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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 ##

Coming Together in Tulsa – The Great Southwest Manufactured Housing Show

May 9th, 2010 1 comment

The Great Southwest Manufactured Housing Show

Welcome sign at The Great Soutwest Manufactured Housing ShowHave I mentioned lately how much I love my job and being a part of the factory built housing industry? Every day is a different journey, and you never know where you’ll end up or who you’ll meet. Tunica gave me a chance to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in awhile, Congress was an incredible opportunity to meet Jim Clayton and hear about his journey, and then before I knew it I was on the road to Tulsa for the Great Southwest Manufactured Housing Show – driving a very large Penske truck, I will add.


Buck Teeter, CEO of American Homestar welcoming visitors
Buck Teeter, CEO of American Homestar welcoming visitors
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

This was my first time attending or working on a home for this show so I wasn’t sure what to expect. After arriving late I found that the movers that were supposed to be there to help put the furniture in my home bailed on me, but my knight in shining armor (also know as Rob Greenlee with Ascot Draperies) went above and beyond and helped me get the furniture in the house and put me ahead of schedule. This pretty much set the tone for week – a community of great people who may be competitors but they were all happy to be there and keep the factory built housing industry moving forward.

Champion Homes of Texas Kitchen
Champion Homes of Texas Kitchen
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

The facilities were beautiful and the staff that worked there were great – they could not have been more helpful. It was also a great thing that the show was indoors – some high winds blew in that would have made it difficult for an outdoor show. Some of the manufacturers went all out – American Homestar and Legacy brought quite a few homes and each did a beautiful presentation of what they do. Hart Housing came all the way from Elkhart, IN – this was their second time to participate and were pleased with the results from last year. Everything from small single sections to modulars was shown, and every home was a great example of what factory built housing can offer consumers. Palm Harbor went all out and had houses that were so extensively decorated they could easily have appeared in a magazine, and Platinum Homes showed a spectacular tiled shower.

Champion Homes of Texas Bath
Champion Homes of Texas Bath
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

One of the really special things that was evident at this show is that there are some manufacturers that have definitely turned the corner, and are back better than ever. I was honored to merchandise the Champion Homes of Texas showhouse, and their new look and options were very well received by retailers and consumers alike. Their new strength is being seen in all areas of their homes and when I spoke with Sales Manager Marc Medders after the show he said they had picked up some new retailers at the show as well as some possible retail sales so they were very pleased with the results from the show. Fleetwood Homes was also there showing what is possible after their merger with Cavco Homes. Ray Parma, General Manager of Fleetwood in Waco stated that they are seeing a lot more activity and that they are now able to bring people back to work that have been laid off for over a year.

Palm Harbor Homes Kitchen
Palm Harbor Homes Kitchen
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

The biggest down side to the show was the lack of retailer support. There seemed to be very little retailer traffic, but the retailers that did attend were very pleased with what they saw. If manufacturers are going to continue to make the financial and personnel commitment to put on shows retailers are going to have to make it worthwhile for all.

Platinum Homes Bath
Platinum Homes Bath
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

I heard good things about the retail days, and I hope this is a trend that will continue. Until consumers understand what we have to offer they’ll continue to look some place else for their new home.

Fleetwood Homes Sunken Living Room
Fleetwood Homes Sunken Living Room
Photos by Lisa Stewart – L.A.S. Photos

We have lost a lot of manufacturers, vendors and people the last few years, but I think that the people who have survived this downturn are here to stay and there are really good things ahead for all of us. If we can continue to work together, participate in the shows and spread the word about what we do there are exciting things coming for all of us.

Building a Bright Future – 20th Annual MHI Congress and Expo

April 18th, 2010 2 comments

by Suzanne S. Felber – Lifestylist
The Home Idea Factory
answers@lifestylist.com

The 20th Anniversary MHI Congress and Expo was this week. I haven’t attended all of them, but I think this was one of the best.

Las Vegas is always a busy place, and this year Avon was having their national convention there as well. Their theme was “Now is Our Time” and I thought that was applicable to our industry as well. It is our time, and I’m seeing great things for our industry on the horizon.

Photo of Keynote at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Keynote at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography

Obviously others feel the same way – attendance was up almost 10%, and almost every seminar and event was standing room only. What I have always noticed about Congress is that it’s attended by people who believe very strongly in our industry and want to make a difference. We all need to make a living, but this is one group that truly seems to love what they do and are very generous about sharing their experiences and time. The changes that have happened lately seem to have us going in the right direction – with the promotion of Thayer Long and the consolidation of some manufacturers there was a positive spirit throughout the event.

Tuesday was the 2010 Communities Forum which was a partnership between the MHI National Communities Council and the Urban Land Institute Manufactured Housing Communities Council. An exceptional turnout, and lots of great information. I was a speaker at the roundtable and the people who participated in my group were all very positive about our future and anxious to get more involved in social media. That evening was the reception for Congress and the Communities Forum, and it also was the opening of the exhibit area. This is always so well done, and I’m seriously thinking about having a booth next year because I can certainly see the value. MHI does a great job of bringing people into the space by having great food and beverages available at different times and the exhibit area is definitely where people go to meet and network.

Joe Stegmayer and team from Cavco - Manufacturers of the Year at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Joe Stegmayer and team from Cavco – Manufacturers of the Year at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography

Social media is a resource who’s time has definitely come, and some of us who have met each other on LinkedIn, Facebook and through MHMSM.com made a point of meeting face to face. This is something I think we’ll try on a larger scale next year. Meeting George Allen, Eddie Hicks, and Doug Gorman was quite a treat.

And then we had the opening Keynote address by Jim Clayton on Wednesday – no wonder everyone was in such a great mood! Only in manufactured housing would you have a sing-along with Jim Clayton leading and playing the guitar while industry leaders Kevin Clayton, Joe Stegmayer, Bill Griffiths and Erv Bontrager along with the rest of us sang along. What a great man with an inspiring story. It was also really interesting to watch the interactions between Jim, Kevin, and the Clayton team. The admiration and respect they all seem to share with each other was really special.

Photo of Seminar attendees at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Seminar attendees at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography

Jim had great stories (including one about Dolly Parton and the Doll House Beauty Salon – you’ll have to ask him about that yourself) and shared a lot of valuable information on how to be successful. He shared something that Warren Buffet shared with him – “It only took 37 years to develop our reputation at Berkshire Hathaway, yet we could lose it in 37 minutes”. Many times we forget the repercussions we can face by a quick, un-wise decision. He also shared his philosophy that he is here to run a business, not just give away money. So true, but yet so often forgotten. Mr. Clayton brought copies of his book which he generously gave the proceeds of to MHI-PAC and he stayed around to sign the books. I purchased two, and was thrilled to get to meet this amazing man in person.

The 2010 National Industry Awards were held that afternoon, and again it was really exciting to see how far we have come as an industry. The homes and communities that won looked absolutely amazing and the concept homes showed how bright our future will be. If you think the manufactured housing industry has stalled, all you have to do is come to an event like this and realize we have some bright, talented, and successful new leaders among us. I sat with some of the Yes! Communities Group at the awards, and their approach to to the industry is refreshing and is working. Their entire branding is unique, and this is a company to keep an eye on. ROC Communities was also there and a sponsor and both companies were awarded trophies in various categories.

Photo of Attendee/Award winner and George Allen at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Attendee/Award winner and George Allen at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography

Congratulations to Joe Stegmayer and the Cavco team – they were awarded Manufacturer of the Year. I have worked with their Texas team lead by Craig Calkins and they definitely earned this title. I have ever seen a plant that was as efficient as their Seguin, TX plant. Clayton Homes received an Energy Star award, and Dick Ernst was named Industry Person of the Year.

Thursday Dr. Harold Gross of Market Research Answers shared his crystal ball with us and gave us some fact based answers on what the future can hold for our industry. I took away 6 pages of notes, but to summarize Dr. Gross encouraged us to ignore social media at our peril and listen to what our customers are saying, re-think our positioning in the market place (we ARE a great value proposition!) and find out what our customers value. He also sees smaller, greener homes becoming more important and that there is a huge wave of non-traditional buyers heading our way.

If you were a part of this very special event I think you’ll agree with me it was time and money well spent, and if you didn’t make it to Congress this year make your reservations now for 2011 -the future does look bigger and brighter for all of us.

Ken Rishel and attendee, Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Attendees with Ken Rishel
Photo courtesy MHI, by Lisa Stewart Photography
Unidentified attendee, Rick Rand, Paul Humphrey, Dick Ernst, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Unidentified attendee, Rick Rand, Paul Humphrey, Dick Ernst
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Erv Bontrager (Commodore) Homes, Suzanne Felber (me!), Dr Harold Gross - keynote speaker from Thursday, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Erv Bontrager (Commodore) Homes, Suzanne Felber (me!), Dr Harold Gross – keynote speaker from Thursday
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Tim Williams welcoming Jim Clayton to the stage, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Tim Williams welcoming Jim Clayton to the stage
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton entertains the crowd, MHI Congress and Expo, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton entertains the crowd, MHI Congress and Expo
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton plays guitar, MHI Congress and Expo 2010, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton plays guitar, MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Dick Ernst - Industry Person of the Year, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Dick Ernst – Industry Person of the Year
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton signs his book for attendees, MHI Congress and Expo 2010, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Jim Clayton signs his book for attendees, MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
EnergyStar awards to be given at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
EnergyStar awards to be given at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Manufacturer of the Year Award presented to Cavco Industries, Inc. at MHI Congress and Expo 2010, Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography
Manufacturer of the Year Award presented to Cavco Industries, Inc. at MHI Congress and Expo 2010
Photo courtesy MHI, Lisa Stewart Photography

Sharing Great News

March 9th, 2010 1 comment

I am so glad Spring is almost here – it’s been rough winter weather wise and business wise, but I’m definitely seeing signs of great things on the horizon. It seems like I’m not the only one – the phone is ringing, emails are flying and in the past week I have signed two great new clients in our industry!

What is really great news is that others are starting to notice our industry and talk about what we do in a positive way – especially having to do with modular. Champion Homes and Palm Harbor did a wonderful job of representing us at the International Builders Show and I’ve seen lots of positive press from that, and this week we had a huge door opener – an article in the Washington Post! The name of the story was “The Mansion Goes Modular” and not only were people able to see and read this article in the paper and online at their site, Yahoo also picked it up as a feature and highlighted it on their front page!

This is exactly what we need to be sharing with our customers, local media and potential clients. Think about if you have someone who is a little worried about going modular instead of doing a site built home. Showing them this article with the credibility that editorial from the Washington Post can offer could help close a sale for you.

My business (and the way I pay the bills!) is doing design work, decors, and show houses for builders, retailers and communities, but I firmly believe by doing a lot of writing and using the social media to talk about the great things my clients and the industry I love are doing we all win – it’s just the right thing to do. Here are some ways that we can all share some good news and get our industry moving forward again.

  1. Share the Love: People and companies that write and publish love to have their stories shared, as long as you either link to their site where the story is published or ask permission to publish on your site. If you are looking for some positive things to share you’ve come to the right place – Tony, Bob, and the entire www.mhmsm.com team I’m sure would be thrilled to share what they have put together on their site.
  2. The “Eyes” Have it: More and More the success of any social media including blogs, websites, etc. is judged on how many “hits” it receives or how many people are reading it. By sharing the Washington Post story with as many people as you can we’ll be showing the Post that there is a lot of interest in what they wrote about and hopefully they will write more!
  3. Speak Up: Usually at the bottom of an article there is a comments area where you are encouraged to share what you thought about the subject. This is where the publication is able to listen to what readers thought and again judge the success of the story. If each of us wrote a positive note in the comments about the Post story not only would the Post see that they did a great job, it would also be sending the message to anyone who reads the article that modular homes are a great thing! Be sure to not use this area to specifically advertise your homes or products – this is an area for editorial not advertising. When there is an article that isn’t positive I use the comment area to try to set the record straight – after Katrina and The FEMA “trailer” articles started, this Lifestylist spent hours trying to explain that what they were seeing and mostly talking about were RV’s, not manufactured homes. I also told the story about our industry worked 24/7 trying to get safe housing to those who no longer had a home.

I know that the Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management team is planning on attending Tunica – please say hello to Tony and the team and thank them for all that they are doing. If you have some great news to share and some great homes to show be sure to let Tony know – let’s all work together and spread the news!

Suzanne S. Felber, Lifestylist
The Home Idea Factory – answers@lifestylist.com

Permalink to the Washington Post article “The Mansion Goes Modular”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2010/03/03/GA2010030303708.html