‘Why I Belong!’, but Chafe @ Association Meetings…

‘Why I Belong!’, but Chafe All the Way to & from Association Meetings

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‘Then There Were Twelve’ in October Meeting Hell!

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‘Another New Book in Town, for Authors & Aspiring Writers!

I.

“When a large landlease community (portfolio) owner recently acquired one of our state’s trophy properties, the (on – site) manager was told their firm does not support state (manufactured housing) associations!” a state MHAssociation exec

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“Gosh! Should have taken a swipe at (MHI’s) exorbitant ($500) registration fee (for annual meeting in October). Makes the (September) Roundtable look like a bargain basement event ($395).” An NCC member.

So read a couple remarks, about manufactured housing trade associations, gleaned from recent emails from by colleagues ‘in the business’. It’s been awhile since I’ve addressed the multifaceted, and sometimes controversial, topic of manufactured housing trade association support and performance.

Let’s begin with an article I penned 12 years ago, titled ‘Why I Belong…’ During the past dozen years, it’s been reprinted and distributed frequently, especially by state trade associations endeavoring to build their membership rolls. If you’d like a FREE copy, simply phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

The gist of ‘Why I Belong…’ is nearly two dozen features (i.e. Good reasons to join and participate in your state trade association!); which are in turn grouped into four areas of emphasis: activities, information, publications, and benefits.

Activities. Depending on the socio – political climate in one’s state at the time, the scope and priority of association activities swings from lobbying, legislative, and regulatory – related matters of the serious sort, all the way to the best of informal, interpersonal networking available anywhere in one’s local and regional housing market. But non – joiners, like those alluded to in the above opening quote of this blog posting, can be extraordinarily difficult to recruit off the bench to become team players, when their abilities, views, and personal/corporate chemistry are unknown. This handicap is critical when top performance is needed in those occasional business games (conflicts) having potential negative impact on everyone in the same line of business. So, what to do about these folk? Go visit them on their turf, or when they ‘come to town’ to visit their local business. But don’t do it alone. A contact team should be comprised of like business owners, at least one of which should be an association board member; and possibly the association exec, with membership application in hand. It works. Been there; done that!

Information. I find this grouping inseparable from aforementioned ‘activities’ and not yet described ‘publications’ aspects of manufactured housing trade association existence. During the past three decades I’ve interacted with most state trade bodies, and have yet to find one that does an even marginal job researching and publishing contemporary data and statistics demonstrating the economic impact of manufactured housing and landlease (nee manufactured home) communities on their respective state’s economic well being. Such ‘information’ directs and focuses an association’s activities (e.g. pro or con particular legislative initiatives, and aids membership recruiting), IF said association publishes online and print publications worthy of reading by members. For example, in 1998, the IMHA/RVIC prepared and distributed Indiana’s Recreational Vehicle & Manufactured Housing Industries, ‘An $8 Billion Building Block for Indiana’s Economic Success’. At the time, this brief but attractive and chart – filled report was impressive and helpful. Has it been updated since? No. And how ‘bout landlease community ‘stats’? It’s taken 30 years to build the body of knowledge we use now. What happens to all this when I retire during the next year or two? (Come to the Roundtable next month to learn of one alternative. GFA)

Publications. OK, I’ll admit it. This is a favorite personal hobby horse. Sure, print publications are more difficult and expensive to prepare, publish and distribute, than online versions. However; how many state manufactured housing trade associations have really ‘taken the time & made the effort’ to determine how much of their decline in membership, these past ten years, can be attributed to reduced communication in this admittedly difficult economic business climate? I don’t have a definitive answer to that challenge, but wish I did. Of this I am certain though; among landlease communities, large properties and portfolios are well suited to use electronic media. But, among the 85 percent majority of LLCommunities nationwide (i.e. Those with fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece), these generally eschew the ever – changing technological business equipment bandwagon, characterized by hardware obsolescence and ever – evolving software, aggravated by personnel attrition. Does your state MHAssociation still regularly publish a print publication? If not, it should it? And frankly, the sale of ads in any such publication not only offsets printing and mailing costs, but can put extra dollars into the association treasury as well.

Benefits. This one is all over the spectrum. Some state manufactured housing associations negotiate group access to insurance programs, express shipping services, travel planning agencies, and much more. Other state associations, particularly the smaller ones, simply don’t go there. Should they? In my opinion, Yes – but only services clearly desired by members, and once contracted, well – coordinated with a fresh and aggressive new member recruiting program. Otherwise, benefit programs have a tendency to lie unused on the shelf, just like tired association and board members. And, when you get right down to it, the aforementioned activities, information, and publication aspects of trade association activity are benefits as well! Where else can one go to ‘talk shop’ with one’s peers about the finer points of the manufactured housing and landlease community business? And information. Our industry/asset class, in my opinion, does a generally lousy job providing timely information we can use, especially on the state level; and that what which we do have, is best shared with members and non – members alike, via a seriously depleted online and print trade press.

In summary, and on a personal note. My firm makes it a point to belong to state manufactured housing associations, and local chambers of commerce, wherever we have lively business interests; right now, in two states. This way we generally, though at times imperfectly and slowly, know ‘what’s going on’ where we do business. And, in the case of the local Chamber of Commerce, as members, we’re always the only landlease community whose literature (brochures and business cards) are in full view wherever the chamber has a presence! And when we attend chamber functions and socials, we – by association – raise our image, as we rub shoulders with the businessmen and women of the local housing market we serve. Have never figured out why more LLCommunity owners/operators don’t avail themselves of this supremely effective way of showcasing our properties, as well as generating leads and prospects. But one just can’t sit there and wait for the business to come. Like Tom Peters wrote years ago, it’s all about getting up off your duff and practicing ‘Management By Walking Around!’

Trade associations on the national scene? Quite a bit, maybe too much, has been opined in that direction of late. And sadly, no matter what’s said or printed past, present or future, it’s highly doubtful, at least in this industry observer’s opinion, anything is going to change anytime soon! Why? The ‘big vs. small business’, ‘anti – regulatory vs. conciliatory’, and ‘all – inclusive’ vs. ‘diverse bodies’ manufactured housing views and association loyalties run deep, very deep. It’ll take one very charismatic, widely popular, successful business leader, to effect lasting and significant, much needed change, or wholesale displacement of myopic territorial posturing, from the top all the way down.

As a somewhat related aside, I was reflecting recently how a couple of the truisms, in the ‘Scintillatingly Salient – but – Salacious Secrets to Business Management Consulting Success’ chapter of my Chapbook of Business & Management Wisdom, result from more than 30 years of trade association interaction, e.g.

‘When participating in national business and trade association activities and politics, possess sufficient resources and support to participate independently, or wind – up being the ever – present, obvious, and tiresome suck – up.’ Two corollaries. First; if a freelance consultant turning out worthy work (books, training, etc.) participate in national meetings to protect one’s proprietary materials from trade association ‘insider’ imitators. And second; go nowhere (e.g. national meetings) without covering one’s travel expenses – and more, with billable work from clients in the geographical area where the event is being held! Believe it. On the average, it costs $1,000 to $2,000 to attend most national gatherings, that’s a fair amount of billable time to have to cover.

‘Don’t rely on trade association executives for steady, if any, billable work! References maybe. Some are among the most multi – faced (that’s because they’re more than two – faced) folk on earth; others might become loyal supporters – especially when they want free information and seminars. They’re ego managers who clearly know who signs their paycheck.’ Corollary. Be aware – and beware, state association executives who’re ‘national association loyalists’. If or when you run afoul, rightly or wrongly, of ‘the national powers that be – or those who believe they’re powerful’, there’s often a trickle down effect among state hangers – on. It’s what I have long reasoned to be, for no invitation to address members in a few states (CA, FL,MI, OH, KY & GA – until recently) during the past three decades. But that’s OK; for it’s better to know who one’s detractors are, than to always wonder….

What have been your recent experiences within and outside state manufactured housing and landlease community – oriented trade associations? How do YOU think state execs can improve on, even reverse, the present general malaise existing among manufactured housing associations nationwide? There’s one anecdote, out and about these days, of an association exec, having been told his six figure salary was at risk, went out and in the space of a week or two, recruited enough new dues – paying members to short circuit that cost – cutting measure. And there’s a relatively new exec, loose in New England, who near single – handedly has turned the fortunes of her association positive, in little more than a year! And yet another exec who’s made an art of serving members’ education and information needs by planning and facilitating annual Super Symposiums, even hosting Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification classes! What has your state exec done for YOU of late? An inquiring blog readership would like to know.

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II.

Yes, now there’re no fewer than 12 manufactured housing and landlease community – related meetings scheduled during the month of October 2012! That’s a one day meeting every 2 ½ days. Whew! Again, if you’d like a complete list of what’s probably soon to become a true Bakers’ Dozen (i.e. ‘13’) meetings in October, get hold of the September 2011 issue of the Allen Letter professional journal, by phoning the aforementioned MHIndustry HOTLINE or (317) 346-7156.

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III.

Last week we introduced blog floggers (readers) to Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing. Book sales are already brisk at $24.95 each, post paid! And several portfolio owners/operators have ordered copies for all their properties (e.g. five or more copies @ only $20.00 per copy, and PMN Publishing will absorb the postage and handling fees). To order, or for more info, call the MHIndustry HOTLINE or (317) 346-7156.

Well, this week, we’re debuting a booklet titled Collection of Figurative Language & Figures of Speech. The research for this book, containing no fewer than 80 different ‘figures of speech’ extends back more than two decades. The book is also a tribute to Margaret J. Allen (My mother, on her 94th birthday this past week), and is dedicated to my father. Longtime friends ‘in the MHBusiness’ will recognize the short (biographical sketch) story ‘Big George’ contained therein.

Anyway, this little gem of a reference is being marketed for only $19.95 postpaid. If you’re a lover of the English language, a published author, an aspiring writer, and or parent or relative or friend of someone who is, this would be a nice gift and helpful resource for them! Available only from PMN Publishing via (317) 346-7156.

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IV.

Signed up to attend the 20th International Networking Roundtable yet? As of today (8/14/2011) the annual event, designed especially for landlease community owners/operators, is but a month away: 14 – 16 September 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa on the West edge of San Antonio, TX. Already appears we’ll not have any ‘walk ins’ this year, as it appears we’ll be at our max of 200 registrants before we arrive! So, don’t be left out, phone the aforementioned MHIndustry HOTLINE today and request an agenda and registration form. Biggest pleasant surprise to date? The number of sponsors stepping forward to offset the costs of this year’s mega event, where we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Manufactured Housing Institute, 20th anniversary of the Roundtable per se, and 15th anniversary of MHI’s National Communities Council! See YOU there!

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George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class

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