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Whew! What a Whirlwind 44 Hours

October 20th, 2013 No comments

That is the NCC Fall Leadership Forum: “Building a Vision For The Future” held this past week in Chicago. First and foremost, kudos to my very good friend Jenny Hodge. Jenny is Vice President of MHI’s National Communities Council (NCC) and responsible for organizing and bringing forth this exceptional event. David Lentz is to be commended for his leadership and vision for the NCC.

While on the train from Milwaukee to Chicago I reviewed the agenda just to be certain I was up for the show which began in earnest Thursday morning. There was no doubt in mind that we were in for a very intense Thursday and Friday morning!

Wednesday evening’s reception was a very nicely arranged meet and greet with appetizers and an open bar. It has certainly been some time since we've seen MHI in a position to host such an event.

The real work began Thursday morning. The fact is that there was something to learn for everyone involved in the Manufactured Housing Community industry (MHC) whether you attended one session or attended all of the sessions.

The attendees were made up of a mix from the community business. When there was a show of hands early Thursday morning it appeared that there was a fairly even split of community owners present. One third were smaller owner with less than five communities, one third with less than 10 communities and one third owners or more than 15 communities.

rick-rand-great-value-homes-l-sam-zell-equity-lifestyle-properties-els-chairman-jim-clayton-clayton-bank-chairman-industry-voices-manufactured-home-pro-news-.jpg

Rick Rand, Great Value Homes (l) Sam Zell, Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS) Chairman (c),
Jim Clayton, founder Clayton Homes and Chairman of Clayton Bank (r)

In addition, in attendance were lenders specializing in community financing, manufactures who are interested in serving the community owners needs to provide homes for vacant sites, Real Estate Brokers who market and sell communities along home lenders and other firms providing resources to community owners.

As is not uncommon at events like this, networking opportunities were abundant. I am more than certain that new relationships were forged, deals discussed and ideas exchanged. That is part of what makes these interactive events such great opportunities for all segments of the industry.

For those who focused on the Build A Vision For the Future agenda, they were rewarded with session after session of individuals both from within the industry and from other industries sharing their knowledge and experience. Topics relating to marketing, selling, community relations and all the important component of customer service which forward thinkers in the MH Industry are working to accomplish. Not only did the presenters share their knowledge and experience, they also made time for provocative interaction and dialog amongst all of us in attendance. ##

(Editor's Note: Read more of Rick's commentary – plus photos – on the NCC Fall Leadership forum at this link here.

You can see NCC dinner cruise and event photos at this link here.)

 

rick-rand-great-value-homes-manufactured-home-pro-news-industry-voices-guest-blog-.pngRichard J. Rand
President
Great Value Homes, Inc.
9458 N. Fairway Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53217-1321
414-352-3855
414-870-9000 (cell)
RickRand@gvhinc.net

Electrifying Event!

January 20th, 2012 No comments

Wow! What a fantastic Louisville Manufactured Home Show! Since I had not been to the Louisville show in over a decade, I did not know what to expect in terms of attitude and atmosphere. If you were unable to attend, let me tell you that you missed a fantastic opportunity to network with some amazing and knowledgeable industry professionals. The excitement and optimism set the stage for an electrifying atmosphere. Whether your company is in retail, communities, manufacturing, finance, insurance, service or supply there were people, tools and resources available to help you succeed and grow. Various workshops, forums and seminars were conducted by some of the industry’s best and brightest.

 
Hopefully, a similar line up and opportunities will be available at the Tulsa and Tunica Shows in March.
 
My role as an industry observer that sought information for a doctoral dissertation enabled me to interact with professionals from different segments. As always, it was nice to see old friends from my own days in manufactured home retailing that have weathered the storm of the housing downturn. It was also an honor to meet and network with industry professionals that shared their knowledge and experience. Their presence is proof that companies have recognized the need for change and are proactively adapting to the market.
 
One of the common themes among show participants was the need to attract better quality buyers and develop strategies to compete with traditional site built homes.
 
The mindset seems to be shifting from targeting customers with marginal credit and limited choices to ones that can afford a traditional house, but who can be introduced to appreciate the value of a manufactured home. Of course, that is not suggesting that used homes or the 'traditional' manufactured home buyers have no place in the market because they certainly do! However, a long term plan must include a strategy for targeting prime customers as well as marginal customers.
 
The manufactured housing industry is consumer driven, meaning that consumer wants, needs, and ability to purchase are determining factors in strategic development. All of the segments of our industry exist to fulfill the housing needs of a customer.
 
One of the main disconnects in our outreach seems to be in the sales, marketing, delivery, and after sale communication strategies. According to Margarethe  Kusenbach's Salvaging Decency: Mobile Home Residents Strategies of Managing the Stigma of 'Trailer' Living published in Qualitative Sociology (2009), the negative stigmatization of living in a manufactured home influences a consumer’s buying decision. In order for the manufactured housing industry to flourish, the consumer perception of the product must change.
 
How is that accomplished? In part, by researching other industries to determine strategies that have been effective and implementing them to improve weaknesses. Although this requires changes at all levels, it can be done. Look no further than the motorcycle and RV industries for inspiration about how change in customer approach can change the perception. One approach I recommend exploring is the MH Alliance/Phoenix Project plan, that I reviewed last year.
 
A strategy that will not likely be effective is waiting for the government to step in and “save” the industry. Without going into a political tirade, the bottom line is that the manufactured housing industry does not have the resources to heavily influence legislation. This certainly effects financing options, especially with the lack of the secondary market. While the secondary market may be marginal to non-existent, the manufactured housing industry has something much more powerful – the PRODUCT! Industry professionals have shown their dedication and passion. Now is the time to get creative about competing with traditional housing.
 
As noted above and in my previous articles for MHProNews.com, I am currently working on my doctoral dissertation as a requirement for the PhD designation. A doctoral dissertation is a long, tedious journey that involves identifying a business problem and researching the background and possible solutions. With over a decade of experience in the manufactured housing industry, my biggest obstacle at this point is narrowing down the problems and focusing on a specific issue.
 
Among possible dissertation topics, obviously, consumer perception can be considered one of the most important issues to resolve. Another potential focus is customer relationship management. Are retail dealerships and manufacturers using effective strategies to overcome and change consumer perceptions? Are some traditional marketing and sales approaches outdated? Would after sale communication help resolve the stigmatization and improve referral rates? Does the HUD code enable financial institutions to discriminate against manufactured housing? Any feedback and suggestions for a doctoral dissertation would be most appreciated. Please email me at lisa.tyler@waldenu.edu with any comments.
 
The 2012 Louisville MH Show was a positive – even electrifying – experience. Many I spoke with are already planning to attend next year's event. Will you be there? # #
 
Lisa Tyler
Walden University