Exclusive Interview with Industry Guru, Eddie Hicks

www.MHMSM.com did an exclusive interview yesterday with Industry Guru, Eddie Hicks, noted consultant and multi-decade veteran of retailing, development, project financing, and more.

The discussion was far ranging, here are some of the highlights.

Q by Tony Kovach:
You came out recently with an article in The Journal that called for an Ad Hoc Committee to tackle the issue of image building for the industry
.

A by Eddie Hicks:

Our industry’s (public) image hasn’t kept up with substantial improvements in our products. This has impacted our industry’s efforts in Washington, with HUD and others to move regulatory issues ahead. For example, the implementation of Title I lending was passed in 2008 by Congress and signed into law by then President George Bush. For regulators, Title 1 implementation isn’t a priority. They don’t consider our industry’s influence that strong. They think spending the majority of their time on the more preferred FHA Title II financing programs for so called conventional housing is more important.

Now if we changed our image with the public, if we created a positive new public image similar to what the RV industry did with its “GO RVing” campaign, these sorts of delays wouldn’t be happening.

Q. So what do you see as a way of changing that image?

A. I think we should get to the source of the information which most people use which is TV. Let’s get creative. Let’s influence TV shows to project a good image of manufactured homes.

Q. How do you think that could be done cost effectively?

A. By using Product Placement and/or producing creative new shows which feature m/h in a positive light eg: a new sitcom, or a reality based series.

Q. You mean like planting the product into the story line, like having a Chevy in a movie?

A. Precisely. Make the product part of the background for the TV show. It could be a sit com or other show. Why not have the settings for a TV show as some clean, upscale manufactured home community? Why not have the characters living and loving their homes as part of the background to the story? This could be a way with minimum dollars to influence the public in a profound way.

Q. Interesting concept! I’ve watched this done with products before, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this done or proposed for manufactured housing. Great idea, Eddie. That said, how could we (as an industry) advance a product placement approach for use on TV?

A. I have connections with the entertainment industry. Some of them include a cousin who produced TV shows like Magnum PI, Battlestar Galactica and others. A nephew of mine produces 2 minutes to 30 minute spots for casinos. Potentially through connections like these or others we could advance a story line for a TV series that could use the product placement of clean, appealing upscale manufactured home living in a positive light.

I know others with TV production connections, clients or people I’ve met, like the producer of Cheaters. Do you know that show? We could get together with people like those who know how this is done and think it all out.

Q. Actually, Eddie, I don’t watch TV, I’ve heard of the show, but I have never seen it.

A. Wow, how do you get your information (he says with tongue in cheek)? (Eddie’s question; Tony’s answer:) I’m one of those guys who reads and likes to talk to people who know. Internet, magazines, books, etc. I’ll watch a DVD or video on line at times too.

Q. So in your view, Eddie, how would we move something like this forward?

A. Well, I don’t think we need to wait and get a group like MHI involved. In some ways, they’ve failed to move this sort of thinking ahead on the image building issue. I think we can hire a consultant for modest dollars, someone who knows the entertainment industry and how to get things like this product placement for image building done. I know a guy in Central Florida who had a nice boat. A film producer paid him handsomely to shoot scenes using that vessel in a boat yard. What we would want to do is shoot something like this in a clean, new manufactured home community, showing intelligent, active, people living normally.

You can tell your readers that if they are coming to Congress in Vegas, to contact me directly and get involved in this Ad Hoc Committee effort, we’ll have some interesting people for them to meet and get involved with. By the way, I don’t want to be in charge of an effort like this, I would like to help get this or other good ways to build image going. We have a lot of smart people out there who are involved in our industry, and I think we can “glean” some creative and resourceful ideas from them. Far be it for me to be the only one with ideas.

Q. It seems to me like some community owner or other owners would be willing to fund a concept like this.

A. Not necessarily so. Many of my clients are in the communities business. Most of the all age community owners are hurting. Many people in our industry today are just too focused on surviving instead of planning ahead. Back in the late 90s, or early 2000s, when people were still selling like crazy and making money compared to today, that is when we should have started something like this. But too many people were too busy thinking ‘today,’ instead of planning ahead. Look at where we are now!

I think we need to turn to manufacturers or maybe lenders to get something like this done. They have the incentive and the means. It would be nice to get someone like Warren Buffett and his organizations at Clayton, Vanderbilt, and 21st Mortgage behind it too.

It seems to me that too many people in our industry don’t realize the importance of getting financing going. That is the lifeblood of our industry. Implementing FHA Title I would be a big step ahead to getting lending going, and thus driving more retail sales again. I can’t understand why there isn’t a more forceful push to do that in Washington.

Q. That sounds like something like Danny Ghorbani at MHARR might say.

A. Danny Ghorbani is brilliant. Danny is a master of understanding the importance of financing to moving (MH) product. I’d say that maybe 1% of new homes sales today are cash sales, so the other 99% are financed. We as an industry need financing!

Ken Rishel is another one of those industry pros who are working hard on the captive finance side of this picture. Ken and Precision are doing good work too.

Nothing happens until a sale is made! Sales are made 99% of the time through financing. So why aren’t we as an industry spending more focus on getting financing going again? Without financing, without a sale, manufacturers don’t build, transporters don’t move homes, set up and installations crews don’t work, suppliers don’t sell parts, lenders don’t lend, insurance companies don’t insure and so on.

If we can fix financing and fix our image issue, if we can get good things like FHA Title I lending going again, we’ll see sales rise in our industry.

—————————– end of interview —————————–

You can contact Eddie Hicks at: www.mobilehomepark.com, 813-661-5901 or via email at easteddie@aol.com

www.MHMarketingSalesManagement.com plans to do more interviews with industry pros – such as Eddie Hicks and others – in the days ahead. You’ll see more feature articles from top names too. These are scheduled to star with the new March issue, that will go live circa the middle of the month.  Stay tuned!##

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