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Dueling Factions

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

In this time of industry crisis, many thoughts arise regarding strategy and direction, but there has been seemingly little effective action. A couple of old friends from my days in the industry, plus one new friend, Dr. David Funk, asked me to see if I could help things along by putting matters into historical perspective.

In my early days when the MH industry was breaking sales records every year (I’ve been retired for more than two decades), we were leaderless—in discord. No manufacturer originated more than ten percent of shipments. Those heady times ended with a crash—a major housing crisis.

Faced with ruin in the seventies, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, community owners and the like pulled together behind a focused plan of action. It was a widely debated strategic decision to enhance industry credibility by accepting HUD supervision of a national building code for our product. There was plenty of dissent, but the plan had broad support. It was nominally led and presented by MHMA (the Mobile Home Manufacturer’s Association, the predecessor of MHI).

Wrong course? Maybe—we cannot know—but it attained consensus; we worked together and made it happen. A bit of a miracle, considering a long history of bickering and lack of leadership.

These days, we face a bigger challenge and yet … where’s today’s consensus? What’s the strategy? Where’s the leadership? You have a strategy, I have a strategy and yonder fellow behind the tree has a strategy, but what emerges is discord.

In my naïveté as I stepped back into this largely consolidated industry, I thought a leader would step forward, rally the troops behind a plan of action, and get on with developing our great potential. Strangely, that has not yet happened. As Rahm Emanuel said, and Tony quotes:

Never let a good crisis go to waste …

We’re wasting this crisis by fussing over “who’s right” instead of debating “what’s right.”

you-never-want-a-serious-crisis-to-go-to-waste-rahm-emanuel-president-obama's-chief-of-staff-image=wikicommons-(c)2014-lifestyle-factory-homes-mhpronews-com (1).png

Editor's Note: this is the MHProNews poster Bob Vasholtz is referencing,

the article and context it was used in is linked here.

“What’s right” is hard to say, but easier than finding broad agreement. No clear consensus seems to emerge from our diminished industry represented by multiple associations. None of them seems to have a handle on “what’s right,” though there seems a general agreement that the others are wrong and one organization (guess which) should lead the charge. It looks like we’ll not be singing Kumbaya real soon, so how about we start by tuning up Jim Krueger’s 1977 lyrics:

There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy
There’s only you and me and we just disagree

Nothing wrong with disagreement. There are many viable ways to tackle a problem and finding the best can be a stiff challenge, requiring many inputs—thoughtful discussion among all guys who are betting their companies on this industry’s future.

Underneath the rhetoric there is probably an industry consensus that no one has managed to dig out, articulate, and work into a viable strategy. There seems to be no vehicle for doing so. We’re all on the same side, and yet can’t seem to band together and work toward a mutually acceptable way forward. Wow.

It sorta reminds me of national politics. The Republican party caters to the radical right, Democrats the loosely left and the sensible consensus is leaderless.

Rick Rand has a great idea to pull the factions together, shake ’em in a sack, and see what emerges (my words, not his!). I’m on record in support of Rick’s idea, but suggest the challenge is … difficult. It has been my observation that industry progress tends to be incremental with breakthroughs few and far between. How and where, for example, might our scattered and somewhat contentious flock even gather so discussions can begin? How can we, this industry, get past internal politics and start the ball rolling? We’re a young and feisty bunch competing in a turgid housing market. Where, exactly, do we begin to get a handle on a viable and agreeable strategy?

Tony suggests in these pages, “Perhaps we need a few dozen retired guys—or those so financially comfortable—that they don’t fear speaking out publicly on touchy issues that matter to our industry.”

Well gee, I’m such a veteran, happily retired, having no skin in the game and representing no one. I’d be pleased to join with similar voices and see what we can conjure. Thomas Jefferson said:

Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.

I’m an ol’ Kansas farm boy, have my grandpa’s anvil in the barn and can still swing a hammer. Let’s get on with it!

While Tony’s idea is terrific, I wonder if a gaggle of geezers of good intent can do much beyond early steps in the direction of uniting our industry voice toward a viable strategy? Without unity, the problems of a leaderless industry drag on and strategy does not emerge. Agreeing upon one viable association seems a good place to start such useful discussions while reducing internal conflict. Maybe that should be at the top of the agenda for such a senior-citizen forum?

In support of Tony’s and Rick’s ideas, and with incremental progress in mind, here’s another suggestion. Conduct a survey of all segments of the industry, trolling for consensus. Put forth a professionally-written survey, geared toward one question: Which single association or group should speak for our industry in dealing with the important questions we face today—and why (or why not)?

To still protests, the survey must be inclusive, fair and objective. Who can do that? Foremost has long been respected as a provider of solid industry data and could probably do it well. The results, if clear, would be hard to deny, leading toward consolidation. They might sponsor such research in lieu of their next MH survey. The results could be of historic importance.

As with Rick’s conclave and Tony’s summit of the aged, the outcome of such a survey should not be expected to result in a shiny new industry strategy. First we need positive steps for getting back on track—taking what Peter Drucker called results oriented action, toward our industry’s great potential—at minimum, enabling us to speak clearly to confused Washington bureaucrats.

One step at a time along our learning curve. It’s kinda dumb to be racing off in different directions when times are tough and we most need to pull together. ##

bob-vahsholtz-author-dueling-curves-battle-for-housing-posted-industry-voices-guest-blog-mhpronews-com-manufatured-housing-professional-news-75x75-Bob Vahsholtz is the author of DUELING CURVES The Battle for Housing Bob can be reached at kingmidgetswest@gmail.com. Web: www.kingmidgetswest.com.

(Editor's Note: All opinions expressed are those of the writer, and may or may not represent the views of this publication, editor or our sponsors. Other points of view are welcome. OpEds or Letters to the Editor on industry related issues may be sent to latonyk@gmail.com or tony@mhmsm.com, thank you.

As a point of fact, Bob Vahsholtz clearly agrees on some things, disagrees on others, with L. A. “Tony” Kovach's editorial perspectives. Alignment with Masthead view points is not required for publication! :-)

Intolerant Tolerance

August 3rd, 2012 2 comments

Michael Barnabas posted in MHProNewsby Michael Barnabas

For the purposes of this column, it shouldn't matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It shouldn't matter what your nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation happens to be. There are a number of trends in our land that should concern business owners, executives and professionals – including the 250.000 or so professionals involved in manufactured housing – that could bite you or others one day. We might call this trend, intolerant tolerance. We have potentially profitable lessons to learn from this, but there are concerns that must be understood and dealt with to avoid negative, sudden impact.

Unless you've been on vacation off the planet, you have likely heard about the controversy that has erupted when mayors in Chicago, Boston and other public officials have come out strongly against the expansion of Chick-fil-A in their respective areas. For example, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that Chick fil A's values were not "Chicago values." He therefor wants to block a new job-creating location that the chain has in mind to open there.

Chick-fil-A's Facebook page says, "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

Is there anything missing in that statement worth troubling ourselves over?

So why should that company be targeted by those who happen to hold a different personal viewpoint? Are we approaching a point where if your beliefs – or mine – don't happen to be the same as those of a local, state or national official, that we better fall in line, or else face threats against our business or profession?

Objectively – and sadly – one must answer this question today with a 'yes.' Which is precisely why we as business professionals need to take action at the polls and in jury boxes when called upon and in sounding off via letters to the editor and with public officials.

You don't have to be an expert in European history, or of Hebrew descent, or in one of these other groups to ponder the importance of the following:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This was originally attributed to German Protestant Pastor, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).

Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A – whose views are the ones in question – is, to my knowledge, a Southern Baptist. So it was noteworthy when this public response came out on July 29, 2012 about the controversy:

Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval…”

– Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago.

Good for him.

What we are witnessing is a series of over-reaches by local, state and federal government. This isn't new, but it has reached a pitch in the last few years that is unprecedented in America for at least two generations.

The entire purpose of the American Constitution and our system of limited government is to protect citizen's from over-reaches by others who may wish to misuse the power of government to oppress others.

Thus the point by community owner –Jefferson Lilly– made in his recent Industry Voices column are spot on in importance, because his issue and this one both come back to this simple point about limited governmental powers under the Constitution.

Making many issues facing businesses – and manufactured housing – SIMPLE

We don't elect kings and queens in the United States. We don't elect dictators, benevolent or otherwise.

We elect officials who take an oath of office that calls upon them to abide by the strict limits of their office's powers. When government officials, elected or otherwise, go beyond their limited authority, the result is that someone's rights are being trampled.

This ought to be junior high school civics 101, but sadly, this is often not properly emphasized in too many schools. It is under-reported by too many in the media, because those reporting often have their own agendas. So many citizens learn about this much later in life; if at all.

The first question that should come to any U.S. Citizen's mind when government over-reach seems to be taking place ought to be: is this law or regulation constitutional?

The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution as the first 10 Amendments.

Per Wikipedia, the First 10 Amendments to the federal Constitution are as follows:

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The reality is that we have drifted far from these Constitutional limitations. This has taken place to the advantage of a few and the peril of virtually all of us.

The Payoff for Standing Up for what is Right

What the long term consequences and outcomes of the Chick-fil-A controversy will end up being, no one can yet say. But what we do know is that in many cities across America, customers are lining up at their restaurants as a sign of support, as this photo from the Huffington Post demonstrates.

When driving past a Chick-fil-A location yesterday after the lunch rush, I couldn't help but notice a packed parking lot. CNN columnist Tim Stanley wrote: “…the sheer number of people involved in the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day suggests that turnout will matter in November.”

There is a political reaction taking place. This is something that not only ought to be happening, but is something manufactured housing professionals ought to tap into in our own struggles with regulators and public officials.

Applying this to Manufactured Housing

Might we – with the right foundation and approaches – benefit from the over-reaches of government, as Chick-fil-A seems to be gaining from the over-reaches of Big Brother minded public officials?

There has certainly been a call by some state associations and MHI to involve manufactured home owners in our issues. The MHLivingNews website is in the ideal a concept in that mold. What impacts us, on matters such as Dodd-Frank, impacts manufactured home owners too, as Ronnie Richards compelling article points out.

There is something that must not be missed here in why Chick-fil-A seems to be benefiting from this attack on their liberties. The obviously have loyal customers. Manufactured housing does too. What we must do is intelleigently tap those manufactured home owners in positive fashion, to line up there interests along with ours. We must care for them, as true professionals do, so they in turn will care for us. This is part of the dynamic working well for Chick-fil-A.The article linked here describes a Texas bank that will challenge the constitutionality of Dodd-Frank. We need to take every possible step at limiting the impact of that ill-conceived law, which has reportedly already resulted in most banks abandoning free checking to help cover the costs of this bill.

Public officials have to learn to live within their means, just as we do. Public officials must be reminded of the limits of their authority. Spending and regulations have to be reigned in, or else this slope we are on only gets steeper and more slippery.

Intolerant Tolerance must be ended.Tolerance should mean standing in solidarity and protecting each other's rights.

True tolerance and equality ought to mean that all citizen's have the same basic rights, duties and responsibilities. It doesn't mean sharing the wealth of others under the guise of 'fairness;' which would be a form of legalized theft. It doesn't mean equal outcomes.

Tolerance ought to mean mutual respect. It ought to mean you can practices your beliefs – or lack of beliefs – without the fear of having those beliefs imposed upon you by the force of government.

What Chicago and Boston's mayors, among others, threaten is political correctness on steroids. If you don't fit their 'values' your business could suffer. This type of discrimination is not new to manufactured housing. By learning the lessons of this episode, we could tap into the same dynamics that are playing out well at present for Chick-fil-A.

Part of the lesson is that we too should stand up for those whose rights are also threanted. As Martin Niemöller's verses above remind us, if we don't stand up for the rights of others, some day it may be our rights which are threatened. ##

By Michael Barnabas

(Editor's Note:Since Michael Barnabas' column on Getting Zuckered was published, their stock's value has dropped by over 50% from their high.)