Staff Shakeup! What’s Next – Good and Bad – at the Manufactured Housing Institute?

Let’s begin with several examples of good news, before we get into the headline concerns.

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   A huge, new manufactured home community has broken ground, and is underway.  That upscale MHC project, linked here, joins Scott Robert’s and his team’s big MHC project, linked here.

   A new, independent HUD Code home manufacturing center has broken ground.  That Daily Business News story is linked here.

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   The industry continues at a double-digit growth rate. Some companies – which we are happy to say are clients/sponsors – are growing at an even more rapid rate than the industry at large is; we’ll point to 3 of many examples, from 3 different sectors – linked here, here, and here.

** These are all some of the many examples of good news to report. We report good news, along with challenge engagements – ** such as the Tornado Researchers at MSU making positive statements about manufactured homes ** – on a routine basis.

 

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 Good news in the mainstream media ought to be widely shared, right? Ideally, these things ought to be done in tandem with an association, as was the case in the story linked above.

We’ll talk about problematic items later below.  Let’s first tee that topic up, as follows.

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Success isn’t how many emails go to congressmen or senators. Success is getting the legislation you said you wanted, passed into law. Everything else is moot.

How is True Progress Measured?

All true progress requires a few basic things.

1) A willingness to admit that something can be better.

2) A willingness to change to make things better (buy in).

3) Ideally, a plan or operational theory (hypothesis).

4) A timeline (“Everyone needs deadlines.” – Walt Disney.)

5) Execution of the plan.

6) Objective, measurable benchmarks.

   Is the plan working? 

   If so, how well and at what costs?

   How is the ROI?

   Could the plan or execution be improved? 

   If ineffectual, can it become effective, or should it be scrapped?

In summary, professional progress requires – an open mind, a vision, objectivity, analysis, discernment, and adjustments as needed. Vince Lombardi said the goal of the winning team –  or person – is excellence.

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To rephrase, one must see reality as it is. Then the good, the mediocre, and the bad – plus:

   the honesty,

   integrity,

   willingness,

   and determined commitments needed to obtain a worthwhile goal. Those are some key elements in achieving positive change.

 

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Image by MHProNews.com

 

Failure to commit, or

   a lack of honesty,

   or any of the other needed elements, weakens or cripples a plan.

Positive, Negative, and Power

It is worth reviewing that to be effective as trade publishing – as media – one must be willing to look at positive and negative issues. Cheerleading is great and needed in an organization – including media?! – but mindless cheerleading is eventually exposed as empty.

Being solely negative is as problematic at achieving progress as being only positive. Realism and objectivity are needed.

As an engineer confirmed/reminded us recently, there is no power in electricity without both positive and negative electrons flowing.  The same is true in life, or for effective trade journalism. Power comes from looking at the good and the negative. It’s true for any profession.

If someone can’t look at – and deal with – the positive as well as negative, that person is in denial.

Stating the Obvious for clarity – the good, bad and in between happen continuously in life.

ElectricityRequiresPositiveNegativePolarityWithoutBothNoPowerLeadersMediaMustDealRealityPositiveNegativeToCreateEnergyChangeMHProNewsMHI’s Recent Shakeup

MHI supporters as well as critics have sounded off on the senior staff shake ups. If you’ve not read that story, please click the photo below or the link here.

We’ve heard from supporters of Lois Starkey. Even those who were not necessarily fans noted that there is no one at MHI at this time that understands the technical aspects of the HUD Code as well as Starkey does. To rephrase, MHI is now objectively weaker as a trade organization in her absence.

Who are they going to find/train to replace what Starkey did? Do they have work-around? Sure, but this incident speaks volumes on a variety of levels.

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A common statement heard is ‘why didn’t MHI make some kind of announcement?’

Perhaps the other is underscored by the Tom Heinemann side of this. While I spoke personally with all of the folks at MHI, perhaps the one I engaged with the least was Heinemann. Here’s what MHI put out about him when he was hired, less than 18 months ago.

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Now, this professional that MHI was so pleased to welcome, he’s now gone.

Objectively, if you were the next candidate looking at job opportunities in Washington’s metro, as a career-minded person, why would you pick MHI? Doesn’t a 6 year snapshot of MHI reveal a revolving door in-and-out of that organization? 

Reportedly, some left MHI on their own, unhappy. Others – allegedly including Tom and Lois – were shown the door. The average time there looks pretty thin, doesn’t it? Or is this, as some say — “The New MHI Way” — ??

Looking at Thayer Long’s Example

Thayer Long went on from MHI, and now is at NPES. This was sent to me this morning, and we created the collage.

 

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The text at the right are parts of a press release, sent to MHProNews. Thayer Long left MHI, is now at a new association. That new association is starting the kind of process that could make sense for MHI to do, please see the bullets in this article, down below. Thayer started fresh, why not others at MHI?

Reminder…

A well-known state association executive at an MHEC meeting – with dozens present in the room – turned to Long and succinctly said, “Thayer, with all due respect, you’re not getting the job done.”

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State and Community Executives are once more getting the positive attention and credit that their work so richly deserves. While national associations meet with DC based regulators, policy advocates, Congressional staff or members, its the state and community associations and their members who are the “boots on the ground” that makes it all happen.

Within weeks, Long was gone. He reportedly left on his own.  If you look at the collage with Thayer’s photo above, you’ll see that the outcome for him looks like a happy one.

We don’t wish anyone at MHI ill, but don’t some of them need to find a fresh start, for their own sake (like Thayer’s), and that of the association and the MH Industry? 

Look at MHI’s own stated agenda items, then look at their lack of achievement in the last almost 6 years.

MHI may have a few keepers. But after years of failure, don’t many on staff with the title of VP or CEO need to go?

They’ve burned through some 15 millions of dollars in 5 years – plus PAC money! – and have not gotten the job done.

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They’ve played games, and played favorites. But most important of all, they’ve not gotten the job done.

Cutting loose two VPs shortly before their own Washington, D.C. legislative fly in, what where they thinking??

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   On DTS

   On Preserving Access

   On HUD

   On media engagement,

   and more, they’ve had a train of bad or problematic positions, missed opportunities, and clear failures to achieve their own stated mission.

MHI’s own goals are their objective benchmarks. Billions are at stake. Isn’t it past due to clean up most of the house in Arlington?

Can MHI Even Get Industry Facts Right? Please??

This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the Arlington, VA based umbrella association can’t get key facts right in their own reports on the industry to others. We’ll cover that issue soon.

As a prominent MHI member told me by phone recently, bankers want solid data (no, this wasn’t the DTS issue, but the same principle applies). MHI doesn’t get generate research often enough, and when they do, it’s often demonstrably wrong in enough places to cast doubt about their “research.”

They’re often demonstrably contradict their own previously published positions. No corrections. Just one set of facts that differ from others. No real explanations.

Hello? Think about know how that makes the industry’s umbrella association appear to third parties? Or how it makes members who support them look?

Frankly, we’d love to see a house cleaning before we have to publish those upcoming reports. We’d be willing to work with a new administration at MHI, so long as they want to ‘do right’ by the industry – including the thousands of independents.

Be it incompetence, or by design, or any other cause that can be imagined or alleged – their failures are harming thousands of independents, thus choking off ROBUST growth that would benefit nearly everyone.

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That must change.

What’s Next at MHI?

This isn’t junior high school, and isn’t a popularity contest. We give and take critiques, and when they are well intentioned, they ought to be embraced.

For years, we tried to work within their system and behind the scenes.

That didn’t work, so we began to go public. Some at MHI allegedly were out to get us long before we did go public, and we could document that if/as needed.  This is about the industry, current and millions of potential customers, not me or any one person within MHLand.

Solutions?

A pro-MHI member asked/suggested this. Paraphrasing:

Tony, you need to give MHI leaders an off ramp. You need to put something on the table that will make sense to pro-MHI members, as well as others.’

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Ok, here it is.

1)        Do a phased house-cleaning, and bring in a one year to 18 month interim president. Someone from the MH industry, someone that is independent. No disrespect to larger companies, but not someone beholden to any of them.

2)        Give that interim president 60 days to make a report and plan to leadership, the association/members and to the industry at large.

3)        That plan should be a strategic vision for the industry, and for the comprehensive reform of MHI into an effective body that can work with MHARR, communities, retailers, public officials, potential home buyers and the hundreds – (thousands?!) – of potential allies among the non-profits, consumer groups, media, and the millions of home seekers.

4)        The interim CEO should not be an MHI employee. While I’d be thrilled to consult and work with such a person, to be clear, I’m not interested in nor lobbying for such a role. Do I have possible good fits? Yes, but I think the industry ought to develop a list of qualifiers for the interim role. Then, ask for applicants. May the best woman or man, win.

5)        There should also be an interim VP.  That person might be someone with significant association experience. Some are retired or near retirement, that may make a good fit for such an advisory role.

6)        Look at what MHI has done in the last decade. What’s good? Keep it or refine it. What’s failed or not worked? Learn from it and check it off the list for future use. Example, their ‘engage’ system is a good idea. While some love it, frankly with the Feds, the bottom line results are totally missing. It’s a good idea that needs to be revamped, under new leadership.

7)        Doesn’t everyone in communications, plus no less than one president and 2 to 3 more VPs need to go? It should be noted that allegedly every single VP at MHI has privately criticized MHI’s president, some politely. Some harshly. Those criticisms were either made directly to us – or to third parties – and we eventually hear about it.  That speaks volumes as to the need to radically reform MHI and its culture.

8)        The “MHI, we’re bigger so we must be the best” mindset has to go. They behave in ways contrary to their own interests, that of their own members, their state ‘affiliates,’ and certainly to the majority of the industry at large.

9)        Create an inclusive, vibrant vision, plan and mission to mainstream manufactured housing acceptance. Protect, educate, and promote that vision and mission.

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We will look at the GAPS Method in the near future, as one of the tools to analyze the road blocks to MH advancement.

The timing and departure of Starkey and Heinmann is sadly emblematic of MHI in recent years.

There is no reason to believe that MHI will improve, unless they first candidly admit their mistakes.

If MHI makes its admissions and amends to all those they’ve injured – and there are many – then I think a fresh start could be attempted. We’d be willing to engage in something that looked like the above.

Years before we took the positions we did, Dick Moore wanted to do a post-production association (MHIdea). MHARR has called for one for years. Among state execs, privately and publicly, there have been solutions floated.

George Allen – agree or disagree with him – has shown that hundreds could be organized.

MHARR senior advisor Danny Ghorbani has floated the idea of opening that group up to a broader membership. It would fall to their president and CEO, Mark Weiss, to make that happen.

Change Will Happen…

Something will give, count on it. People will only tolerate stuff so long.

We hope MHI decides to take the path of reform, or in time from among those noted or from a new source, watch as a rival rises that will leave them in the dust they alone created.

Let’s close by saying that MHI members are routinely good, nice people. We’ve all enjoyed a pleasant meeting or event. There are keeper elements at MHI. But there’s much to be reformed, or supplanted, right??

It’s up to every professional to take stock, and armed with the facts, to act.

We Provide, You Decide.” ©  ##

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

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L.A. 'Tony' Kovach, MHM - Publisher, Marketing Director and Industry Consultant
http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management trade journal
www.MHMarketingSalesManagement.com aka MHMSM.com aka MHProNews.com
tony@mhmsm.com
863-213-4090