South Mountain Company
For more than a decade I have had a low-grade obsession with the St Pierre property in Vineyard Haven, the site of an old Marine Hospital that sits high on a bluff overlooking Lagoon Pond and the Vineyard Harbor beyond. The evocative 4.4 acre property is a short walk from downtown. It is surrounded by small lots with small homes.
The imposing wood-frame hospital was built in 1895 by the U.S. government to treat soldiers, sailors, and their families. In 1935 they expanded with a brick addition on the rear and continued to operate the hospital. When it closed in the mid-fifties the St Pierre family bought it and operated it as a school and summer camp (and then just a summer camp) for 50 years. In 2007 Barbara St Pierre, daughter of the founders of the St Pierre School, ceased operation. The 10,000 SF building is in a state of disrepair, but it still has very good bones and begs for new life.
This year is all done.
That’s good. I feel like I’ve “been rode hard and put away wet.” I’m ready for the New Year. Here are some random things I hope for in 2011:
• Health in my house. . . and yours.
• To remember that there are two parts to a crisis – reacting to the immediate with urgent solutions, and adapting long term to the new reality that results from the initial crisis.
• Rewarding work for all. Paul Hawken once said, “We are the only species without full employment.” Isn’t there anything that needs to be done?
WARNING: This post is really long. It’s a friggin’ tome. Enter at your own risk. It’s in two parts. The first is about trouble and recovery. The second is about the internal workings of an extraordinary place.
TROUBLE & RECOVERY
It was Saturday afternoon. Chris was cleaning the basement. I was lying on the bed, reading a book called Amish Grace, about the incredible ability of a group of Amish people to forgive and embrace the family of the guy who had mowed down their daughters in a one room schoolhouse.
Suddenly Chris burst into the room with a look of terror in her eyes.
“Something’s weird and wrong – really wrong – with my right foot.“ Her foot started to shake uncontrollably, then her hand and arm, and then everything went haywire.
BO BURLINGHAM IS AN INC. MAGAZINE editor-at-large who has been writing about entrepreneurship for three decades. I know him; we have crossed paths several times. But I know him much better from his writing, which includes a fine book called SMALL GIANTS: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big (I have to admit here, sheepishly, and maybe arrogantly at the same time, that when I read that book I wished we had been included).
The November issue of INC., has a long piece by Bo called “What Am I, If Not My Business?” which is about the challenges entrepreneurs face in leaving their companies when they retire or sell. He is in the midst of writing a book about the subject.
WHEN SOUTH MOUNTAIN BEGAN, in 1975, I was 26 years old. Most of our clients were twice my age. Now, 35 years later, our long-time client base is aging. They (and their cohorts) have been our primary source of work and referrals, and now we must appeal to the next generation. Can we? Do we? Will we be able to serve their needs and desires?
At least we have set the stage.
During the past decade we have hired and cultivated a superb cadre of younger people – in their twenties, thirties and early forties. Some of them have become owners. This helps us in many ways as we begin to transition to Generation Two, but will it help us appeal to the next generation?