1) Who, What and Where: (Your name and your role/job title at Triad Financial Services).
Don Glisson, Jr., Chairman and CEO Home of Triad Financial Services. Home office in Jacksonville, Florida with branch locations in Bourbonnais, IL, Newport Beach, CA and Wichita, KS.
2) Background (Educational/Professional background before entering the factory-built housing arena).
I graduated from Florida State University (FSU) with a BS in Finance. Started my first business at age 10 mowing lawns in the neighborhood for $3 per lawn.
My second business was at age 12 when I got my own afternoon newspaper route, The Jacksonville Journal. I had to buy the papers from the company and collect payment from my customers and whatever was left was my profit. Even at age 12 I had customers who tried to stiff me for their 10 cent per day paper! I had to go door to door to collect and I would see people look out the window and then hide so they wouldn’t have to pay me!
At 15 I got a job with the Winn-Dixie grocery store chain stocking shelves, and when I went off to FSU they paid for a portion of my tuition in exchange for me entering their management training program. After my sophomore year I determined that I didn’t want to spend my career in the grocery business, so I went to work for the State of Florida working for the Economic Development Department 30 hours per week while also attending FSU.
My senior year I was elected to serve as the Finance and Budget Director for the FSU student government association (SGA). The university was crazy enough to let the SGA manage an annual budget of $5 million dollars, which I oversaw, which we used to fund intramural sports, concerts, homecoming, fitness and sports fields and various student organizations.
After I graduated I decided that I would spend a year or two working with my dad at Triad and then would move on to bigger and better things. At the time we have six employees and were doing business only in Northeast Florida. I stuck around and the rest is history as they say. We are now lending in 45 states and employee in excess of 100 great people.
3) When and How: (When and how you got involved in the Manufactured/Modular Housing Industry).
As I mentioned I came to work at Triad right out of FSU and at the time it was a very small company. I was young and thinking big and probably to the surprise of some of my professors at FSU we succeeded!
Even though we were very small and a blip on the MH radar screen, I decided to get involved with The Florida Manufactured Housing Association (FMHA) and at age 24. I helped form and was President of the Jacksonville Chapter. This was in the late 1980’s and the industry was really starting to take off so we had 30 or more folks show up at our local meetings.
I soon joined the Board of FMHA and got my first taste of Association work.
When Triad grew we joined MHI about 15 years ago, and I got involved with the F&I Division. Four years ago I was elected Treasurer, spent two years as Vice Chairman and just took over as the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (MHI) Chairman for a two year term earlier this month. I was fortunate to be mentored by Ken Cashin and Joe Stegmeyer the past 4 years and they both did an outstanding job and I learned a lot from both of them.
4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?
I have been married for 26 years and have two daughters, age 22 and 18. The oldest, Samantha is a senior at Vanderbilt and will be going to veterinary school next fall. My youngest, Abigail is a senior in high school and is looking at colleges right now.
I spend almost all my free time with my family and have devoted most of my adult life to raising two fine daughters. We have a mountain home in Cashiers, NC and I love to spend as much time as possible in the Smokey Mountains.
I own two boats so I love the water, and I grew up surfing and have been to a lot of exotic places chasing the perfect wave! I got my pilots license a few years ago and enjoy flying, and a play a little bit of golf.
5) What do you consider the largest challenges facing the industry in general today?
The biggest challenge I see is the continued onslaught of intrusive government regulation of all facets of our business, especially in financing. We offer by far the best answer to this country’s affordable housing dilemma, but government continues to saddle us with regulations that stifle us.
The frustrating part is that none of these so called “consumer protection” rules help protect anyone. The only thing they prevent is buyers getting an affordable home without a hassle.
I mean how is preventing a MH salesperson from taking a credit application doing anything to protect the consumer? All it is doing is making access to an affordable home ridiculously difficult.
6) Congratulations on recently taking the helm as Chairman of the Board for the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). What thoughts do you bring to the table on how to advance the cause of our great Industry?
I feel we need to have a united message as an industry, but first we need to know exactly what that massage should be. I have already put the word out, and I will do it again here, that I want people to not tell me what they don’t like about MHI or how MHI isn’t doing anything for them, but I want people to bring me solutions that benefit the entire industry, not just what benefits them personally.
Anyone can point fingers and say MHI leadership isn’t doing enough, but the people really dedicated to seeing this industry move forward are those that can help us formulate specific plans and be willing to do the work as well.
There is no way that anyone can expect the small handful of volunteer leaders to do all the work. We all have our own businesses to run while at the same time working on behalf of this industry. It’s easy to throw darts at the industry leaders and blame them for the industry’s woes, but unless you are willing to step up and help then you are part of the problem and not the solution.
I have also already reached out to the Chairman of MHARR and I want to work with them on issues we agree on, which should be the vast majority of them. The sometimes adversarial relationship between the two associations is counter productive and often sends the wrong message to the government agencies we are trying to educate about our industry. My goal is to have government understand that we are not the enemy but a partner who wants to provide the American people with a responsible path to home ownership.
There is also a saying that all politics is local, and I feel the same about business, especially ours. I want to make sure MHI does a better job of supporting the state associations and I plan on attending as many local events as I possibly can. We need to include everyone in these efforts, and if anyone reading this needs a project then they should contact me.
6) How do you personally like to respond to challenges that come up for you professionally? (In other words, how do you try to tackle problems and arrive at effective solutions?)
First of all I understand that problems are going to arise on a daily basis so I don’t stress over these. I don’t panic as that will cause you to make rash decisions based on short term thinking.
I analyze the situation, make sure I understand the problem and if it’s even real, and then I look for a long term solution and get the right member of my team to execute the plan.
And if I don’t have all the information I need I get it before I make my decision, as often what someone else might perceive as a “the sky is falling” situation might be much ado about nothing. We have great management at Triad and that makes my life much easier.
7) Many observe that we are a relatively small industry, but have tremendous potential to grow. Do you believe there is wisdom in learning to work within the industry better? Should more be involved in association events or reading industry trade publications to deepen understanding and foster growth?
This industry is small compared to others, which is why we all need to unite and work together as in industry. We carry a lot more clout when we include all segments of the industry and all of our MHI members. I bet not many manufacturers could build a home efficiently without having a team approach or with department managers who don’t get along. It would be utter chaos and not only would the home take forever to build but the cost would make the product uncompetitive.
Until we learn to work together to build this industry, we are going nowhere fast. This industry and our product cannot be matched, but if we don’t stop shooting ourselves in the foot and fighting amongst ourselves then we are in trouble. I hope to unite this industry and to get the various players to work together, but I can’t do it alone.
8) Other remarks or comments, industry related.
We have several hundred MHI members who never participate in meetings or with initiatives, and I would like to invite these folks to please come and get involved with your trade association, as we need your help.
Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you don’t know anyone at the meetings or don’t know how you can help. Everyone has a talent that we can use and I look forward to meeting these members at our MHI Legislative Conference in DC February 24th thru 26th, 2013. And anyone else that hasn’t met me personally I urge you to introduce yourself to me and tell me what’s on your mind. I love this business and will do whatever I can to help it succeed. ##