used to be very apparent in families. This somewhat impressed my partner. "Well, the price is right," he said. "OK. Offer them a case of beer once they're done. They'll really like that." I objected to this stereotype, adding that they were Irish too. Although he didn't really warm up to my crew I knew that he would be won over once he saw their work.

This morning after a few inspections on two properties, I took him over to the house to meet the crew. At 7:00 Jesse phone to tell me that they were on their way to the house. I loved this! By the time we got there at 12:00 Jesse was on the roof rebuilding the chimney. Enoch, Caleb, and Jake were putting up new gutters on the garage with such precision that marveled my partner.

Their dad watched on admiringly with a keen eye, giving advice to them and me. When we went to look at another one of our homes later on he chose the color of the title for the roof and gave suggestions as to the kind of vents and gutters to use. My partner was in awe as he watched these guys work. Their rhythm was flawless. (Who said that a certain group of people only had rhythm? And who determines its ebb and flow, its synchronicity? It's the steady multiple beats on cue that matter most, whether fast or slow or intermittently) Yes, these mountain men HAD rhythm, such of their very own.

"Would you guys like for me to pick you up a 12 pack when you're finish," my partner asked? "No, sir," said Jesse. " We don't drink. We used to but we don't do that no more. We haven't had a drink in 15 years. We all stopped drinking there all about the same time. " I smiled at my partner; he smiled back. Stereotypes were debunked. Not only were my Tennessee mountain men excellent craftsmen, they were also alcohol-free.

Have you ever misjudged another based on appearances and found out that your judgement was wrong?

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