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Perceptions

June 12th, 2011 No comments

I was getting ready to catch a flight today, and someone shared an article that was in “The Journal” about the 2011 MHI Congress and Expo.  Written by Frank Rolfe, he stated among other things that ”he didn’t see anything remotely resembling optimism at the event.”  He also went on to state that “the plumbing fixtures show – which attracts 40,000 that same week in Vegas – is free;” “change the event to spanning a weekend, not on weekdays.  An event that’s Saturday and Sunday would allow more people from outside to attend” and “I think everyone at the show was carrying an AARP card.”

The title of the article is “Were We All at the Same Show in Vegas?”, and I was wondering the same thing after I read his article.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but what was different about our opinions and experiences is that I spent a lot of time listening – OK, maybe even eavesdropping – and videotaped over three hours of interviews and presentations made during the show.  What I captured on film are people’s perceptions of Expo and the industry.  After viewing and reviewing what I saw, heard and have witnessed since, I’d like to share my perception of Expo and our industry.

1.  Quality not Quantity.  I’ve been attending and speaking at the MHI Congress and Expo since the 90’s.  Is the show as big as it was then, and are as many people attending?  No.  But what is different now is the quality of the participants and the exhibitors.  Where else, in two or three days can you have conversations with the leaders and CEO’s of almost every top 10 manufacturer as well as the smaller but innovative leaders in our industry?  I like the intimate size that Congress is right now, but I know it’s not always going to stay this small and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to get to have conversations with people that I might have never met before.

One of my favorite experiences this year was getting to chat with Jim Clayton about his book.  I got the copy when he was a keynote speaker at Congress last year, and it made me love him and Clayton Homes even more.  For me, that was a priceless, very special experience.

2.  Optimism. I not only saw and heard optimism, I saw enthusiasm about our future.  And this wasn’t just “talk.”  Look at how Cavco has grown, and they are profitable while doing it!  I’ve visited the Champion Homes of Texas and SE of Texas plants recently, and the proof that things are getting better is that the plants are open, busy, and there are homes consistently coming down the lines.  I’ve also heard that we are running out of existing inventory homes – a great problem to have.

3.  Age of Life, Stage of Life.  I’ve always preached it’s not how old you are, but how old you feel.  One of my favorite experiences was getting to reach in and draw the winner of the iPad drawing sponsored by iCafe.  The winner may have had an AARP card, but I have a feeling he could dance me under the table any night.  He understood technology, Skyped with his grandkids, and was attending with his son who is also in the business.  I noticed that during the NCC seminars, almost everyone in my row had an iPhone, Smart Phone and/ or an iPad.  I thought (and the photos back me up) that this year’s Congress had a much younger crowd, something I’m really excited about.  We have some really exciting changes coming, and some great talent coming up through the ranks.

 

 

A company that I’m really excited about is Basic Components (BCI Inc).  They just celebrated their 25th anniversary.  Russ Chappell is sharing the reins of the company with his two sons, and I am blown away with the direction they are heading in and the products they are offering.  You need to ask them if you want to know anything more 🙂  Another great example is Thayer Long – Executive Vice President of MHI.  I’d never ask his age, but to me he’s a “youngster” that has really turned MHI around, and is changing people’s perceptions of MHI and the Factory Built Housing industry.  A great example is that after attending and exhibiting at Congress, Champion has re-joined MHI.  I doubt they’d be a part of an organization they didn’t believe in and see value in.

 

 

4.  Other Conventions.  I attend a lot of conventions and conferences, and had the opportunity to attend the plumbing fixtures show (actually KBIS – Kitchen Bath Industry Show) that Mr. Rolfe referenced in his article.  It was a ghost town, and what usually takes me at least two days to go thru, took me only three hours.  Kitchen & Bath Design News stated in a Feb. 2011 article that at that time, they had 5,867 registered attendees and 457 exhibitors as opposed to 44,154 attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors in 2007 – the last year the show was held in Vegas.  I was the Lifestylist® for the New American Home – the official show home for the International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando this year, and their attendance was around 1/2 of what it had been in the past.  Mr. Rolfe also stated that admission to KBIS is free – not necessarily true.  You can visit the exhibits for free, but full registration including the seminars is comparable to Congress.  The same is true at IBS: visiting the exhibit floor is free, but the rest costs about the same (except for the $5.00 coffee and $4.00 water at IBS).  Making it free to visit the exhibits is fine, but will it bring customers or just lookers?  With all that Congress offers, you really can’t compare it to the other shows because including the awards and luncheon, keynote, seminars, and all of the wonderful meals they feed us truly sets it apart.

I am on the Design Council for Thermador Appliances, and they have stopped exhibiting at KBIS and IBS because they have chosen to focus on their customers and potential customers in a more intimate setting, where they can give them their undivided attention.  To me, this is exactly what Congress offers – instead of 1,000’s of people looking for free pens and bottle openers, you get the decision makers who are truly interested in what you do, and you are afforded the time to have a real discussion with them.  Plus, one of the things that Congress offers that I think is brilliant is offering food and drinks in the exhibit area.   Food is expensive in Vegas, and having the opportunity to enjoy some great food while spending time with others in my industry is a great service.  I discovered some great products and services I wasn’t aware of at this year’s Expo, and I plan on doing business with them.

 

 

Lastly, I think Thayer Long, Ann Parman and the other tireless members of the MHI team should be congratulated for putting on a first class event.  It’s an event I won’t miss, and some of my favorite times and stories have happened in Vegas.  But you know what they say – What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas…  unless you ask.  I would love to share my experiences – you can view some of my interviews at: www.lifestylist.tv and on my YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/lifestylist.  Because business has been so good, I’ve been too busy to get all of them up – there will be more to come.  If you have a positive story about the industry, please share it with me at: answers@lifestylist.com – let’s share why “Now’s The Time To Buy” a new factory built home!

Photos by Lisa Stewart – Lisa Stewart Photography # #

Suzanne Felber, Lifestylist®, 214-941-8341, or email answers@lifestylist.com

Tunica 2011 Summary

April 4th, 2011 No comments

I have to admit that originally I wasn’t planning on attending Tunica this year, but I got an advance scouting report from Rob Greenlee at Ascot Draperies and he said it was looking like a show worth seeing. He was right – after touring the homes and talking to a lot of the attendees, it really felt like Tunica could be a turning point for our industry.

Tunica has always been a special show for me – 9 years ago I met the Patriot Homes team there for the first time. It was great being able to see and catch up with so many previous Patriot patrons and team members again this year -their staying power in the industry shows the strength that they always had… I even saw someone wearing a Patriot jacket – fond memories! There are a lot of people who have a lot more years experience in our industry than I do, and with the downturn in the housing market I’ve always been afraid we aren’t going to have enough new faces and younger viewpoints to keep us moving forward. My fears were unfounded – I met some exceptional individuals that gave me great hope for the future.

As luck would have it I was seated on the plane next to Cory Chappell of Basic Components, Inc. I’ve met him before, but we had a great opportunity to talk about the future of our industry and our companies. What a bright future Basic Components has! It was really refreshing to hear about a company that understood new marketing tactics, social media, and had an idea of what we needed to do to make our homes attractive to today’s buyers. You heard it here – Basic Components is a company to watch and learn from.

Tunica Crowd

The first day of the show was chilly, but it gave us the chance to walk the homes without the crowds that you usually have to deal with. With there being as many homes displayed as last year, this gave me the chance to get my photography done and talk to the sales teams without taking them away from as many buyers. It also enticed buyers to spend more time in the exhibitor booths which worked out well for everyone. If you didn’t visit the Syntec Industries booth to see the latest BeauFlor patterns you really missed out. Did you know that our industry was the first to use this product in the US? Syntec’s president Bill Watters attended the show which showed their commitment to our industry.

I’m excited about the New Champion! Champion Homes of Tennessee had some beautiful homes and showed off some new floor plans that were well thought out and designed. Roberto Kritzer, VP of Design for Champion Homes was at the show and it was great to hear how he came up with the innovations shown in these homes. Sales Manager Mike Barnett of Champion Homes of Tennessee was very optimistic about their traffic and sales at the show, and I have to say whenever I tried to take photos of their homes they were full of potential buyers. That’s a sign of great homes and a great show. The next five photos are of Champion Homes:

Champion Homes

Champion Homes

Champion Homes

Champion Homes

Champion Homes

When I walked the Fleetwood Homes models, I loved meeting Gary Rice Jr., the account sales manager for Fleetwood Homes in Tennessee. Gary is what we need more of – a person who loves our industry and loves working for Fleetwood. His Dad is also in the business and has been for many years, and this insight makes Gary a great representative for Fleetwood.

Sunshine Homes really stepped up this year and their homes were beautiful. I loved their floor plans, and they showed homes that any new homeowner would be proud to live in. River Birch seemed to be a retailer favorite – when I was in their homes people kept coming in singing their praises. Deimo Payne – the general manager was such a great spokesperson for the homes – I could see why their customers and potential customers were so loyal. The next two photos are of Sunshine Homes:

Sunshine Homes

Sunshine Homes

Deer Valley always brings elegant, well built homes to the show, and this year was no exception. Chet Murphree, VP and sales manager was a delight and did a wonderful job explaining to me what makes their homes so unique. The next photo is of a Deer Valley home:

Deer Valley Homes

And that bring us to the Clayton family of home builders. Once again they stole the show. I appreciate the fact that Clayton understands how important this show is, and doesn’t hold back. I also appreciate the fact that when I was walking the show, Kevin Clayton was as well – that to me shows Clayton is supporting the efforts of the Clayton companies that showed here, as Champion did by bringing the people they did as well. The national companies that represented so well here make me believe that Tunica will continue to be an important show in the years to come. The next three photos are of Clayton homes:

Clayton Homes

Clayton Homes

Clayton Homes

I guess we would be considered competitors, but I loved the homes that Derral Dobbs designed for Southern Energy. And what I loved about Derral is how he understood that if our industry thrives, we all will. In the next photo, the gentleman is Derral Dobbs: Designer for Energy Homes:

Derral Dobbs of Energy Homes

The Montana and Hampton homes were crowd favorites – Derral used color and great architectural details to make these homes memorable. The floor plan of the Montana was captivating – it was one of the reasons I decided to attend Tunica. The exterior and floor plan looked so unique from the outside I was curious to see what the floor plan would be in the inside. I loved the spoke effect they achieved with the beamed ceiling and how well the home was laid out. The colors were warm and inviting, but different from the other homes I had toured. The Montana – built by Energy Homes:

The Montana - Built by Energy Homes

The Montana - Built by Energy Homes

The Montana - Built by Energy Homes

The Montana - Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton boasted a refreshing use of color that just made you smile the moment you walked in the front door. It was the perfect beach house inside and out, and the porch was the right width so you could actually fit furniture on it. The next six photos are of The Hampton – built by Energy Homes:

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The Hampton: Built by Energy Homes

The homes at Tunica this year were thoughtful – in every home you could see attention to detail that might have been missing in years past, and there wasn’t one home that I wouldn’t be proud to show and sell. With the Great Southwest Show just around the corner in Tulsa April 28th to May 1 and the PMHA’s HOMExpo in Pennsylvania right after that, I’m looking forward to this new momentum we have continuing and growing in the months to come.

by Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber – The Home Idea Factory

Suzanne is a member of MH SPIRIT, MHMSM.com’s team of SPeakers Instructors Resources Inspiration Training that can help you clarify YOUR design needs. Visit mhspeakertrainer.org for more information.

Photos by Lisa Stewart – Lisa Stewart Photography ##