'Championship wrestling' (example, WWF style) has frankly never been my kind of thing. While I love the Rocky series of movies, boxing isn't high on the list either, but a good football game (like that amazing finish between Falcons and the Seahawks) may be! Some of our regular factory-built housing readers who are also on LinkedIn may doubt it, but my heart is peace loving. Still, there are times when something so outrageous happens that no matter how peace loving you may be, you simply have to say, enough is enough! "Bring it on."
For those with skim, don't miss the finish of this…or the meat in between.
Once upon a time, the media played the role of watchdog. Corruption or questionable actions by policy makers, leaders etc. might lead to tips, whistleblowers and in time an investigative report. While journalism isn't dead, it has often reverted to the yellow journalism of yore, more akin to thinly veiled advocacy. In trade publishing, media tends towards the cheer leading role, but that doesn't mean that you don't dig in from time to time and remind professional readers that a spotlight still exists. As an aside, we publish good, bad or in between news in our wildly popular Daily Business News to keep news all real apart from commentary for our readers.
The watchdog role requires synergy between it readers and the media. It is NOT enough for a publisher to merely spout off well (feeble, or in between) conceived missives. When any publisher has an agenda, caveat emptor applies.
We do listen to, chat with and receive insights and messages from a number of pros coast to coast and border to border. Canadians reach out, as do intentional readers beyond North America's shores. Having the largest U.S. audience in factory built housing has its advantages. One perk is hearing sometimes riotous comments, such as AAA. It has been over a year since that one came my way, with the source being protected, of course.
AAA stands for another publisher's unstated mantra, namely: AAA = "All About Allen."
Self-promotion is necessary for every business – and to some extent – for professionals too. Another behind the scenes commentator once told me (tongue in cheek?) that he is 'jealous' of George F. Allen's ability to self-promote.
The best self promotion is when others see the value of what you do and sing your praises. But for some, it is “AAA.” When you publicly agree with George Allen, then you may be welcomed into his inner circle. If you dare to disagree, well…
Allen is retired Marine, and he periodically reminds readers about his service in Vietnam and the Gulf, which certainly deserves out thanks. No doubt Allen's entertaining tricks at times have brought smiles to many, myself included. One must give the man his due for positive things like being a part of the birthing process of the National Communities Council (NCC).
George Allen has his following of a few hundred precisely due to good or entertaining things done, but are those 'good things' now in the 'good old days' gone by?
A number of readers tell us that the AAA self-serving nonsense has hit a level that arguably borders on the intolerable. You watch a drunk on the same road you travel, not because you want to, but because it is prudent to do so. There are those who read what the Allen fellow says, not because his writing is necessarily easy or appealing, but rather because he is weaving back and forth and you want to avoid a collision if possible. Case in point?
For approaching two years now, Allen has been about trying to force MHI's hand, privately and/or publicly, into buying out his 'business interests' so he may 'retire.' Thinly veiled threats are sent directly to MHI officials, indirectly as if they are clandestine black ops through his blog, other published writings, and of course by phone, email or in person.
We examine some of what Allen is doing in this new Industry in Focus article published at this link here.
We have waited until we had a statement from Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)
CEO, Richard "Dick" Jennison, which is included in that report linked above.
In a way, Allen and Danny Ghorbani have been complimentary book ends, more united by their passions (opposing) MHI than they are unified by any shared vision. Some think that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” may apply with those two.
Why they oppose MHI may also have similarities.
Danny, I've been told, seems to have never gotten over some things back in the day with respect to MHI or the occasional personality related to it. Long memory and not getting his way, Danny may lash out when it is least expected or convenient, such as his rant penned in the wake of the Wall Street Journal report, which is linked here.
The Price we all Pay
The problem is, that Danny Ghorbani's or George Allen's rants come with a price tag!
We will not parse their intentions, which may be sincere and well meaning. But that price is arguably paid by home owners and the industry's businesses and professionals that they allegedly wish to serve. The consequences may be unintended, but they are impactful nevertheless.
Both Ghorbnai and Allen had been and/or were sounding off veiled and/or directly targeted attacks on MHI, at precisely the time when MHI, Texas and SNR Denton were engaging with the CFPB in highly sensitive discussions. Did the Allen/Ghorbani attacks have an impact on the adverse CFPB decision released (linked here) last Thursday?
Who knows with certainty? But can anyone suggest with a straight face that the attacks of those two helped the Industry's cause to modify Dodd-Frank in a reasonable fashion?
As one seasoned and respected manufactured housing industry leader said to me recently, our industry has historically done its best in the last 15 years when the voices work together, as was the case with the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000). So true.
Note, MHProNews with-held in our sole discretion the publishing of Ghorbani's 'analysis' until now, in hopes of blunting the possible impact of his missive. But the facts are that Ghorbani send out hundreds of those 'press releases' via email and there is no telling whose hands that and other attacks on MHI's efforts falls into. Whatever damage that may have been done, is done.
Specific Hits on Industry Segments
While Allen and his buddies – including Ken Rishel, Spencer Roane and Michael Power – beat the drum for a 'new association,' it reportedly has Ghorbani metaphorically salivating on the sidelines, as this has long been one of his desired goals, to foment an insurrection within MHI. Is that wise?
We must examine the potential costs and fall-out from the recent decision in DC.
To low balance cost manufactured home owners
. Millions in this group may be the most harmed if we fail to get Congress to act before the CFPB's decision kicks in. Why? Because the early read on last week's decision (again, linked here
) is that MH didn't get the result MHI/Texas and SNR Denton worked so hard to achieve for all segments of manufactured housing.
To MHCommunities – of all the business segments potentially among the most harmed by the CFPB decision, the land lease communities segment is surely in that mix. Can it be weathered? Yes! But the fact that low-dollar value home owners in land lease communities are going to be impacted, so too will MHCs. For seasoned, savvy and nimble operators – especially larger portfolio operators – this can be turned into new opportunities.
So the irony is that the precise group that George F. Allen ('community investor') has as his recent 'target market' for his new 'association' – namely, the 'mom and pop' MHPs and MHCs – they are the far more likely to be harmed by the decision linked above, once it is implemented. Thanks so much for your help, George.
Smaller Factories. Clayton, Cavco and Champion – among others – have evolved their business models to a point that they are better able to weather such squalls. But a hiccup in the flow of chattel (oops, personal property) lending could swamp the boats of some of the very manufacturers that MHARR represents. Thanks so much for your help, Danny.
We will note that some lenders and retailers who do more land/home mortgage style deals will be the least impacted, in fact they could benefit from the decision.
That said, one personal property lender executive told me last week that they want ALL of the lenders to do well, including the one most likely to be adversely impacted. Why? Because, he explained, some marginal retailers – in the wake of such a decision – could fall from the table, especially if their business model has been wed to marginal customers who will arguably be harmed in the wake of the CFPB's ill advised decision. Thanks so much, Consumer Financial 'Protection' Bureau.
The point is that while it wouldn't be a 'beyond a shadow of a doubt case,' Ghorbani
and Allen's routine and public anti-MHI missives may well cost some businesses 6-7 figures at a time they can't afford it.
Logically the 'constituencies' of Allen and Ghorbani are among the most likely to suffer!
Historically, as noted above,our industry does its best is when we join hands and unite our voices. It is America, Allen and Ghorbani have the right to say or publish what they will, within limits. But those who 'support' them (smaller independent factories and mom and pop communities) will be the more likely to pay the price if they are not marginalized, reigned in or have their funding cut off.
For the Regulators, Public Officials or Investors who may be reading this analysis
One ought to consider why the vast majority of the engaged industry owners back the existing state and community associations along with the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the National Communities Council (NCC). Then, one ought to consider why the few vocal naysayers herein have such a comparatively small following.
A snapshot of the pair
Potential Silver Lining Solutions to the CFPB decision
Unlike the handful of tiresome industry complainers who want to pat their own or each other's backs, it is much better to have true third parties toot the horn for you.
For example, the membership of state, communities, MHI and NCC combined numbers well into the thousands. By contrast, the numbers of followers of Allen and his band or Danny Ghorbani are relatively few.
Allen periodically rants about this publication and my work, as recently as today.
In response, let me simply point to over 175 current LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements (as evidenced by the screen capture from LinkedIn below), MHC-MD.com, or other client testimonials.
Mistakes can be corrected, when the mistaken party is willing to stand corrected.
We have all made mistakes, but the question is, what do we do once those mistakes are clearly identified?
I recall the CEO of one of the very biggest companies in our industry who sent me a message, bringing to my attention a significant fact error in one of my own articles. Ooops! The error was corrected, an apology offered and accepted. We moved ahead.
We all have to do that from time to time. So why can't a handful of adept self-promoters admit their efforts in recent years have born substantially no good fruit for the industry and/or even for their target audience of supporters?
We at MHProNews have worked for some years to build strategic allies. This has been done as our part in advancing the Industry. We have not always agreed with MHI, but we strive to work within the system. Patience and respect for the other's perspectives, quiet persistence if one is sincerely convinced they are correct; these are the ways to advance towards unity and joint action.
Let's provide a partial list of initiatives we've been involved in – in some cases for many years now – for your consideration, and let you decide if these would be worthwhile efforts.
Doing more with good MH PACs. We've seen with the 93% win rate MHI had in supporting its picks in the last election cycle, or the impressive 87% win rate that Iowa's MH Association had in 2012 (others beyond these two could be named), that PAC support matters!
The more the support, the wiser the picks, the better the outcome. 2013 ywill NOT be a year to sit out on the sidelines! Let's look at the example of Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown was one of MHI PAC's supported picks in 2012. Senator Brown issued a strong letter to Richard Cordray, as we reported last week. This bodes well for his support in upcoming legislative initiatives we will need in 2013.
We have dozens of potential supporters in DC, but more are needed.
Grass roots activism. We need you, yes you, involved in your association(s) if you aren't already deeply involved. This can't be left only to paid association staff. We need this grass roots activism to mirror what Realtors or Homebuilders do. That activity needs to be in concert with properly established national, and/or state level and/or established MHC Associations (again, we mean MHC associations like those Western U.S., not George Allen's planned new one). We need YOU, in Washington DC for the MHI Legislative Session in the end of February and/or at your local House or Senator's office.
(Note. Allen's own comments about his planned 'association' stated that he intends no advocacy. Huh? An association that does no lobbying? Then what in heaven's name would it do? That said, he has at times signaled the opposite, so it is difficult to know what he truly has in mind. That's one of many reasons his initiative makes no sense.)
Increased positive engagement with MHC residents and MH Home Owners, to line them up with industry professionals when needed. MH Homeowners, MH Professionals and MH Associations could be the sleeping giant we need with Congress, regulators and in the states too.
. Those leaders – and they are many – involved in the Introduction to MH Opportunities Day
may someday look back and say, that was a solid, pro-active decision they made to start that process. We need more pros – more new blood – coming into our Industry! We need more smart builders, investors and lenders to look closely and say, yes manufactured and modular home building makes good sense. It should be noted that the CFPB decision doesn't harm what a stick builder would b used to doing! The stick builder who would enter the MH space could be undeterred even if that CFPB ruling went into effect. Those who would develop new communities using overlooked options available right now also opportunities that only the forward thinking investors or business professionals will capitalize upon! New capital and industry growth can help those already in the business, as it can benefit the newcomers.
Remarketing of MH!
I will only say that if you are a lender, retailer or MHC owner/operator, you need to be at or have at least one trusted representative in Louisville to hear Dan Rinzema's important presentation, which I will have the pleasure of introducing. Warren Buffett, I know you are busy, but this is an idea you told Kevin to think about some years back. Thanks to Dan Rinzema's foresight, it is already underway. Learn all about this in Louisville, at a free seminar, on January 23, 11:15-12:15 PM. Don't miss it. The times and topics for all of the AT SHOW seminars are on page 2 of the downloadable brochure linked here
The time has come to rally the troops. Let the blow-hards, blow harder.
Let the rest of us take their negative energy and turn in into positive inspirational dissatisfaction!
Tell your colleagues why the blow hards are wrong, so they don't get the fuel and support they crave.
Please tell your friends, that you'd rather back the teams and players who are positively engaged than those who spend too much time publicly pointing their finger at the associations noted above who are doing the heavy lifting, without realizing that three fingers are always pointing back at them.
Not Personalities, Consequences and Results
None of what was written herein should be construed to disparage anyone. Just as two people in particular love to analyze others, as public figures, they and their results are subject to analysis.
People can get passionate about something, they may sincerely believe they are 'doing the right thing' – for themselves and/or for others. But a person can be sincerely mistaken!
So we provide, you decide. We will leave it to our readers to investigate and decide if those noted in this column are in the right, or are in fact the voices of division that can't help you as a professional or business leader based on their recent behaviors.
Dissent is fine, it everyone's right. But let it dissent among and within existing associations be more private, better thought out and prudently handled. Let's learn to synergize, instead of doing what Danny Ghorbani has been doing for some time now. Let's not let support yet another 'national' association, as Allen is mistakenly advocating, that can only further splinter our efforts in DC or elsewhere!
The Next Stop!
My understanding, and we hope to have an expert pen a column on this soon, is that we have one year to get it together regarding the CFPB's mis-fired decision, linked above. That can be enough time, if enough of us dig in and do the right things.
We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
Retailers and communities, besides engaging in real Associations, come to Louisville and see lenders in person present their latest programs that ARE Dodd-Frank complaint!
Learn what you can do today to enhance your growth and profits at the Louisville Show! Hop a plane, or jump in your truck, car, SUV (does anyone in MH drive a Prius?… ;-) and be in Louisville to see all the Money Tree business-building seminars, 39 new model homes on display and some 80 exhibitors who will show you how to profitably navigate in the world today.
Your Feedback is Encouraged
We welcome your private messages, posted comments or 'Letters to the Editor' style feedback for, against or nuanced about this column and the two Industry In Focus Reports:
If you are sending comments for publication, please make your subject line to: Letters to the Editor, tony@MHMSM.com.
We will be engaged. We will be in DC. We will support MHI and the existing associations as noted. We will call and write our legislators. We will be in Louisville, please see us in booth #115. No one can do it alone. But together, we can get it done.
2013 can be a great year. We have early reports from retailers and communities that indicate the same.
As to the blow-hards, if they don't mend their paths, bring 'em on. Let's tune them out, or take the steps to put them in their proper place. Now is the time for unity. Now is the time…for thoughtful, positive action! ##
PS: Check our many Exclusive and Red Hot Featured Articles for January and see the
other new stories at MHLivingNews.com too.
L. A. "Tony" Kovach
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