Another Cup of Coffee with…Don Glisson, Jr.

Cup-manufacturedhomepronewsWho, What and Where: (Your name and your role/job title at Triad Financial Services).

Don Glisson, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Triad Financial Services, Inc.

Triad is the second largest lender to the MH industry trailing only Berkshire Finance. We currently have offices in Jacksonville Florida, Bourbonnais Illinois, Newport Beach California, Atlanta Georgia, Milwaukee Wisconsin and Wichita, Kansas.

We have over 150 full time employees who originate and service MH loans plus a group of temps we use for various projects like boarding portfolios.

We currently service over $1.5 Billion in loans and so far in 2015 our net income is up over 50% compared to 2014.

2014ultimateceo donglissonjr triadfinancialservices credit bizjournals posted mhpronews com 400x533

The photo above is from the Jacksonville Business Journal’s – 2014 Ultimate CEO: Don Glisson Jr..

We also provide floorplan financing and originate and service loans for community owners who are holding their own loan portfolios.

We are busy and getting busier, and it would not surprise me if we have over 200 employees by the end of 2016.

This industry has been good to me, but I truly believe Triad has been good to the industry as well.

I am also the Executive Chairman of The Jacksonville Bancorp (JAXB), a publicly traded bank holding company.

And I am the Vice Chairman of Citizens Property Insurance Company, a homeowner’s insurance company created by the State of Florida to help Florida residents who are having trouble finding insurance in the private market. We have about 700,000 policies which makes Citizens one of the top 10 insurance companies in the country.

I know I know, I need to slow down! We did recently sign a Definitive Agreement to sell The Jacksonville Bancorp to Ameris Bank, a $5+ Billion dollar bank in the Southeast, so maybe I will have a chance to slow down a bit once that closes in early 2016.

2) Background (Educational/Professional background before entering the factory-built housing arena).

I graduated with a BS in Finance from Florida State University. While at FSU, I was elected the Student Body Controller and administered a $10+ million dollar annual budget for student activities. Looking back on it, the school was probably crazy to allow us to handle that much money, but we did an excellent job of enhancing the student experience.

We funded intramural sports, brought in national acts for homecoming, arranged for rock bands to perform in the Stadium and a host of other student related events.

That was my first taste of what it means to be consumer focused, because we had 35,000 customers (Students) who wanted to be entertained and see some type of value in that extra fee each of them had to pay every semester.

If we brought a band on campus and the lead singer was too high to get the lyrics right, guess who they would blame! That’s right, NOT the singer but the Student Government who booked the act! Talk about pressure!

Anyway it was a cool job as a college senior and was one of the best years of my life. The Student Body President Tim Meenan is still one of my closest friends.

Donglissonjr chairmanceotriadfinancialservices credit bizjournals postedmhpronews com 3) When and How: (When and how you got involved in the Manufactured/Modular Housing Industry).

After graduating from college I came to Triad as a collector and recovery agent. Real glamorous beginning, but it did teach me the value of making good loans as collections and repos were no fun!

I have spent the past 30 years at Triad, and as I said, I started as a collector and recovery agent and worked my way up. I have pretty much done every job possible in the MH finance business, and that helped prepare me for running the company, which I have been doing for over 10 years now

4) Whatever someone might think of Donald Trump, most agree that he has been shattering the norm for candidates running for the Presidency. At the time that I’m asking you, Mr. Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are leading the field, and all are seen as outsiders running in the Republican field. Among Democrats, we’ve seen a self-proclaimed Socialist drawing the largest crowds, and polling is rising vs. the Democratic front runner. Left-leaning comic Jerry Seinfeld admitted recently that political correctness on college campuses is so bad, he elects not to perform at college campuses. Do you think that the current popularity of the candidates named, or frustration over political correctness, spell potential opportunities for something as politically incorrect as manufactured housing? If so, why?

I would love to think that MH is considered mainstream housing, but the truth is we are still the red-headed stepchild in the eyes of many, especially the “elites” who supposedly know what’s good for everyone, and of course many of these elites work in government.

We are the answer to the country’s affordable housing issues, but we don’t get fair treatment at the federal level. There are no MH dwellers inside the Beltway, so we must not be a good housing choice in their eyes.

Yes, we hear a lot about political correctness and being tolerant of everyone, but our buyers are stereotyped and nobody in DC takes the time to really understand who are buyers are and what THEY consider an acceptable home to be.

Government is taking sides and it’s harming the very middle-class they profess to want to help.

99% of the businesses in our Industry are well run with leaders who want to do the best for the home buyers. I don’t know of anyone who thinks we should take advantage of our customers, but it seems some in government think we are out to screw our buyers, which is not the case.

I run a company with an impeccable reputation for honesty and fair dealing, but I still find myself defending our business just because we are in the MH business. So not only are our buyers stereotyped, so are we as businesses that serve these middle-class buyers. Pretty sad, but it is what it is and we do our best to educate those who do not understand our industry, and that is about 95% of the populace.

Photo credit, BizJournals.

5) Change is ongoing in the America, and since we did our first Cup of Coffee interview with you, there are thousands of new faces working in the MH industry. There are also a number who retired, or otherwise left the industry. The MH Industry itself has changed, due to regulations and other factors. Since we last asked you this question, what do you say – as the head of an operation with multi-decade deep-roots in manufactured housing – what do you think are the largest challenges facing the industry today?

To me our greatest challenge has been and still is our image and what the outside world thinks about us. The sad thing is that we offer a fantastic home for a great price, and our buyers are satisfied with their homes.

BUT the average person has a false image in their minds of a beat up, metal-on-metal single-wide on the side of a highway with rusted cars in the front yard, which is NOT what we are about.

We need to educate the public and government officials on what we really offer, which is above average shelter at a below average price. Until we show the world what we truly have to offer we will remain a niche industry bumping along at less than 100,000 new homes sold per year.

The RV industry has done a fabulous job of promoting a lifestyle, and hip, younger adults think Airstreams are totally cool.

6) The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) has engaged in serious cases involving manufactured housing. The ones we already know about are focused on Fair Housing violations, like the cases involved in the article linked here. Our sources tell us that one or more of these settled cases involve non-association members. What would you say to those who are outside of the state or national MH association world, often because they aren’t fond of ‘association politics,’ but who clearly put themselves at risk by engaging in practices that an active association member knows could cost them 50, 100 or 1000 times their annual membership fee?

As I mentioned, 99% of companies involved in our industry are doing business the right way and operating in an ethical manner. I don’t know if these issues were intentional or just isolated instances where an employee wasn’t trained properly and did something they should not have done.

No company is perfect, so I reserve judgment on this until I read the facts.

Obviously, Triad has been involved with associations for years and most of them are great organizations that add value.

7) Many independents tell us how excited they were that you were the newly elected Chairman of the Board for the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). You said then, 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.(Complete first interview with Don Glisson Jr. is linked here). The question of the effectiveness and inclusiveness of MHI has continued. While there have been recent moves made to make dues for smaller retailers and independent communities more reasonable, there are still those in and out of MHI that think the association is dominated by a few. What can be done to broaden the appeal and effectiveness of MHI? What do you see working in state associations that might be useful at the national level?

All trade associations have their issues and sadly politics plays too much of a role in most instances.

Obviously MHI hasn’t been as effective as most of us would have hoped, but as a very small trade association, it’s hard to move the needle in DC.

Until MHI has a few “wins”, and I hope they do soon, it’s going to be tough to convince retailers, who need to be a part of the equation, to go all-in and be a part of the group. Nothing attracts a crowd like winning, and until we have some wins, there will be a lot of apathy.

8) U.S. Bank pulled the plug on a program that our sources tell us was profitable, pointing to the high costs of compliance and loan volume. Sam Landy at UMH told us via a video interview that their captive finance program was profitable and successful for both buyers and themselves as a company; yet UMH pulled the plug on their program too, citing the high costs of compliance and regulatory risks (see link here). You’ve told MHProNews previously that your costs are up too. Against this backdrop, let’s start by asking, if you could tell your Congressman, Senators or Richard Cordray at CFPB, what’s it like trying to live under the current regulatory regime? How do regulations impact your business currently?

I am fine with playing by the rules as long, as they are uniform and apply to everyone. However not allowing a retailer to give even minimal advice to the borrower on securing financing is a mistake. I argue that the buyers are worse off than before, as they are not receiving any guidance on what programs would be best for them and what company offers the lowest rates for their situation. They are totally on their own and most don’t have the finance background to sort through the various finance programs out there.

They might see a low rate at one company but not understand the rate may change down the road. This would be like going to buy a car and when you ask the salesman to help you get a loan they toss you a phonebook and say you are on your own pick one out.

Realtors ® can help their buyers with finance options, car dealers can, boat dealers can, RV dealers can, but we can’t. It is a totally inefficient way of doing business and I believe the buyers are much worse off than they were before the law changed.

But we deal with it and play by the rules as written, but I don’t believe the consumer is being well served by this rule. And it drives up the lenders costs, as there isn’t any pre-qualifying going on, so all the finance companies are being overloaded with applicants that don’t fit our credit profiles. This is driving up costs, and when costs go up guess who ultimately pays those costs?

As far as compliance goes we have the best compliance team in the industry at Triad and we play by the rules, 100%. All of us have to comply with the same rules and regulations, so you just deal with it and move on. But no doubt the regulatory and compliance burden is daunting and it’s preventing new lenders from entering MH.

9) The need for quality, affordable housing in America may have never been greater. Rental rates are rising. Multi-family housing is booming. Incomes are down from 7 years ago. Boomers are retiring at the rate of some 11,000 daily. Federal reports demonstrate there are very few complaints on HUD Code manufactured homes, less than a fraction of a percent. China claims to be shipping factory-built homes to some 80 nations, and by 2020, a study suggests there will be 1.1 million factory-built home built world-wide. That sounds like a recipe for manufactured housing success, right? So when America is building a million housing units a year in the U.S., why are only 65,000 +/- HUD Code manufactured homes being shipped? Do associations have a role to play in moving the needle of more public acceptance?

Like I said before, it’s all about image and making sure MH is at least a housing choice that buyers consider.

If you asked the average 25 year old who is looking for a place to live what their options are, most would say buy a site built home or condo, rent a site built home or condo, or rent a traditional apartment. Guess what housing choice NEVER crossed their mind? Why? Because they don’t know anything about the product because they have never seen the product, at least not in a positive light.

Until we find a way to at least become an option in their housing decision, we won’t get past 100,000 shipments annually. I have long advocated for an industry-wide national image campaign coordinated though the trade associations, but here we are with nothing even on the table. Yes it will be expensive, but doing nothing in my opinion is not an option.

10) Speaking of controversial blunt talk by Donald Trump, Frank Rolfe certainly has his share. Attorney Kurt Kelley compared Frank to The Donald in his plain speech. While many of us disagree with use of terms like ‘trailer park’ or ‘mobile home’ and believe it creates issues that are avoidable, one can’t argue with the fact that Frank and Dave Reynold’s operations are prospering. We recently interviewed Frank about questions posed to him by some of his critics, and he fired back in a Trump-like fashion. While we can debate how replies to our industry’s critics are phrased, isn’t there value to refuting false or misleading statements made by those in media, policy advocates or others that take a position that is opposed to and harmful of manufactured housing?

I am all about defending the defensible and we should refute false and misleading statements, as long as we have a solid argument.

I don’t agree with trying to defend something that maybe isn’t the message we want to hear, but does have some truth to it. Trying to defend something just because you don’t like the way it was written just makes us look silly.

11) Triad is known for specializing in “A” credit paper. What would you tell those in MH, first, about your firm’s programs and industry awards Triad’s won…but also about this following point. You’re in business because your retailers and communities are supplying you with applicants that meet your criteria. In general terms, what do you think works well at attracting buyers who are more credit qualified?

Yes Triad is knows for its “A” credit programs that reward higher quality borrowers with the best rates and terms in the industry, but we have also introduced our Silver Program this year which will help serve those with less than perfect credit. We are trying to serve as many buyers as possible without taking unnecessary risks.

Don glissonjr triadfinancialservices mhi award credit mhi posted mhpronews com We know we have a reputation as a higher credit profile lender and I am proud of that, but we also know we need to serve more of the market and that is where we are headed with these new programs. Triad would not have been a multiple winner of Lender of the Year if we were just servicing the “A” credit market.

However we are never going to make loans to customers who have no business getting a loan. There are just some people who are bad risks, and there are some who don’t understand that having a 60% debt ratio is a recipe for disaster.

I don’t want to put a single borrower into a loan unless I feel confident it’s the best situation for them and that they can repay the loan without any undue hardship. The worst thing you can do to someone is put them into a difficult financial situation that puts a strain on them and their family, and we just can’t in good conscience do that to anyone.

12) A MH blogger not associated with MHProNews or MHLivingNews is on record talking about monopolies in the industry, for example, quoting: OLIGARCHY Revisited…’ Are manufactured housing leaders ‘spoiling’ (i.e. ‘seriously impairing’) our industry by acquiescing to energy saving innovations cum sales price increases, on new HUD-Code homes, when home buyers can least afford to buy? Or as pundits suggest, is this ruse a precursor to amalgamation of many firms into a very few?” (full context, linked here.) Certainly, not only in MH but in other industries, we see regulations (in the case cited above, pending DOE energy standards, but in other cases, financial or other regulatory burdens) essentially driving out smaller players. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) put out a report that had the following facts:

Manufactured and modular housing industry news uploads old

Don glissonjr triadfinancialservices posted mhpronews comnationalassociationofmanufacturersnamputoutareport 2

It is precisely those kinds of regulatory burdens that MHARR cites as their reason for having their own association. In our first interview, you said,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 question is essentially two fold. Are government regulations in financing or other arenas making it harder for independents to thrive? And how can MHI and MHARR bridge the gaps that have divided them? To rephrase, how can the associations work with more inclusive interests in mind?

Well Triad is an independent and we are not just surviving we are thriving like never before. When I started here we had 8 employees and were serving only Florida and now we are in 44 states and heading towards 200 employees, and we did that by taking the “Big Boys” head on.

Now I know the finance side is a different animal than the manufacturing and retail side, but if you are a smaller independent firm, you can sometimes outmaneuver the big companies as you can make decisions on the fly.

Would I love to have Warren Buffett’s money backing my company? Sure, who wouldn’t and it can be a challenge competing against that type of horsepower. But it’s also nice to make a decision in the morning without asking for permission from the parent company and seeing the results of that decision that same afternoon.

And I personally think it’s a travesty the two associations are not working together like I started to do during my relatively brief term as Chairman of MHI.

There is so much that can be done jointly, yet personal squabbles and turf wars keep that from happening.

I know that the two associations will never agree on everything, but who does? Heck my wife and I don’t agree on everything but we have been married for 29 years and counting and have a wonderful relationship! Expecting the “other” side to see eye to eye with you on everything is not only unrealistic; it’s just ludicrous.

14) Some say that industry politics is part of the reason you stepped down as MHI Chairman. Do you care to comment as to why you stepped away from that role? What advice would you give to the incoming MHI Chairman?

I am all about consensus building and working with all sides of an issue to come up with workable solutions. What disappointed me were the people who put their own financial gain and personal vendettas ahead of what was best for the industry as a whole.

Utterly childish behavior and I was just appalled by those who were, and still are, trying to make a profit by tearing down the work done by those of us who truly care about the industry, and not just their pocketbook.

I am a busy man and I did not see how any progress was going to be made, as trying to find solutions that work for all is NOT what others wanted. It’s a shame, but at least I didn’t waste more of my valuable time as nothing was going to get accomplished.

Has anything changes since I left that role? Here we are still not willing to work with MHARR on issues that affect ALL segments of the industry, and here we are with people taking shots at the association because it helps their business.

As you pointed out in your earlier question, I wanted to work with all sides and had started an excellent dialog with MHARR and with John Bostick, who I consider a good businessman and leader. We had face to face meetings with leaders from both associations, and we agreed to pursue a number of initiatives together.

It’s a shame that fell apart shortly after I left, but as I said, I didn’t want to waste another minute beating my head against the wall and to play referee over childish temper tantrums.

Some people are not going to like what I am saying, but I stand behind my thoughts 100%.

Again, show me what has changed since I left and how many victories we can point to as an industry in the past few years. My advice to any MHI Chairman is simple, good luck.


Manufactured home with garage. Photo credit, Triad Financial Services.

15) Team building is important, and you have some team members that have been with you for many years. What is your secret of creating the right corporate environment for longevity?

We are not Triad Inc., we are the Triad FAMILY first and foremost. We create a positive experience for employees form the janitor on up.

We rarely lose a team member and most of our new hires are from our current team members telling their former associates what a great company Triad is.

We do a lot of team building events and try to add value to their work experience, like paying for a Food Truck to come to the office and randomly closing the office an hour or two early on Friday and paying them for it.

We do a lot of charitable work where everyone participates and loves seeing the direct result of their efforts to help those in need.

We go above and beyond for our Triad Family members. We had an employee whose wife was very ill with cancer and needed treatment 600 miles away. She was too sick to fly commercially and it would have been a 10 hour drive in the car. We put her and him on our company plane immediately and flew them to the facility, and the plane and crew stayed there until she was done and ready to come home.

If one of our team members is in need, we are going to step up and help them. Most of our employees have been here for 10+ years and we value loyalty. And happy employees make all the difference in the world as they pass on that happiness to our customers.

Weekly I get emails from retailers and borrowers commending me on how pleasant our team members are and what a joy it is to do business with Triad.

They say it is refreshing to be treated so respectfully and that our employees go above and beyond to help.

I read all of these emails and forward them around to the whole company with a personal note of how proud I am of each and every one of them. It’s a pleasure being surrounded by such a great group of people who genuinely care about our mission, which is to provide the American dream of homeownership to thousands of families each year.

I feel like we are in a great industry and I personally feel lucky to have helped literally tens of thousands of hard working folks buy a home that provides a superior quality housing experience then an apartment and also allows them to build wealth over time.

16) Closing comments or advice for industry pros to consider?

Thank you for providing a single source for all the manufactured housing news that’s fit to print! ##

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