“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about
the game you’ve been playing all your life.”
per Brainy Quote.
Here’s a one sentence executive summary. It’s about turning lemons into lemonade.
Now, let’s see how that’s done.
I’m thinking about a client we’ve worked with that made a mistake. Nothing earth shattering. Just an honest error. The truth be told, we’ve all done it. Many times, right?
However, some people and organizations would rather double down on an error than publicly admit even to a modest degree that they’ve goofed. Hint, now I’ve pivoted from that client and am thinking of an organization that is based in VA.
Which would YOU rather be?
- Admit a goof and fix it?
- Or ignore the error and pretend it never happened?
We’ll circle back to that later, as we explore the headline topic.
As a disclosure, I try to routinely swallow and take the sometimes-bitter pill of following my own advice. We were – per evidence, investigations and numerous tips of the years – mistaken about how we perceived MHI circa 2013-2014. We ever so slowly evolved since. Why? It was routinely based upon new insights and information. That information often came from MHI members or past members. We’re far from alone. But that’s not the focus of this article, not really.
Rather that’s an example of the true focus, which is what’s evolving, new and the potential for so much more accomplished ethically in 2020 and beyond.
What is it that can make 2020 and beyond better and positively different years from the ones say from 2009 to 2019?
There are new and renewed winds blowing in MHVille and across America. A person would have to be pretty closed not to see it. For example.
- When stories about the affordable housing or homelessness crises are routinely news,
- when people, politicos and professionals are discussing the problems and are seeking solutions,
- its an opportunity in disguise for the manufactured housing industry, its investors and professionals.
- Every need, every problem is a potential opportunity to serve in a positive and honorably profitable way. Its about turning lemons into lemonade.
No one in MHVille trade media has invested more time in spotlighting both the obstacles and the opportunities than MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister site. While others largely sing from the worn, tired hymnal of how wonderful the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) are – arguably ignoring what MHI’s own prior president, vice president and years of disconnects between promises and delivery – it has been our trade media that has ever increasingly spotlighted the root cause of the actual problems.
We as publishers were mistaken for a time in a very specific fashion. On the one hand, we believed then and now that manufactured homes were good, necessary and had huge upside potential. That has never changed. That is something that most manufactured housing professionals hold in common.
But what has evolved since 2013 in stages is our understanding of why that potential was not being properly tapped. Anyone can go back to older articles and read that evolution that became evident circa 2015, as well as the fact that we were and are true believers in manufactured housing. While we might edit a typo that’s brought to our attention, we don’t go back 5 to 10 years and wholesale rewrite what we previously published. That makes MHProNews a historic resource. Our news and views have been transparent, warts and all.
We’ve evolved, as transparently as possible.
We’ll pick up shortly the positives to be drawn from the negatives. On how lemons can be made into lemonade.
But there are reasons to fully grasp those negatives. Why? Because it is from the negatives that the opportunities for positive and profitable manufactured housing business and related services flow.
That bears emphasis. It is from the negatives:
- Millions too few affordable homes
- The mistakes, intended or not, of others
that the opportunities to learn from the mistakes of the past create opportunities in affordable housing and manufactured homes that is rivaled by few other fields.
Opportunities knock. But obstacles must be understood navigated to get to the big potential paydays. That can be done in an honest and ethical manner. You should not have to hang your head when you tell someone what business you are in. Rather, you should be proud of it.
Distance and distinctions must be created between black hats and white hats. Who says?
- When was the last time you saw an MD advertise that he was the worst in his field?
- When was the last time you saw a car dealer advertise how terrible their customer relations are? When was the last time that you saw an attorney say how terrible their settlements are, or how often they lose in court?
- Every savvy professional draws bright line distinctions between their performance and that of others in their same profession.
MHVille pros need to learn that stratagem too. Just as one must separate the wheat from the chaff with all people, organizations and things, so too professionals need to learn to take the sea of lemons and turn them into juicy, tasty and often healthy lemonade.
Brains and Blood, Pt I…
There are some who would sell out their own mother for enough bucks. That’s life. So why would it be a surprise if some would screw over their colleagues or customers?
As sad as that black hat behavior is, that’s also an opportunity for white hats to shine.
Let me tell you. While we try to make what we do as pleasant as possible from doing publishing from a work perspective, this isn’t at all what we imagined a little less than 11 years ago when we envisioned MHProNews. MHLivingNews has also evolved.
To fulfill the mission of supporting industry growth through best practices, our methods had to change. We had to start spotlighting worst practices. We had to start drawing a bright line distinction between white hats and black hats in MHVille. We have accurately stressed that even black hat brands have white hats in them. That’s life. It would be equally true that sometimes black hats are found in white hat brands. But when the later occurs, white hat leaders routinely want to either see black hat behavior change or see those back hats go elsewhere.
Ironically perhaps, several tips and advice from people and organizations like ELS, Clayton, Cavco, 21st, Skyline or others involved in MHI suggested laying out all of the realities of MHVille on both of our distinct but complementary news websites.
Just tell the facts as you see them, explain it, give your evidence. If there’s been a prior mistake, admit it.
Be transparent, but do it with finesse.
Transparency doesn’t mean you have to drop your pants. It does mean that candor and humility have intrinsic value. Admit mistakes. Explain as needed the evolution of your new understanding. Most people of good will respect that type of candor.
We have our favorite views and positions on a range of issues in 2020 and beyond. But we will work with anyone of good will from whatever background.
If there is a factual error, we invite others to point them out. We admit a past mistake with respect to our understanding of what has been keeping manufactured housing at low ebb for over a decade. It’s not so hard to say ‘let’s be open to whatever the truth is.’ It is only hard for the overly proud – the arrogant – to admit an error.
I have messages from:
- Kevin Clayton
- Joe Stegmayer
- Tim Williams
- Richard Jennison
- Rick Robinson
and others ‘in the know’ that we’ve been provided that have not yet been published.
Jennison and Rick Robinson, among several others, have left MHI. But that doesn’t mean that what they said, did or failed to do now magically drops into some memory hole. Robinson has a new gig. Perhaps his new boss will ponder the wisdom of that move, even though it may take time for that to be revealed.
Do you think the so-called leaders of MHVille might know that we have more documents, emails and other materials in hand? Does that explain why they have rattled sabers but never sued us as several attorneys working for or de facto with MHI have threatened? Perhaps that, but more too.
Our goal is to make right what’s been wrong. If there are parties that broke some law and/or regulations, why not come clean and just get ripping the band aid off over with?
Whatever lies ahead isn’t ever fully known. The rich man in the biblical story was pulling down his barns to build bigger ones when he died. Clearly, that rich dude didn’t expect that death to happen at that moment, did he?
Tomorrow some terrorist or rogue party could do some terrible deed that blows up whatever and sinks part or all of the markets. You and I routinely can’t know that sort of thing is about to happen.
Iran initially and repeatedly denied shooting down that Boeing 737. Iran’s leaders tried to cover it up. Our mention of that in a report below was drafted before it was clear that the plan was a newer 737 but not a 737 Max. But we were not wrong in suspecting immediately that Iran was likely behind it.
The Iranian government looks triple bad. They did something horrible, by accident or intent. They lied and tried to cover it up. Then they finally ‘told the truth.’ Reports are that the many of the opposed citizens of Iran are outraged.
Let me tell you, as terrible as the downing of that Ukrainian 737 is, the leaders and mullahs could have just kept lying about it. There’s a measure of courage in finally coming clean. Will Iran then make it right with the Ukrainians and others on board? That’s the next big question.
We believe that a strong case has been made that manufactured housing is the future not the past. That’s why a few want to consolidate the industry, isn’t it? Smart business professionals and their backers don’t seek to consolidate something that has no value.
The reality of the trends in consolidation is itself revealing.
We believe that the manufactured home industry is underperforming because good laws have been thwarted.
We believe that the evidence and reasoning both suggest that there’s corruption inside HUD, FHFA, MHI and some key MHI members. But before we go to what we think, let’s pause and ponder what others in the mainstream media have said.
What the Financial Times and Others in Media Said
It was one or more writers in the
- Financial Times writer Robin Harding stated as his thesis on Sep 12, 2017 “How Warren Buffett Broke American Capitalism.” “ Buffett is completely honest about his desire to reduce competition. He just calls it by a folksy name – “widening the moat”. “I don’t want a business that’s easy for competitors. I want a business with a moat around it with a very valuable castle in the middle, he [Buffett] said in 2007. He [Buffett] tells Berkshire Hathaway managers to widen their moat every year. The Buffett definition of good management is therefore clear. If you have effective competitors, you are doing it wrong.”
- It was GuruFocus that May 15, 2018 said Warren Buffett Can’t Escape Unethical Strategic Moats.
- It was The Nation that did a special investigations that said those moats were the Dirty Secret Behind the success of Buffett’s, brands. Both The Nation and GuruFocus specifically named Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders. A writer in Forbes on April 18, 2019 called it “Warren Buffett’s Exploitative Mobile Home Investment.” Surprised?
- On Dec 17, 2019 the Jacksonville Florida Times Union published a column that other state newspapers also published, entitled Protecting Warren Buffett’s Castle and Moat Vision. That specified Buffett, Clayton Homes and their affiliated lending in their allegations.
There’s more like those, but that’s enough to make these points. How is it possible that others in the manufactured home industry’s trade media fail to cover that same castle, moat and related issues? Are they too busy kissing someone’s unappealing derrière?
If MHI and state associations are sincere about their code of ethical conducts, how is it they protect the big boy brands that so often cause the industry’s its stigmatized image?
If the mainstream media feels it is safe to discuss these issues, and we at MHProNews and MHLivingNews have been swimming in reporting on the waters of the Moat for the past few years, why is it that others are so timid?
When you swim with sharks and gators, sure, you have been careful. But if you expect to breach the moat, those challenges must be navigated while they still can be challenged.
We’ll have an article soon on what white hat retailers, communities, producers and lenders should consider doing. But it’s simple, really. Turn lemons into lemonade.
- Why not jujitsu those black hat tactics right back at their authors and supporters?
- Why not draw a bright line distinction between white hats and black hat behavior?
- Why not share the facts, over and over again? Just quote the sources, by name and then link those sources up.
There’s more but that’s enough to get white hat brands, pros and investors thinking.
We’ve been publishing these stories for some time on MHLivingNews for several good reasons. If you deal with the public, you can link up a story there that can expose black hat behavior, but it is still framed as pro-manufactured housing. It still makes the point that manufactured homes are a solution to be embraced.
It is black hat behavior that is to be avoided.
Let’s reframe that to stress the point. Every profession has good and bad actors. It has been like that for millennia. Manufactured housing professionals in 2020 and beyond must have the courage and vision to properly explain that the industry has good products and services, but like any other profession, there are black hats in it. Learn to spot and avoid those black hats.
Point clients and customers to MHLivingNews. Many will get it. Many will thank you and reward you with their business. Meanwhile, you can stay arm’s length.
Be as strategic, but be more ethical, than those black hats. Jujitsu.
Brains and Blood, Part II…
Those problematic MHI members purportedly include Berkshire Hathaway owned or influenced brands, but there are obviously others that we have reported on too. There’s also arguably corruption backed by evidence and reason beyond those mentioned that include officials at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Let’s segue to make a useful analogy.
I’m not holding my breath that certain MHVille black hats will take the step that Iran’s leaders just did. But one or two may break ranks. That isn’t necessary, but it may prove useful to feds, states and other investigators.
Let’s be clear. What happened with those passengers that died on that Ukrainian 737 – tragic and terrible as it is – pales in comparison to what has happened to thousands of mostly white hat businesses and millions of current and potential consumers and Americans.
There is arguably blood on the hands of the moat builders and industry riggers in MHVille. Too much, you say?
My father was a world class philosopher. I’m not him. But when you hear logic day after day for years, some of it is bound to stick. I’d have to prepare to lead a class on philosophy or logic. But I can spot flaws as well as strengths in logical thinking fairly quickly once a given subject is understood. My parents deserve that credit.
Here’s the deductive logic of what’s occurred in manufactured housing. Let’s accept for the next few moments the premise that the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies have rigged the manufactured housing market in cahoots with a limited number of officials at HUD, FHFA, Fannie and Freddie. If that premise is true, then they have logically have blood on their hands, not just dishonestly earned money.
Here’s the deductive logic of it. Let’s imagine for a few moments an America where 21st, Clayton, MHI and Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway never did sabotage thousands of manufactured housing businesses from within. Picture instead an America where good laws and the truths of manufactured housing were being properly enforced and were well told. Given that hypothetical, follow this thinking.
- Potentially millions of more Americans could now be owning a manufactured home instead of renting.
- Millions more would be building equity instead of pilling up rent receipts.
- Perhaps hundreds of thousands fewer people would be homeless, because they would have had access to affordable housing instead.
Given those logical outcomes, then grasp this sad but deductively demonstrable reasoning and questions.
- How many fewer suicides would we have in a U.S. with more affordable housing?
- How many fewer property crimes would we have in cities and towns across the U.S.?
- How many fewer violent crimes, including murder or rape would there be?
Yes, logically there’s a case to be made that the cunningly sinister Moat Builders have harmed untold numbers of lives that would have ended up quite differently than they did. That deductively means that there is blood on the hands of some corrupt individuals.
While I believe I miracles, I’m not expecting all of those involved to fess up. Why? Because they keep doubling down. Keep the below in mind. But one or more may break ranks. Will some, as their NDAs expire, find MHI and others offering them more money and a new NDA? Will some turn that down to tell the truths that they know. Time will tell. But the puppet masters of the ploy itself are unlike to break cover.
Our latest report on how the Buffett-taught purported ploy for monopolization of a market has played out in MHVille is the runaway most read article on our site. That logically means it dwarfs all other reading that’s occurring in manufactured housing.
We’ve once again given the powers that be an opportunity again to correct any factual evidence, legal or logical reasoning. They choose to remain silent.
At some point they may have enough. In America, people can launch a wrongful lawsuit, right or wrong, that’s the system. Given their deep pockets, they could fund suits until our personal world looked leveled. But they already know what we’d do, because we told their outside attorney very specifically what we’d do and why they were wrong. We did so based upon the law. We challenged them to show us wrong.
They backed down.
Our publications are not taunting the powers that be.
The wise don’t kick a hornet’s nest on purpose unless you have specific equipment and the right plan. I’m under no illusions of the abilities of industry black hats to make life miserable.
But I’m also not under any illusions about the harm they’ve logically done to others, per the outlines above and linked below.
There are three choices: fight, flight or sit on the fence.
For those who duck or flee, guess what? The moat will slowly but steadily get you. That’s not just our rationale, it is those of others in the financial world who have examined this issue, as the sampling above reflects. It is an issue that several elected political figures have raised and asked federal investigators to probe.
Some would sell their own mother out for enough money. Years ago, I watched an interview of a husband who pimped out his own wife. Terrible things happen. Jeffrey Epstein isn’t the only rich, famous – and now, dead – guy who literally sold human flesh. Often they were young. It’s tragic what some people do, isn’t it?
Slavery isn’t over. It has morphed.
Compare those billions Bernie Madoff ripped off to the economic harm done in MHVille and affordable housing in general. We estimated, based upon third-party data, research and deductive logic, that Madoff’s scam pales in comparison to what Buffett brands and specific people we’ve named have done.
One of the biggest potential crimes in American history is how affordable housing has been thwarted by people that ought to be promoting it.
That’s said because based upon that logic, 2020 could be the start of something very different. See for yourself in the various reports, fact-checks, analysis and commentaries linked herein and below.
- The manufactured home industry should be roaring, not snoring.
- Millions more should have an affordable manufactured home.
- More manufactured homes would make other housing more affordable too. That’s the law of supply and demand at work.
- Hundreds of thousands less would be living on the streets of America.
- There should be more personal wealth, more joy, less tragedies.
It’s not too late. There are others like us who thank God are in it to win it.
We pray for all day by day, even those who may have hardened their hearts. Our publications have had the humility to admit that we missed the evidence of purported rigging of manufactured housing by those that should have been promoting it. We then began to expose it step by step.
It was on December 15, 2017, that we first uploaded a letter on 21st Mortgage and Finance letterhead with Tim Williams’ digital “signature” on it. We said several times that it was arguably smoking gun evidence of violations of antitrust and other laws. That began a series of reports that trailed some in the mainstream media, but led others in how ‘the castle and moat’ was playing out in MHVille. But to our knowledge, at this time, only MHProNews and MHLivingNews have published that letter and the one like it from the same year.
We’ve provided the granular evidence of purported wrongdoing. But we are also supporting those in the industry who are showing how that alleged wrongdoing can successfully be challenged legally and in the marketplace. ICYMI, see the Masthead for the single hottest read in all of manufactured housing professional media today.
As a teaser, we’ll have a major interview that will hit early this week. Don’t miss it.
With no further adieu, let’s see that all so much more in the latest in headline reports from 1.5.2020 to 1.12.2020.
What’s New on MHLivingNews
What’s New on the Masthead
What’s New from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
Last Sunday in the final article linked above we said that there are epiphany or ‘aha!’ moments occurring inside and outside of our industry. It’s true.
But there are also numerous opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade by intelligently using jujitsu. By white hats making a bright line distinction between themselves and black hats.
There is always more to come, but that’s it for now on this Sunday installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, week in review, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.