Don’t Take Good MH Leadership for Granted!

Blog # 226 Copyright 2012 30 December 2012

Perspective. ‘Land lease lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities, & earlier, ‘mobile home parks’, are the real estate component of manufactured housing.

I.

Don’t Take Good Leadership for Granted!

II.

Kudos Continue to Arrive in Support of Forming MHCA

III.

There’re Some Pretty Bright Thinkers & Doers Out There..

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I.

Don’t Take Good Leadership for Granted!

‘Yes, I’m as guilty as the next guy or gal, taking good leadership for granted, at all levels and among a wide variety of firms that comprise various segments of the HUD – Code manufactured housing industry.’ It only occurred to me recently, how far astray some self – proclaimed, a few elected, even salaried leaders, routinely drift from core values and performance measures generally associated with good leadership practice.

How do I know? We see and read sorry examples all the time; in our trade press, during business meetings at state and national levels, and elsewhere.

But first, as a matter of credentialing; I’ve enjoyed two simultaneous leadership rich and demanding roles, of 28 years and 33 years duration respectively; as an officer of U.S. Marines, experiencing combat tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam and during Desert Storm; and am now winding down more than three decades of responsibility as a senior salaried executive, entrepreneur businessman, real estate investor and manager, book author and newsletter publisher. There’s no way I’d have achieved significant successes throughout two parallel careers, without having early learned, and long applied, honorable core values and performance measures generally associated with good leadership.

Now, back to the self – proclaimed, a few elected, even salaried leaders who, in this industry reporter’s opinion, ‘based on firsthand observation & reading what they’ve penned’, are at times, selling would be clients, serious readers, and others, a ‘bill of bogus goods’ based on whimsy, ‘less than as successful as claimed past results’, even seat – of – the pants rhetoric. The sad thing is, some manufactured housing industry aficionados and land lease lifestyle community owners/operators, have bought into these bogus goods, for a time; some out of naiveté’; some out of supposed peer pressure; and still others, unaware of likely consequences of bad leadership.

Where to find examples of marginal and poor leadership? Easiest, is probably within one or another of the print and online trade publications making their way to our mailboxes and computers every month. Next time you pick up one of these media, and read the columns therein, study what the writer has to say; then ask yourself: ‘OK, I read what you write, but just how has this advice played out ‘successfully’ in your own experience, over the years, as a businessman or woman?’ Or, if unsuccessful, ‘Have you learned from your mistakes?’ Furthermore; ‘If you’re a leader, even a ‘thought leader’, I should be following, ‘What is your regional or national platform’, where I can find you, to listen and observe firsthand, business and leadership principles you espouse and (hopefully) practice?’ In my experience, more often than not, some of the self – proclaimed leaders aspire more to the misleading ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’ mantra, rather than simply setting a good, solid, verifiable example for us to emulate and follow. So, Be Careful Out There; what you read, might be leading you down the wrong leadership path.

Then there’s the body politic, within and throughout our industry and realty asset class. Here we find elected and salaried leaders who (at least should) aspire to espouse good core values and performance measures (results). And know what? For the most part, we do generally see more positive leadership than negative; and that’s a good thing. But leadership position voids (over time); round pegs hired to fill square holes; and worst of all, junior execs wearing their superior’s (boss’s) ‘rank’ in arrogance, are examples of marginal to faux leadership, on the association level. And then there’s that rare occasion, when elected officer(s) take it on themselves to publicly attack or chastise other association members, without notice or documentation, and without providing opportunity for their victims to rebut. That’s among the grossest examples of poor leadership – compounded in the eyes of other members, when the host body does nothing to rectify the sorry matter occurring on their time and in their locale, but simply passes the buck.

And did you know, there’s an unproven, but hard to miss, tip – off to identifying marginal or soft leaders? Here goes. It involves the trend, among frequent emailers, to end messages with a favorite or apt quotation, usually from some famous – or at times infamous, personage. And as far as it goes, it’s not a bad idea, and the practice can even convey meaning, if not overused. For example; if I were inclined to do so – which I’m not – my choice would be a tossup between this line from an old hymn, stenciled on my helmet in 1968: ‘Where Duty Calls or Danger, Be Never (found to be) Wanting There.’ Or that ol ‘6-P Rule: ‘Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!’

But know what? The wanna be leader, one who has yet to find his or her path to good leadership, via core values and performance measures, often appends several, sometimes related, but often disjointed quotations, from a variety of individuals, to his/her correspondence or writings. My guess is they hope the reader will equate them with the substance of their selected quotations. Not. In a recent extreme example, I counted no fewer than a dozen mishmash of quotations accompanying a single piece of written communication.

This commentary regarding leadership brings to mind a short poem, author unknown, shared ‘years ago’, by Craig Fulmer, chairman of the board, of Heritage Financial (LLLCommunity portfolio owner/operator), and featured on page # 27 of the Chapbook of Business & Management Wisdom, PMN Publishing, Indianapolis, IN., 2008 (3rd ed.) An appropriate way to end this challenge to not take Good Leadership for granted.

‘I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day;
I’d rather one would walk with me, than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil, and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but examples’ always clear.’

Just how important is good individual leadership? Here’s an insightful passage from Robert Rosen & Paul Brown’s book, Leading People: “With a net worth estimated at $250 million, Malcolm Forbes was frequently asked how he decided where to invest his own fortune. His answer never varied. ‘I bet on the jockey, never the horse…I don’t need to know what industry the company is in, or what its’ financials are. All I need to know is what kind of person the CEO is.” (p.283). This quoted from the Handbook to Leadership, by Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell, & Bill Perkins (2007); a 52 week collection of readings on various aspects of leadership. Available via kenboa.org

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II.

Kudos Continue to Arrive in Support of Forming MHCA

“I truly appreciate your commitment to our (MH) industry, and will be supportive of your efforts going forward. It’s unfortunate the national association doesn’t see the merits of your work. Perhaps this ‘not for profit spin-off’ is the best way to take this issue (of ‘statistical Research & comprehensive Resource Servicing’) on. I have no loyalty to the national circus, so will back you to the furtherance of this agenda.” MC

“As long as you find it rewarding and enjoyable, you will be able to do it forever, with glee, and die in your boots, like a real man, to whom we are all humbled; and I am not being facetious or sarcastic. There is no doubt you have set the stage for the future, and have made historical contributions to the industry. Hard to walk away from that and quite possibly, counter productive. It would be terrible (for you) to retire too early and watch the diminishing of your efforts because idiots took over the cause.” KH

“One thing we shouldn’t forget, is a code of ethics, and procedures which all MHCA members agree to operate under. For example, 1) not directly soliciting the residents of another land lease lifestyle community owner/operator, 2) and treating lenders like we would like to be treated ourselves.” PC

“Honestly – I think you’re right launching this new organization, George. We have waited and asked and shouted for strength and unity among the independent ‘street’ MHRetailers, manufacturers, suppliers, financiers, and LLLCommunity segments of our industry without result. Time to move on and win!” NB

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III.

There’re Some Pretty Bright Thinkers & Doers Out There…

The following three short, lightly edited paragraphs, came to me in the form of an email message from a successful manufactured housing entrepreneur businessman, with more than 30 years owning and operating his own ‘for profit’ entities. Pay close attention; there’s some pretty pithy thinking here…

“I think our (HUD – Code) industry continues to struggle with a market identity problem. While tempting, even glamorous, to suggest our ‘big box = big bucks’ housing product (a.k.a. Developer Series Homes) continue to compete with site – built housing, despite zoning restrictions, modular homes, low – end site built models, foreclosed on homes, lending regulations, and tightening lender credit, make that a really rough row to hoe. The less glamorous, more competitive, affordable, manufactured housing alternative (e.g. inexpensive multisection, & 16X80 singlesection models) sited in land lease (lifestyle) communities (with site rent in sync with the local housing market), has a far better chance of success, than continuing to fight battles we’ve been losing for years!”

“I don’t agree with a lending executive’s recent warning to be wary of ‘the same customers who led us into this $ mess’. What got us into this $ mess was: mortgage fraud, fabricated income, false credit claims, fictitious down payments, lenders more focused on selling to the CMBS market than making sound loans, and long – range planning that was anything but. Like site – built housing today, we’ll continue to struggle until we convince investors they can, and will, make money by trusting us to treat them like we’d like to be treated. On that account, I’m afraid we still have a long way to go.”

“I continue to think 21ST Mortgage Capital’s CASH program is a definite step in the right direction, being a symbiotic relationship between LLLCommunity owners and chattel lenders, and certainly a no – brainer from the home buyer’s point of view. But seeing how much of the marketing and processing burden is on the owner/operators, specifically the difficulty communicating benefits of the program to would be home buyers, this continues to hold the program back from achieving its’ full potential.” SR

See what I mean? Sage observations and reasonable suggestions like these, should be receiving max attention on the national scene of our ‘double dual industry’ (i.e. ‘home manufacturing/distribution & realty development/investment’). Other than what you read here, or in Ken Rishel’s fine online finance newsletters, and in the Allen Letter professional journal, or the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter, where else do you find heady topics presented, parsed, and planned into the future of HUD – Code manufactured housing and land lease lifestyle communities? It simply does not happen; despite the fact we have two national trade bodies claiming to Advocate in our behalf.

Proof? Ask yourself; When was the last time either Advocacy body called for a national MHInitiative® type strategic planning meeting, where businessmen and women from across the U.S., would participate at their own expense, to seek new and pragmatic solutions to the inherent barriers to increased housing market share – demonstrated by five years of HUD – Code housing shipments at a 60 year nadir? Why hasn’t this Survival effort happened? Ask them, next time you send in your annual membership dues check!

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George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry,
The Land Lease Lifestyle Community Asset Class &
Affordable Housing Purists & Enthusiasts Nationwide
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247 (317) 346-7156

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