The Wisconsin Recall, The Map and MH Future
Make no mistake about it, this column will be all about manufactured housing and how we can advance our Industry's cause. The logical route for that may seem a bit of a curved road, but hang in there and this will make sense.
Knowing how fractured our industry can be, please indulge a few disclaimers, including the one that follows.
Let me begin with the following disclaimer, to hopefully avoid the food fight that could arise from what follows. Politically, I'm an independent. I've not been registered in any party for many years. On our team at MHProNews, we don't use the word 'diversity,' we live it. When we bring a team member on board, it isn't politics or religion, etc. that determines who is or isn't on the team. It is talent, work product, entrepreneurial thinking, business ethics, and similar factors. Democrat, Republican, Independent, Christian, Agnostic, Jew, national origin, sexual orientation, etc., etc.- they don't factor in. Can you do the job? Are you motivated? Honest? You get the idea.
So with that set up let me now express what I'm hearing and seeing on what happened in Wisconsin on June 5th, and on one possible Electoral Map for November (and you won't see this map anywhere else) and why it all matters to manufactured housing.
Every month, we run a new set of Featured Articles. We receive perhaps 6 to 12 (+/-) articles every month that are submitted for publishing that don't run at the new 'monthly issue' launch. Some may run later, others that may never run. We received three from Michael Barnabas, we ran only one for June. I frankly wish now that we ran all three, the man would have looked mighty smart had we done so, which is to say, my bad. It was timing, work load, all sorts of things, but it is what it is now. Okay, on to the meat of the matter.
Some pundits think you can read too much into a 'local' election in terms of how it will impact or play nationally.
Others will take events like the Democratic votes in WV and AR in their recent primaries and extrapolate to the moon from those who were essentially sending the President and his party's faithful a message when they voted for someone besides Barack Obama. My hope in this column is to hit the via media, all politics are local. All results mean something. Some of those results may have national implications. And it all very much does matter come November to our Factory Built Home Industry and housing in general.
For those in manufactured or modular housing who call me (or I call them), they know that I take notes. I don't quote a source unless we mutually agree to it. So the conversations are (hopefully) mutually enriching, and we end up with thoughts or ideas that make for columns for our readers that spark thought, action, etc.. I share this to tip my hat to all of those ladies and gents who so graciously share their wit and wisdom with me. What I write up, is of course, my sole responsibility.
Expressing myself as one who passionately believes in manufactured housing – and who is routinely seeking ways to advance the cause for our Industry – let me say that this election offers us an opportunity that I'm concerned that we are squandering away.
We could be benefiting our home owners and our businesses, but we are not taking the modest amounts of time, resources and effort needed that could catapult us from second or third choice housing into first choice homes for Americans at large.
Cooked in a squat
Zig Ziglar has an expression that is so insightful, 'cooked in a squat.' People allow themselves to be 'cooked' into a certain set of attitudes or thoughts that are self-limiting.
Our Industry ought to be thinking in terms of 6 or 7 figures a year of new homes sold or 'shipped,' not 50,000 to 60,000. But so long as x numbers of businesses and leaders fail to seek and act on the ways to achieve the higher levels, guess what? We get what we get. We are cooked in our own – self-limiting – squat.
The Potential and How to get There
If the Wisconsin recall means anything, it means that tens of thousands of people are willing to take a very different look and action than what they have previously. Wisconsin has long been a Blue State. But we are starting to see political activity from WI that looks more and more like Red State behavior.
I'm going to ask Barnabas to re-write the column he submitted to us for June, and update it, because there have been some events that have taken place that deserve the updates. If he does before the July issue, we will post it on Industry Voices.
But part of what Barnabas referenced was the fact that former President Bill Clinton thought the WI recall important enough to make a personal appearance on behalf of Tom Barrett, the challenger to Scott Walker in Tuesday's voting. President Obama's political calculus was a bit different. The Obama re-election campaign also believed that WI was important, but they felt that WI may be lost. Team Obama wanted to be arm's length from any such loss. What was a brilliant and energized campaign in 2008 has been plagued this time around with multiple issues. Playing it safe politically – or playing the divide and conquer vs. unifier path – may prove a flawed approach, one unlikely to win Obama re-election.
The Manufactured Housing Connection
6% of the population lives in manufactured housing. Since December, I've been advocating that as an industry, we need to insert ourselves into this campaign cycle, in creative ways, that could make us critical for either side to win election. 6% in either direction can swing an election.
The problem is that we don't have a homogeneous group in manufactured housing owners and residents. But fear not! Washington DC has provided us with just the way to unify our residents and home owners,if we are wise enough to use the tool politicos have dealt us.
Dodd-Frank required regulations will negatively impact manufactured home values, that is an inescapable fact. Why not turn that lemon into lemonade? Why not use that regrettably negative news as a way of aligning MH owners interests with our industry's?
Karl Rove and micro-targeting
I don't know enough about Karl Rove or micro-targeting to do much more than say the words. What I understand of his strategy is that you can target a small niche in the electorate and by turning that niche into an ally, you can conceivable swing the electoral map a different direction than it may normally be oriented.
Based on that concept, let's make manufactured housing owners and businesses that niche that could swing an election. Why can we be wise enough to reach out NOW to our residents in numbers, so that we can line them up into a force that works for their own interests, and ours?
We can't match the National Association of Realtors (NAR) or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in what their PACs can achieve. But what the Wizards of Washington gave us when they handed the pill of Dodd-Frank and its unintended consequences to manufactured housing is a way to unite our home owners and resident base!
Kissing and Making Up
Too many, for too long, have screwed up the relationship between manufactured home owners and our Industry at large. I'm not saying that we have all botched it, but enough have that it has tainted all, fair or unfair.
We have to kiss and make up with all of those (be it our fault or someone else's) that cause dis-satisfaction among manufactured home owners. We must do this to the degree possible. We must do this rapidly, because the next 90 days or so will be critical for this process.
Roper, AMHA and other studies
We know that research – like the Roper study a few years ago, or the more recent study done by the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association (AMHA) – tells us that we have a sizable degree of satisfaction among our residents. But that satisfaction level is not overwhelmingly positive. Let me cite some facts from the AMHA study, to make the point:
84% of manufactured homeowners have a high degree of pride of ownership of their homes.
99% of manufactured homeowners use their home as their primary residence.
Eight out of ten manufactured homeowners in Alabama are satisfied with their home.
Seven out of ten manufactured homeowners in Alabama described their home as a good value for the investment.
97% of manufactured homeowners in Alabama described their home as being attractive.
92% of manufactured homeowners in Alabama described their home as a safe place to live.
94% of manufactured homeowners in Alabama described their home as suitable for their housing needs.
45% of those MH owners surveyed in Alabama indicted they could have purchased a conventional site-built house, but chose a manufactured home.
Having worked with thousands of manufactured home shoppers, buyers and home owners off and on since 1981, let me share my obvious take on some of the points from above.
When 3 out of 10 can't say that our homes are a 'good value,' something is wrong.
When 2 out of 10 can't say they are satisfied with their homes, something is wrong.
Before you say, 'Wait, Tony! Aren't you looking too hard at the part of the glass that is only partially empty?' Nope. I'm thrilled that most like what they have and are proud of their homes. But what we have to realize is that in the internet age, having 20-30% of owners/residents less than happy is a huge mistake!
Happy Customers tell 3 People, Unhappy Customers tell 300.
There are too many complaint sites, too many Facebook pages and Tweets that fail to brag about us from people who own or live in our industry's homes. Win them over in greater number, increase their satisfaction, and we will reap a huge reward.
We must do this both practically (good products, good service, setting the right expectations, etc.):
We all have to work harder at getting every manufactured home buyer happy.
If that means not selling a home to someone you can never make happy, then don't sell the home.
If that means we have to work harder to set realistic expectations, then so be it.
If that means that we need more training of those who deal with the public, then let's do it.
But we must also do so politically.
Stop and think. If you were a manufactured home owner, and you bought a home from XYZ Retailer and Community, and Dodd-Frank were ready to KO your home's value…wouldn't you want a warning in advance?
Wouldn't you want the company that sold you – or who leases your home site to you – to say, Mr and Ms. Resident, please be aware of this Dodd-Frank issue and how you can be part of the solution.
Don't wait for anyone to do this. YOU do this. YOU reach out to your customers. YOU Reach out to YOUR residents. YOU get your association on board with this approach.
HR 3849 should be our rallying cry within our industry.
It should also be our rallying cry to our residents. But they need to hear it a different way than from the link above!
That's why we created MHLivingNews.com.
So we could start the healing process with home owners.
Also so we could provide Manufactured Home Owner Alerts when needed.
Bill Clinton is one of those Democrats who think that business and government must work together. Certainly many Republicans believe that government over-regulation and tax policies are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
Using the micro-targeting concept, manufactured home owners and businesses could become a key to who is sitting in office in Washington in 2013. Do your part to inform and energize the base of our home owners. If you have another tool besides MHLivingNews.com to use to get you there, do it. But if not, use what is there right now on MHLivingNews.com. The whole idea of the new site is to remind manufactured home owners of the great value they have in their manufactured home. It is also there to help mobilize them on an effort that makes total sense to them as a manufactured home owner. See the alert link in the last bulleted point above.
Let's not look back a year from now, crying in our beer thinking we should have done it. Take the link to www.MHLivingNews.com, put it in your emails to home owners, in your newsletter to home owners. Just do it. ##
Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right. – Henry Ford