Clayton Homes and 21st Mortgage’s Manufactured Housing “Spies”


It’s [a] standard operating procedure...”
–        Clayton representative, to the Daily Business News on MHProNews.


Tim Williams, photo credit,

At 21st Mortgage, we have access to a wide variety of resources that the independent business or professional in MH may lack.”
Tim Williams,
President and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway owned
21st Mortgage Corp., to MHProNews


It’s another example of the truth that is often hiding in plain sight.

Clayton Homes and 21st Mortgage Corp each have numerous field and other representatives. These men and women often see and hear things that are useful to Clayton, 21st, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF), or other parts of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. They don’t carry the title of ‘spy.’

But the word “spying” is what an insider used to described part of their duties.  Another said, they wouldn’t be comfortable with the terms “spy” or spying,” but admitted that “reps” are in fact gathering information that’s reported and collected by management. As one Clayton rep put it, “It’s [a] standard operating procedure…”

A look at a dictionary definition of spy is revealing. The underscoring is added, but here is what the Oxford Dictionary says: “spy – a person employed by a government or other organization to secretly obtain information on an enemy or competitor.”


This reporting work isn’t necessarily ‘top secret,’ as these representatives from 21st and Clayton periodically walk into sales centers or community offices as who they are.  That happens at locations across the country.

But there are also cases, per sources, where individuals are “rewarded” by the Berkshire manufactured housing brands to go and visit competitors under cover, pretending to be someone that they are not.

All of it has a similar goal. It’s to gain information on competitors, which Clayton, 21st and others they work with then use for their own corporate benefit.  That begs questions like these:

  • Do those who allow CMH or 21st reps onto their sales lots or into their offices realize that information they collect is allegedly being collected and reported up the chain of command, in ways that may be used against an independent’s business interests?
  • Do communities and retailers realize that files are reportedly being created, updated, and maintained, per sources within those Berkshire organizations?

Those are the case, per insider and informed sources to MHProNews.


The Motivation? “Competitive Advantages”

Corporate espionage is probably not what you think of when you hear the word spy. It’s not Sean Connery with his debonair manner, nor is it Tom Cruise hanging from suspension cable;” said Investopedia. Rather, its information being gathered – including online, though freedom of information requests, through reps and/or by other means – all of which can be legal.

Knowing a competitors next product line, bid price or any other sensitive data can give a rival company a competitive advantage,” said Investopedia.


MH Associations, CMH and 21st

Sources also tell MHProNews that associations are also “fertile ground” for collecting information on people, and businesses for Berkshire Hathaway brands in manufactured housing.

Here’s an example that was used, as to how innocently it can happen.  “What do you know about…” a certain person or business, comes an innocuous sounding question at a meeting or by phone.

Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) or state association executives and/or staff will routinely answer questions by the ‘big boys,’ say sources familiar with the practice.  They don’t think of themselves as “spies” for Clayton or 21st, but they will do and say things because of the how ‘gold rules.’

GoldRulesTimWilliams21stMortgageCorpDailyB usinessNewsMHProNews

All of it is gathered and distilled into reports used for competitive insights, and thus advantages in the marketplace.  Some information is purchased from third parties, which can all be done legally.

It’s [a] standard operating procedure,” per a Clayton source, “and it’s been done for years.”



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Files on competitors are maintained.  It can be accessed by management as they wish. The people involved may never think of themselves as spying, or as a spy.  But they report their findings to superiors just the same.

Information is power, just as capital or financing are power in business too.

Until positive changes are made by the powers that be, these sorts of issues, plus those in related reports (found further before), are all worth pondering before:

–        More business is placed by independents with a corporate giant,

–        before an association renewal check is sent,

–        or relaxed answers are made to reps, or at a meeting to a smiling face that reports what you said to others.

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