I was seven or eight years old, and my cousin Sean and I were spending the night in the barn waiting for the mare to foal. My Dad had an “office” in the barn that had a bed, a chair, a refrigerator, a TV, and the equipment needed to deliver a foal. It was the middle of winter, as the delivery season for horses is from the end of January through April. This was “camping out” for me, and as a seven- or eight-year-old, getting to hang out with my cousin who is eight years my elder was the coolest thing ever.
It was a Friday night and The Dukes of Hazard was the big TV show of the era. Sean had watched the show before, but it was my first introduction to The Dukes of Hazard. I remember how cool I thought Bo and Luke Duke were driving the “01” General Lee. They were always trying to avoid Boss Hog, the local sheriff who had it out for them but was always outsmarted in the end. Bo and Luke had their cousin, Daisy, and Uncle Jesse helping them. The Dukes of Hazard was like the 1980s version of the current show Moonshiners.
I digress. This isn’t about Dukes of Hazard; it is about growing up on a farm.
What is foaling, you ask? It is delivering a baby horse. During the height of the horse business, when I was growing up, my dad would deliver 60-80 foals in a season. This is no easy chore, as a large majority of foals are delivered between 11:00pm and 4:00a (I have no idea why this is, but I can tell you that, having been around for nearly a thousand foalings, this is true).
This night was probably one of my earliest memories from growing up on The Farm. See, Sean and I were, in essence, working for my dad that night. My dad was the premiere foaling expert in the area. He was not a veterinarian by title, but he had so much experience that he knew how to handle any complication that happened. That is why people would come from the surrounding states to have my dad deliver their foal. He had a reputation that was spread from one horse owner to another through word-of-mouth about his expertise. These owners knew that if Ed Verdi delivered their foal, it would have the best chance of surviving and thriving.
Once a horse starts labor, the foaling time can be anywhere from 15-20 minutes to several hours. You never know what you might encounter delivering a 150-200lb foal. At a minimum, you have to help pull the foal from the mare, and then do all the post-delivery activity: cutting the umbilical cord, clearing its airways of mucus, drying off the foal, and making sure it can stand and nurse (usually within an hour). Or, you might have to deal with more complicated births, like when the foal is not positioned properly, and you have to get it readjusted before it is delivered. Or, if the foal is born and you can tell something is not right, you have to start medical assistance immediately. Or sometimes, the mare may be too tense and needs a shot to relax. There are hundreds of situations that can happen, and my dad knew how to handle any of them. If the situation was extremely difficult, the first call was always to Aunt Betty (She’s not really my aunt, but that’s what I call her). She was our neighbor, a fellow farmer, and also a small animal vet. Betty would be there within minutes, even at the wee hours of the morning. That’s just how it is on a farm. If someone needs help, you help them, no questions asked.
Then, if Betty and Dad couldn’t handle the delivery, we would call the equine veterinarian. If the vet was necessary, and it occasionally was, my dad and Betty could at least stabilize the situation until the vet arrived.
The vet was always on-call, and even when we would call him at two or three in the morning, he’d arrive within 30-40 minutes. The goal was to make sure that the foal made it to the next morning. Sometimes, the mare and foal had to be sent to the equine hospital in Leesburg, but this was rare.
Between the vet, my dad, and Aunt Betty, they could handle nearly any situation.
That’s just how life on a farm is. There is no fixed schedule. You JUST DO.
There is a certain sense of pride living on a farm. You pull together with your neighbors, with fellow farmers, and if someone needs help, you help. You don’t ask, “What are you going to do for me?” You don’t say, “Oh sorry, I’m on a break right now, give me an hour.” That is the one underlying trait that I can say I learned growing up on a farm. When someone calls and needs help, you help. You drop what you are doing and go help them.
I remember one Christmas Eve, Aunt Betty called my dad and said that she needed help unloading a wagon of hay and stacking in her barn. My cousin Zack and I were probably 16 or 17 years old, and we were just hanging out at my parents’ house. Dad said, “Come on boys, Betty needs help. Get your boots and gloves on and get in the truck.” Zack and I weren’t happy about having to unload 200-300 bales of hay on Christmas Eve, but saying no was NOT an option. Betty needed help, so we went.
I remember countless times when the phone would ring and when Dad answered, we would just drop whatever we were doing and get in the truck and go to work. Horses were loose. A fence was broken. Water wasn’t working. Betty got her tractor stuck in a field. It didn’t matter what time of day it was or what else you were doing. You stopped what you were doing and took care of the most immediate problem.
On a farm, there is no timeclock.
Compare this to what I call the “employee mindset.” What is the employee mindset?
It is one that most people that work for other people have. They work their 9am to 5pm, they take they hour lunch. Making sure they use every minute of that break. And if the project they are doing is not complete at 5pm, then they will just finish it the next day. There is no going above and beyond.
No helping others out and not receiving any benefit.
I believe that there are two types of Mindsets when it comes to people and jobs. The Employee Mindset or the Entrepreneurial/Farmer Mindset.
The Farmer mindset it totally different: If you see someone who needs help, you help, or at least offer to help. That’s just what you do, help others and there is no timeclock to punch
The “employee” mindset is foreign to me.
What’s an employee mindset? It’s one in which you basically do the minimum to get by. You don’t do anything that is not in your job description. You don’t stay late or come in early to help. You don’t take initiative. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve seen this employee mindset far too often.
This is the polar opposite of how I was raised. On a farm, when someone calls and needs your help, you don’t ask any questions, you don’t say, “Wait an hour, I’m on a lunch break.” You JUST DO. You drop what you are doing and you help. When you see someone who needs help, you don’t ask what’s in it for you, you just help.
This employee mindset is not in my DNA; it is not how I was raised. When someone calls and needs help, I JUST DO.
This mindset of doing has translated to my business. I typically get calls or texts from clients saying that they have a problem or that they need something done. I don’t tell them that they need to wait until it fits “my schedule.” I help.
Just recently, I worked with a purchaser of one of the most magnificent homes in downtown Frederick. This was a complicated transaction, as there were many hurdles that we had to overcome with city planning and zoning officials, contractors, sprinkler installers, architects, inspectors, rental agencies, appraisers, and the Fire Marshall. My buyer lived out of town, so I was the point-person for arranging meetings with the above people to make sure that the property was a feasible purchase. My client and I did hours upon hours of research and due diligence, and we had only 21 days to complete all of this.
I arranged all of the meetings at the house and had to coordinate the meeting times with the above officials, as the owners were still living there and we had limited access. One day, I had the inspector, a contractor, the architect, the sprinkler guys, and a rental agent meet at the property between 9:00am and noon. This is no easy task, and I had to call in favors to coordinate everything.
Was this in my job description? No, but I JUST DO.
This particular transaction was one of the most difficult that I have had in 13 years, and I did more and learned more than I ever had on any other transaction.
I have to say that had I not watched my dad all those years growing up on the farm and his ability to solve problems and his “helper’s” mentality of just doing what you’ve got to do, I wouldn’t have had the stomach to tackle such a difficult transaction.
“I don’t do THAT kind of real estate”
This is what the other agent said to me after we went to settlement. He thanked me and said, “I don’t do THAT kind of real estate. I don’t know how to make the inroads in local government like you did. I don’t know how you pulled all of that together.”
Seriously. This is what he said. I guarantee you that the other agent didn’t grow up on a farm. That “JUST DO” DNA is not in everyone. Most have the “employee mindset.” They can’t think outside of their job description, and if things get difficult, they don’t know how to “roll up their sleeves” and solve the problem.
I’m thankful that I learned the “Just Do” mentality from my childhood…