Spotlight on small business: Chatelain Real Estate
Cape Cod SCORE
A conversation with Ed and Agnes Chatelain, Chatelain Real Estate.
Can you tell us about Chatelain Real Estate? We are a full-service real estate operation. We handle residential sales, some commercial sales, vacation rentals, and offer property management services.
How about a geographic focus? We operate basically from Orleans to Sandwich.
However, we go where our clients want us to go and work throughout the Cape.
Before real estate, what did you do? We were in the restaurant business and owned the Muffin Shop, an ice cream, deli and sandwich shop in Dennis Port. We were just looking for something else to do that would give us an opportunity to use our brains a little differently, so we transitioned to real estate.
Were you always in the restaurant business? No not at all, before we started the Muffin Shop in 1983, we lived in Washington, D.C.area where we both worked as anthropologists and archaeologists.
Is it just the two of you? Oh no, our sons Ned and Paul joined us after years of doing their thing. We also have other agents who work in our company.
How difficult was the transition from the Muffin Shop to real estate? Not particularly hard. People skills are important in both businesses. How you feed people and how you house people involves essentially the same ability. They both require understanding and caring for people’s needs. Having come from a background of studying, watching and understanding people, it was easy to make the transition.
What particular challenges have you both faced owning and operating a small business?
The unknown — whether it be a hurricane or COVID-19.
Beyond that, the ice cream shop was a more difficult business. Retail operations depend on attracting people and accommodating them to a specific location. It was also very weather-dependent.
Real estate doesn’t have those challenges.
How does the Cape economy affect your business? It affects every business equally but also differently. When money is tight, when financing is tight, it’s going to affect people’s activity in real estate. When the economy is very strong, people are going to have extra cash and will be able to finance a purchase more easily. Real estate is a super malleable business so you can adapt your business model to work with the current economic conditions. For instance, if people aren’t buying and selling houses, they’re renting houses, so you focus on the rental market. There are other options you can get into such as land speculation or becoming a landlord. You can consider property renovations or even development.
Whatever it is, it’s a very easy business to change and shift as the economy changes.
What are the issues of owning and operating a family business?
You can’t quit and you can’t get fired. In real estate, in particular, you need to handle business when the business is there. It could be on weekends or on
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holidays. We have to meet other people’s schedules. With a family business we are often unable to do things as a family group. Getting along is not a problem at all.
Do you have a succession plan?
Yes, the whole plan in growing the business to transition it on to the next generation and to make certain our clients are well-handled. That’s why our sons are in business with us and have specifically defined roles. In addition to each of us selling, Ned is responsible for business development. Paul runs the back end of the office and manages all the vacation rentals. Agnes is responsible for marketing. Ed serves as mentor in negotiations for both residential and commercial sales. We meet weekly to review the status of the business, everything that’s going on and shift work assignments as the need arises. We’re flexible and this flexibility has brought us through the COVID-19 challenges well.
How do you get name recognition, get new customers and retain existing ones? We just try to stay connected constantly because wordof- mouth is a positive way to increase name awareness. Our past customers are a great source of referrals for new business. All four of us are involved in the community to maintain our connection and knowledge of what is going on. For example, Paul is on the Dennis Beach Committee and Ned is a selectman in Brewster. By serving on boards you are in the public eye. People get to know you and see you are interested in and contributing to the community. We keep people informed about the market through monthly newsletters and blogs. In the summer, we meet on the beach with clients and friends for a social gathering just to keeping in touch with everybody. We prefer a soft approach versus the hard-sell.
How do you compare to the larger real estate firms and how do you compete? We are a boutique firm. The client is the most important thing to our agency. It’s the personal attention that you get from us that differentiates us from the larger companies. In real estate, pretty much everybody does about the same thing, but you can get lost in a big company and just be a number as opposed to an individual. We work hard to keep people’s business for the long run and we focus on doing a great job for them.
What else would you like to share? Never fear starting a business. It is passion and enthusiasm that it takes to succeed. Working for yourself is 100% better than having to worry about what someone else tells you to do and not being happy while doing it. Don’t ever hesitate in launching your own business venture.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sourced from Agnes and Ed Chatelain, Chatelain Real Estate, capecodchatelain. com. To schedule a mentoring appointment with SCORE, go to capecod.score. org, email email@example.com or call 508-775-4884. We go where you are!