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Defiant Independence!

August 18th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the wake of recent columns on captive finance, regulatory over-reach and related topics, some have thoughtfully taken the time to reminded me there is a strong streak of independence among many manufactured housing pros, especially so among business owners.

They are telling me, they are NOT 'head in the sand.' Rather, they opt to defiantly stand independent, even if – or because of?! – government regulations.

"Tony, I was born free!" says one. "And I fully intend to live and die as a free man."

This fellow isn't alone. There are perhaps thousands more who might say it differently, but see it similarly. Here's another example.

"Tony, I built my park. It's paid for. I own the houses I lease purchase to a new tenant. I feel as strongly about not doing some of what Uncle or the governor tells me as I would about giving up my unregistered firearms. Its a matter of principle."

Or how about this comment.

"Tony, it isn't just about all the regs on Lonnie deals. To keep low key, I have more than one set of books. I'm not the only one (I know) that does, other park owners do too."

Before moving on, let's recall that many outside of MH also keep more than one set of books. Heck, for that matter, it seems the FEDs have officials that have more than one email, more than one set of files, more than one set of reports…but that is another topic, for another time.

Having shared other comments in prior posts on this subject, it is only fair to share these too. As this article loaded with quotes from industry pros and experts demonstrates, or the initial post on this subject proved, there is full range of thinking, emotions and reactions at play.

But this particular sentiment of defiant independence was not well covered before, so given these messages, let's explore it.

For the Record

As a constitutionally-minded political independent, I certainly understand their thoughts.

It's just such independent souls who rejected the old world in favor of the risks – and rewards – of the New World.  As a history lover, it would feel uncomfortable for me to even imply a condemnation of such hearty spirits.

At the same time, if there is a potentially better path for these ruggedly independent thinkers, isn't one duty bound to share it?!

Some of these same independent owners are also not in an association, because they don't want to be told what legislation to support or don't want to feel like they are taking a back seat to larger industry players. These are truly…independent.

Let me echo and paraphrase what one executive told me, 'Tony, there are times that associations need to make the broadest possible appeal. We should have asked for a federal de minimus exemption as part of HR 1779. That would have drawn more grass roots support and would have energized the industry's base. We should have done that, even if we didn't get that accomplished in this next round.'

More on the above later.

Some successful libertarian and free enterprise/constitutionally-minded owners are OK with being loosely aligned with this or that personality or organization. But they demonstrate often that they are not ready to march in lock-step with anyone. In fairness to those, their perspective is not denial, or "head in the sand."

Theirs is a defiant independence.

They built their businesses during a time when such things as lease purchase was legal. Now, they don't like being told that it is suddenly no longer kosher for them to do so.

What made America great

These owners are made of the stuff that made America great. In another era, we may stand up and cheer them.

Such defiantly independent women (yes, women) and men may in some cases be in denial to the extent that they think they will get away with ignoring federal regs or law. Our cautionary articles, messages and posts on MHProNews are not to oppose their independence. Rather, it is to say that another approach may make the independents more successful and more likely to retain the fruits of their labors.

"Better Together…"

One of our nation's founders said:

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." – Ben Franklin

America won it's independence from England not through 100% participation in the revolutionary war. It only required roughly 1/3 of the American colonials to support independence to achieve it.

Similarly today, there is no thought here that 100% of our industry will ever agree on any one thing. But what if we organized and activated even 1/3 of the tens of thousands who are working in manufactured housing? Could we get HR 1779 – and later get de minimus exemptions, etc. – passed and/or effect the needed legislative and regulatory changes?

The odds would be better.

4 Independent Retailers Sounding Off

At a recent event, four independent retailers came up as a group to sound off, face to face. Paraphrasing their thoughts, 'Tony, the association in our state hasn't reached out to us to get our support. They are too busy focused on what their bigger members want.'

In sharing these thoughts, let me underscore that this is reporting other people's thinking.

In my professional view, associations are needed, and it's a very real challenge to balance the interests or all members. Good communications, listening to and responding to the needs of all, is vital.

Another True Story

charlie-lott-fleetwood-homes-credit-research-alliance-posted-mhpronews-com-masthead-blog-_001.pngAs a reply to those who want to stand apart, let me tell a true story to hopefully make a point.

Some years ago (2008?), the president of Fleetwood Homes, Charlie Lott, stood before a room full of retailers during the annual industry trade show at Louisville, KY. Charlie's message was poignant and sincere.

Boiling it down, Lott told the audience that Fleetwood had made a mistake in not giving the respect and support to their independents that they deserved. Fleetwood's move in the late 1990s to acquire ever greater numbers of company owned retail stores proved a costly failure. Charlie asked the assembled retailers for forgiveness and support, as they realigned, assuring all that Fleetwood had learned the lesson.

To me, Charlie's words were classy and moving. The truth well told is powerful. Apologies well told go a long way towards healing what may otherwise divide us.

My Mistake

There are plenty of times when the words "I'm sorry" are sincerely spoken. While it doesn't always start the healing process, it often does work wonders when I (or others) admit an error, explain it and then make the effort to correct the course.


Charlie Lott and DJ Pendelton 

dj_pendleton__credit__mhpronews.pngIn a July article, Texas Manufactured Housing Association Executive Director DJ Pendelton wrote in The Ties that Bind how during their capitol visits:

Community members stormed into offices to talk about retailer and modular housing issues. Just like finance and insurance minded members talked to their representatives in defense of communities.

Unity. Strength in numbers. So go’eth one, so go’eth us all. You mess with one, you mess with the whole trail…you get the idea. These idioms we all know.

But it is the practical application that matters.

Let me suggest that it is a fine article, well worth reading/re-reading.

DJ's thinking also serves to underscore my point. While we respect those who may be defiantly independent, or those who think that this or that association has ignored them, there is still wisdom in working within the system to make good things happen.

In Texas, NY, FL, CA, IA, KY, OH, GA, OK or other states and jurisdictions I'm familiar with, I see the reports on how this or that industry harming measure is defeated by associations and their members pulling together. I also see the reverse, how pro-industry measures are passed to fuel the opportunities for industry owners and professionals.

My point in Scaring Professionals wasn't to ignore those who are Defiantly Independent. I apologize to anyone who read it that way and thank those who sounded off, as shared above, which allows me to share their perspective.

My point was rather to say, there is potentially a better way.

We have to face facts, even if the facts are nasty ones. DJ Pendleton said it well, there is more power in Unity. Charlie Lott said it well, when a mistake is made, let's learn the lesson and correct it. 21st Mortgage's Tim Williams in his interview with us, referred to our industry's members as a fraternity. These are all different expressions that point in a similar direction.

I don't doubt for a second that some in or outside of associations may think they were slighted on some subject. I've felt it, others I know have, but that doesn't mean there isn't still real value in being a visible part of an association. It takes time and effort to develop the kind of powerful and effective synergy that DJ described in his article linked here and above.

There are times that the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) – of which I am a member – does something I like less than what say MHARR (Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform) proposes, but the reverse is also true. The secret is to listen and learn and thus learn how to work effectively together.

We can't toss bombs or plant booby traps every time we disagree on something. Disagreements can be worked out behind the scenes, for the benefit of all involved.

Dr. Stephen Covey in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People said it well. “Good! You see it differently!” When I first read that, at first my thought was, huh? It took me time to see the wisdom in gaining other perspectives and to work in a collaborative fashion for broadly common goals.

The purpose of our article: Manufactured Housing and Captive Finance: Can it be done successfully in Today's Environment? was to present in their own words the perspectives of a variety of pros and experts on the same subject.

At a big meeting, usually only a few speak, and they only for a few minutes. By contrast, we at MHProNews are uniquely able to bring different voices to the table, so that each can be heard and shared with the industry at large.

If the founders who lead America's colonists hadn't pulled 1/3 of their people together to fight for independence from England's king, we might be sending our tax dollars to London today. But enough people from 13 different colonies did pull together, and they didn't quit until they achieved their victory.

Before we had the U.S. Constitution, we had the Articles of Confederation.  One lesson is that we don't always get it right the first time. 


A Good Offense, a Good Defense

In my mind, there is wisdom in being part of an association that is working for the passage of HR 1779 and its soon to be filed companion Senate bill (defense). But it is also equally important to be working together to advance our industry's image (offense)! Points on the board in our industry are measured in part by how many tens of thousands of new homes we've sold and how many vacant home sites we have profitably caused to be occupied. We have to put more points on the board. Besides, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

With a good offense in mind, we'll share an update on the momentum we are gaining on the image building ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com in the coming days.


Associations strive daily to protect, educate and promote. We need to work harder and smarter to protect our access to personal property (chattel) lending, including “buy here, pay here,” lease purchase and other options. We also need to make sure that it is done in a fashion that protects consumers, or we are shooting off our own foot. Defiant independence minded pros are needed in that effort!

But we also need to drive more sales and create more business. We need to grow our industry's appeal to accomplish that, and thus we need more involved in the image building/educational effort we have started with the support of others at ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com.

Together, we can achieve greater things than any of us could do alone. There is a place for defiant independence. But there is a also a place and time for teaming up with others. The best time for that to start happening is right now. ##

PS: Check our many Exclusive and Red HotFeatured Articles for August and see the other new stories at MHLivingNews.com too.

L. A. "Tony" KovachL. A. 'Tony' Kovach
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