November 14, 2018



When I was a kid, our Thanksgiving gathering often included the ritual of going around the table and sharing what we were thankful for. Personally, I was always very sincerely thankful for the four-day weekend.

I had to grow up before I appreciated the meaning of that big Thanksgiving word “gratitude.” Before you realize how much giving thanks matters. For both the giver and recipient.

We know that people appreciate being appreciated, but we badly underestimate how much. In this Psychological Science study, people who received messages of thanks reported even more surprise and delight than senders expected they would. Being told thank you was the best part of their day.

This Harvard Study, which found that giving thanks to others can actually make you happier as well. The study says: “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

At Nestidd, we work with some of the hardest working and most under-appreciated folks out there — Direct Service Professionals or “DSPs”.

DSPs care for the people we love. They care for the folks who live in our homes. And not only do they not get paid enough for that (which groups like Fix The DSP Crisis and others are working on) they also don’t get enough of something else that’s crucial: Thanks.

We recently started a little program called “Thank A DSP” because we wanted to do something about that. We provide pre-addressed postcards so people can write brief thank you messages to a DSP caregiver. The postcard may be small but the message it carries is a big one: Your tireless efforts are not going unnoticed. We appreciate and are grateful for all that you do.

Our exhibitor booth at PAR Solutions Conference 2018 in Harrisburg PA.


The positive reaction to this effort has kind of taken us by surprise. The DSPs seem to truly appreciate hearing that they matter and that they aren’t totally forgotten. But I’ve also noticed something else. The good people who write these small notes also seem to feel better because of it. A lot better. Like, practically in tears, kind of better.

Harvard scientists were right once again. Giving thanks is good for all of us. In fact, it seems like it could be the most important thing on the menu for Thanksgiving.

By the way. Thanks for reading.


Should you really read a book a week? Some tips from people who don’t.

November 8, 2018

Photo by Mabel Amber from Pexels

When we started Nestidd, renovating houses to help provide much-needed community homes for people who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we thought we knew what our biggest challenges would be. We felt prepared. We read many, if not all, online listicles regarding new business challenges. And we read a few of those books usually found in airports — the ones with titles like “Sell Like a Master” or “Secrets of Silicon Valley.”


I’m sure there is some valuable information in some of those books. But if you find yourself building a company it’s important to remember that you aren’t in business school, you are in business. Identify the things you need to learn and then go find those specific pieces of information. If you feel bad that you haven’t read the latest Harvard Business Review tome and you feel the urge to spend $45 in Terminal 4, take a deep breath, sit down, and use all the extra time you now have to call a few potential customers.

Here are some things we have found helpful that arguably run counter to typical airport special.


1.) Failure might lead to learning, but that doesn’t mean it’s good

The teaching and learning that comes from failure is not particularly helpful if it is irreversible. Here are irreversible situations to avoid:

Failing Big: Avoid betting too big too fast. It is probably possible to test ideas out in a way that mitigates losses in the event they don’t work out.

Failing Bad. Being buttoned up as a company is table stakes. Start-ups are often romantically portrayed as chaotic operations with a mind of their own. Customers and investors are not going to be enthralled by such activity. Keep things organized and ordered for the people paying the bills. Messing this up leads to lack of trust which is usually irreversible.


2.) Don’t confuse effort with progress

This one we owe to our Chairman and supporter, Ben. Much if not most of your time will be “wasted” on things that don’t pan out. The problem is you don’t know which of the things you are working on are going to be the ones that pan out.

So work hard and do your best to focus your work on the most important and promising aspects of your business. But when one road looks like a dead end, switch to a different road.


3.) Mark Wahlberg was full of it

Look at Mark Wahlberg’s schedule. You are not this productive or regimented. Relax. Neither is anyone else. Just like you shouldn’t read the airport books don’t read about “a day in the life of _________.” Just be you.


4.) You don’t need to solve every problem

Your business needs to solve 1.) a problem that 2.) exists and 3.) is significant. I used to do mental gymnastics trying to contort Nestidd’s business and mission in a way that was useful for everybody.

If someone asks you “why is [your product] right for me?” Don’t be afraid to answer “It might not be.” It can take the conversation to an honest and productive place that allows both you and the potential customer to determine whether the relationship is worth pursuing. Something you both will find out eventually anyway.


November 7, 2018

There’s this video we saw that we can’t get out of our heads. It’s a profile of these two remarkable Direct Service Professionals (DSPs), Joe and Keya. Both work insane hours providing care for their disabled clients, doing everything from daily dressing/washing/feeding routines to jumping in swimming pools for therapy sessions, all for below poverty level wages. Keya does all this while taking care of her husband who can’t work because of kidney failure and looking after a young child at home. Money is so tight, Keya unplugs everything in her house — the lamps, the toaster, the one string of lights — before going to work every day, just to keep a few dollars off her electrical bill.


Some background: Of the many challenges people with disabilities face, few are more urgent or life-shattering than the on-going issues DSPs — the people who care for them — deal with on a daily basis. It’s not uncommon for DSPs to work two long shifts at a time, double shifting yet still needing food stamps. Few things are more gut-wrenching than seeing a really great long-term care provider, a disabled person’s emotional rock, forced to pack up, leave and find work in another better paying, less demanding job — often behind the counter at a McDonald’s or in the aisles of a Walmart.

The average DSP retention is less than a year. Churn like that is a huge hidden cost for caregiving associations — you have to constantly keep recruiting new people while not having much to offer in return (e.g. long hours, low-pay and heavy lifting).

It’s a situation that needs fixing, but solutions seem few and far between. The Regional Center for Workplace Transformation labels this a ‘public health crisis’. But it’s one that rarely makes headlines — I’d venture to say that it’s a crisis that most people in this country aren’t even aware of. I know I wasn’t until only just recently.

If you want to learn more about this situation, one place to start is by checking out the work of the Pennsylvania advocacy group Fix the DSP Crisis.

At Nestidd, a home buying, renovating and leasing business that supports people with disabilities and those who care for them, we did.

Among all the changes that need to happen to solve the myriad of issues causing this crisis, we did have a small epiphany, an encouraging pattern that seems to be emerging: We’ve been finding that when DSPs work in the right environment — in a good home in a good neighborhood, with decent public transportation and essential services like a CVS and grocery store nearby — they are more excited about going to work and providing care on a long-term basis.

And they’re staying on the job longer.

We’ve found a dramatic correlation between a better work environment — one without ankle spraining floor plans, stairs in all the wrong places, fumble-in-the-dark light switches, hard to navigate bathrooms — and retaining good employees. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when a direct service professional actually likes the home they’re working in they have a tendency to stay longer and stay happier.

Those are the kinds of homes we’ve committed to building and creating.

And it could be a game-changer. If it turns out that offering DSPs a better work environment gives them a more compelling reason to stay and reduces turnover, we’ll have taken one small, but significant step toward improving the lives of the disabled and of the very real and very important people who care for them.

It’s not everything. But at least it’s one thing. And that’s something.



November 6, 2018

Anyone diving into a home renovation project will have that moment where they find themselves wading through piles of tangled PVC and two by fours thinking “this sounded like a better idea yesterday.”

Our team at Nestidd creates homes optimized for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We buy and customize houses, helping make sure disabled folks are able to have a place to live that really feels like home, in a neighborhood and environment that’s really good for them. So we do a lot of home renovation — as they do on TV shows like Property Brothers.

If you are thinking about buying a fixer-upper to make your own or flipping homes as a side gig, we can point out some things that you won’t see on TV.

1.) Patience is a Virtue

When Nestidd buys a house, it is the result of weeks of sourcing and searching the market with our care providing partners (who will ultimately lease the home from us). We kick off the process by sending our “Home Menu,” a list of twenty or so houses that we know we could turn into great homes for folks with disabilities. Usually we visit at least ten of these before we find the one. Sometimes we scrap all twenty and start over.

So take your time. Property Brothers usually follows the Goldilocks script: the first house is too small, the second house too expensive, the third one just right. In the real world, it won’t be so neat and tidy. Set your expectations and stick to them. Don’t settle for a deal just to get started.

2.) Cash is King

Everyone loves cash. But people selling real estate to strangers really love cash.

Nestidd buys our homes without requiring that the seller allow us to shop for a mortgage. We win because our cash offer is attractive and allows us to win bidding wars. Care Providers win because they do not need to enter the all-consuming and soul-sucking world of mortgage financing.

If buying in cash (consider a line of credit with a local bank) is an option, look into it. It might save you money and it definitely will save you time.

3.) Fun at City Hall

Step One: buy some coffee. Step Two: bring it to your local zoning and building code office. Step Three: make friends.

Other than the owner, no one controls the efficiency of a renovation project like the friendly folks who enforce our building codes. Know the codes and know the people. They’ve probably heard your excuse before and they probably are not going to let it slide.

4.) Know your Audience

Who is the end user of your finished product? If you are going for a “quick flip” you might be tempted to use the cheapest materials you can find.

Obviously the cheaper materials tend to be less durable, but even more important is that you may not be able to attract a solid contractor to do the work you need if you are endlessly fighting cost line items. We have a team of contractors who enjoy working with us because while we prioritize efficiency, we do not do so at the expense of quality. We can’t because it would be bad business. We are long-term owners and our business is predicated on making our tenants happy.