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David Booth, Kevin Clayton, Warren Buffett, Barack Obama and Associations

April 9th, 2012 No comments

David Booth's lengthy tenure at the head of Clayton Homes retail division came to an official close at the 2012 Tunica Manufactured Housing Show. David demurred a photo op, and simply expressed looking forward to a well earned retirement. Kevin Clayton has personally taken over those duties. For those who wonder how that is possible – given all of Kevin's other hats – one must look to the structure of Clayton's retail division. With seasoned, capable leaders in key leadership roles in retail, Kevin has an enviable advantage.

It is said that Warren Buffett personally gave the nod to this new arrangement regarding Kevin Clayton's retail responsibilities. Buffett's belief in Kevin is well known, but what is also behind this is a tip of the hat to those executives in key retail roles that now report directly to Mr. Clayton.

Some state executives mention the fact that the corporate culture of Clayton Homes is important to their state's association. Clayton Homes has a policy of support and positive engagement in association activities. The significance of this policy is vital to many. A key reason why follows.

Clayton does not require that their manufactured home retail locations stock only homes produced by one of the Berkshire-Hathaway owned HUD Code or modular factories. In fact, a Clayton retail general manager is encouraged to look at and buy inventory from other manufacturers that he (or she) thinks best for their store's market. The reasons for this policy are numerous, and perhaps we will look at it in another column. Suffice it to say for now to say that the net result is that in some states, 45-70% of all HUD label fees paid to a given state association come from homes sold by a Berkshire-Hathaway owned factory, or by another manufacturer through a Clayton Homes retail center.

Associations of necessity must work with members of both the Democrat and Republican parties. Bi-partisan engagement is a by word at national, state, communities and manufacturing associations alike. You may be a member of one party or the other, or perhaps like myself, you are an independent. You may completely favor one party's platforms and agendas over another, the 'straight ticket' type of approach. But as noted, associations must be able to work with both major parties in order to get their work done on our Industry's behalf at the state and/or national level.

Warren Buffett is a rather public supporter and buddy of President Barack Obama. Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway owns Clayton and a number of other manufacturing, lending, retail and supply elements of manufactured and modular homes. So does Buffett ever ask for help from the president and his party on an issue like "Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing" - HR 3849, which would favorably amend portions of the SAFE Act and Dodd-Frank – or not?

Interesting question, isn't it?

But the Buffett-Obama-HR 3849 issue may not be as cut and dried as one might think at first glance.

The presidential re-election campaign's fund-raising is not yet at levels that were expected. So the campaign advised Democrats in Congress not to count on it for their re-election efforts. President Obama's 3.6 trillion dollar 2013 budget was unanimously defeated – 414 – 0 – in a stunningly bi-partisan way in the House of Representatives last month. Imagine, not even Nancy Pelosi voted for the Obama budget! Do you think there is any chance that no money for their own campaigns had anything to do with total lack of Democratic support in the House for the president's budget? How would that type of reality and the triangulation based upon it impact the timing of a possible Buffett-Obama-HR 3849 request?

Sometimes what we are left with are facts and questions.

What we do know is that we have to do our personal part in contacting our Congressman and U.S. Senators to get HR 3849 supported and passed. After contacts in DC and later, my Congressman is on board. How about yours?

Segueing back to Clayton, what we know is that their company offers us many important lessons and potential insights. Often when I greet a Clayton team member, asking how things are going, I hear the upbeat reply "Living the Dream!"

The Clayton culture seems to cultivate a winning esprit de corps, a positive 'can do' attitude and as noted above, a pro-association involvement. That the company has been profitable in spite of macro-economic challenges is another factor we should note as worthy of emulation.

Depending on when you read this blog post, the Manufactured Housing Institute's (MHI) 2012 Congress at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas will be looming, underway or over. If tradition holds, some from the Berkshire-Hathaway manufacturing, finance and other elements will be there. Manufactured housing communities will be strongly represented at Congress, as the National Communities Council (NCC) will be meeting there as well. Other suppliers, insurers, retailers, lenders and vendors as well as association executives from coast to coast will be there too. I plan to be there, and may well share a thought or two or any industry news of note after the event in an upcoming blog post. ##

Alert! NOTICE! If YOU and YOUR associates have not yet contacted your U.S. Congressional Representative and Senators in support of HR 3849, please go to this link.

If you have customers who own manufactured homes, do them and yourself a favor: provide them with this link, so that they can contact their Congressional representatives too. ##

 

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L. A. 'Tony' Kovach, MHM

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