It is easy for some to get the mistaken impression that MHProNews has become obsessed with spotlighting only bad stuff occurring in and too the manufactured housing industry. Acknowledging that such a misread is possible, let’s dispel notion simply by saying that we have never for a moment doubted nor failed to express that there are white hat firms and professionals, black hat firms, and what one insightful reader called ‘the gray hats.’ Every organization of whatever size is likely to have good people in it, while some might be less morally minded. Thus the principle of wheat and chaff is useful.
For the bottom line focused, there is a case to be made that ethical and legal business practices have greater potential than their opposite. We’ll lay that foundation in what follows.
In order to counter the black hats and their pernicious behavior or efforts, white hats and gray hats that aspire to improve their performance must grasp and expose the problematic. Few industries have as radio-active a public perception as manufactured housing does. Don’t take my word for it, see what Zillow’s research de facto revealed. Given the kind of videos like John Oliver’s about our industry, there is a clear need to distance a white hat firm from such black hat behavior.
That should be done in a way that also spotlights positive alternatives – meaning, that which is good, true, inspiring, and beautiful.
Those fascinating folks who headquarter in Arlington, VA – Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and their arguably black hat masters – seemingly picked a fight with the wrong guy when they picked one with me, because they forced me to put my historians hat and journalistic lens into sharper focus. Through the lens of history, research, and experience, much that was murky about why our industry was struggling became clear again. But this isn’t about this writer, it is about the headline phrase. How can one determine where the truth lies? How can someone discern competing claims? Let’s stress that someone may be ‘following orders’ and may not have a clue that the orders they are following are problematic.
In God alone we can trust, all others better bring evidence of their claims.
Marty Lavin and I agree on many things, but we are no different than any other two people you might pick at random in this narrow respect. No two souls are going to see the same things exactly the same way. Each of our experiences and education are different.
When pondered carefully, it would be odd if any two people did see the same thing exactly the same way. But that isn’t to deny the existence of objective reality. Take 100 people and if they all step off a tall enough cliff or skyscraper without safety gear, all 100 will come to the same bloody end.
Reality is what is, not what we wish or want it to be. Positive thinking has its place, but also its limits.
Pragmatism matters. We’ve had to sharpen the pragmatic lens in order to get to the root issues that keep manufactured housing from performing up to its potential. Honest best practices that can fuel sustainable growth to help manufactured housing achieve its true potential have always been near the heart of all that we had in mind in launching this industry leading trade media.
When manufactured housing underperformance is a reality, the prudent, evidence, and historically-minded must ask, ‘why is this so?’
To come to clarity of thought in an era when competing narrative versions of reality are argued, the search for objectivity should become paramount. Thus the importance of the ultimate reality of God, the Creator of all things.
God demonstrably created a moral universe. Meaning, people have free will and can chose right from wrong. What is true and what is false is not determined by popularity or polling. It is determined by the Lawgiver who made all things out a simple act of the Divine Will. While the Creator gives us the chance to thumb or nose at the First Cause of all that is, at some point in each life, reality will hit.
By the way, while over 80 percent believe in God in some form or fashion, an obviously smaller group doubt or claim to be ‘agnostic,’ and smaller yet are those who claim to be atheists. It is easier to believe in God the Creator than it is to believe that all matter simply sprang into being from nothing. It is easier to prove God exists than that the universe sprang into being from nothing.
Ancient Greek and other philosophers – thinkers that were neither Jewish nor Christian – knew that from nothing, nothing comes. You don’t ask for a toaster to give you toasted bread before first placing bread in that toaster, do you? Have you ever asked a fireplace to give heat or light until it has been given wood, kindling and some spark to bring the fire into being?
From nothing, nothing comes.
Saying such things doesn’t make this writer correct about the actions or impact of the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis. Evidence does.
Following the money trail is useful. So too is asking those investigative questions – like ‘who benefits?’ – from certain action or inaction. Invoking God’s name doesn’t make the speaker or writer – myself or any other – true or correct. But by understanding some key eternal precepts, the ability to discern what is right from what is wrong or problematic.
Evidence and reason are what accomplishes that goal of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In God we trust. All others must bring evidence.
What is Needed for Manufactured Housing to Achieve Its Potential?
For manufactured housing to accomplish its potential, several things must occur.
Among them, white hats and aspirational gray hats must be willing to identify black hat behavior and call it out for what it is. In some ways, that is already occurring in select operations.
The public, notably millions in the younger generations, are turned off by ‘trailers’ and ‘mobile homes.’ We know from first-hand experience that any age adult of sound mind can be ‘brought around’ to a proper and accurate understanding of manufactured homes. That is often an infotainment or educational process. It demands a level of patience and persistence. For some prospects, it can be rapid, for others, it takes time.
Either shorter or longer term, that educational process is profitable.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Because the opposition – those black hats whose behavior sparks or fuels so many negative headlines in local, regional, or national media – have offered up the evidence themselves.
Just as interest in manufactured housing has been driven down in just a two year period, per research by Zillow, that means that the opposite is also possible. Someone can be educated into ignorance or they can be educated into understanding. Interest in manufactured homes can be driven up, by reversing the process that caused it to go down in the first place. That’s common sense.
That can be done at the local market level. On the consulting and business development side of our operation, we’ve demonstrated that in a number of cases from states from border to border.
The best evidence that those in the know in the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis fear what we publish is their own behavior towards MHProNews and MHLivingNews. Their purported whispers, cajoling, de facto threats and the like are a backhanded compliment to what they know first-hand we’ve accomplished in conjunction with willing operations. But that segue is used to demonstrate the point of the headline theme.
Evidence is what is needed, because in God alone can we trust. We don’t exempt ourselves from the need for evidence. What we do is challenge others who have an alternative narrative to put up their evidence.
Anyone with pockets deep enough can create an echo chamber. They can strive to create a white hat aura around black hat behavior.
That’s why savvy professionals must be willing to discern what is real from what is merely self-serving rhetoric served up to advance the agenda of ‘special interest.’ Thus some of the keen points Lavin has made can be useful.
Manufactured housing professionals debatably engaged in their black hat campaign have taken a long-term strategy. Ponder Buffett’s statement below, which is accurate.
Carefully ponder anew what Kevin Clayton said in the video near the end of the report linked here. If you’ve read and seen that only once or twice, you’ve not done so enough. Every time I look, I discover something new that relates to what is occurring right now in MHVille.
But back to the headline.
The whitest white hat among us still has some weaknesses, some flaws, and mistakes. In the purely dollars and sense (okay, cents) view of billionaire Sam Zell, he has said that he’s happy to be right 60 percent of the time. If we expect perfection from someone one walking among us, we are going to be disappointed. Thus, the wisdom – not mine, God’s – of the ancient principle of separating the wheat from the chaff.
This is a moral universe. People are free to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. It is arguably tempting to use the moat building strategies of the Warren Buffett types, because one can see others learning and following elements of that pattern.
It is naïve to think that the good guys always win in a temporal sense. Most mature professionals have known good people who lost much or all. But that too is often a case of black hats being allowed to get away with black hat behavior.
For a decade, we’ve demonstrably been profitable, and continue to be so – even though we have done and said things that are contrary to what the norm would cause an observer to expect. It is 100 percent clear to me that doing the same thing will yield roughly the same result. The more scientifically precise that repetition is, the more that principle is proven.
What works is accurate, correct information that is shared in a compelling manner.
At some point, MHProNews’ management can take the Case Against Clayton Homes – and any of their allies – and put it on MHLivingNews. It would be done in a fair and balanced manner, of course.
The all caps that follow are from the original quoted source. As a notice for new MHProNews readers, we often turn quotes bold and brown to make it ‘pop,’ but otherwise the quote is as in the original. “PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW WE CAN FILE A CLASS ACTION …
That isn’t to say or imply that Clayton makes bad product or is a bunch of all bad guys. Rather, it is to examine their business practices and then let consumers decide if that is the kind of operation that they want to do business with, right?
Put an alternative scenario up, provide evidence, and from first-hand experience, let me tell you, more than enough consumers will gravitate to the white hat or gray hat brand than to the black hat one. There can be and are local white hats, and local black hats. Some of those white hats sell Clayton product.
Grocery shelves are packed because there are choices between competing brands. My Pillow isn’t the lowest cost pillow on the market; their claim to fame – among other things – is that they are the ‘best’ pillow. My Pillow advertises on a network that happens to be more open to the 45th president, for example. Is it a surprise that their founder, Mike Lindell, is a fan of President Trump? That factoid will cause some to consider a My Pillow over a cheaper one, while it might cause some to not consider them at all. But with a savvy effort, Mike can win over those who don’t believe – for whatever reason – to believe, based upon evidence.
But the fact that one can do honest business and succeed, given the proper approaches isn’t the point either. If I died today, several in that MHVille black hat world would celebrate, but what we have been doing in recent years would still have been worth it. Thousands see their industry differently than they did 3 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t want the grief. There has been a cost. But we have still profited, and believe that doing business the right way can be wildly profitable in a system that isn’t being artificially manipulated. It takes patience and perseverance to slog through what we already have, and some of the other top people in our industry know have endured their version of such struggles, isn’t that right?
Our commitment is multiple layered, and based in part in our firm belief that manufactured homes done ethically and intelligently can be profitable based even upon existing conditions. Based upon a persistent, local market campaign, manufactured homes done right can be wildly profitable. So frankly, there is a pragmatic aspect to what we have been doing and still do, not merely an altruistic one.
Not to sound morbid, but to make the point raised above. If I was about to die, I could look my son in the eyes and say, this is how you too can succeed. Because there are broadly speaking, two kinds of success. There is the success that is eternal and there is temporary or transitory success.
We can each strive for – and should – that temporal success. We should each strive to live up to our God given potential. But we arguably should do so with the eternal success in mind. A few lines from a song will help explain.
Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
For everything passes
But God will never change
Will obtain everything
Whoever has God
Wants for nothing at all
God alone is enough
God alone is enough
Whoever has God
Wants for nothing at all
So let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
But God will never change
Will obtain everything
Whoever has God
Wants for nothing at all
Lyrics from John Michael Talbot’s “God Alone is Enough,” Simple Heart Album, per Lyrics Fandom.
Looking Around the World
To those who misunderstand our nation’s history and accomplishments – knowing that there are plenty of warts – one need look no further than Cuba or Venezuela to see how blessed we are to be in the USA.
Yes, as Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald J. Trump have both said, “the system is rigged.”
But the way to beat a rigged system is first to understand it, then to expose it, because sunlight is the best disinfectant. But after those steps, think and plan long term. On that – using the principle of the wheat and chaff – we agree with Warren Buffett, that one must think long term, because otherwise the long-term black hat thinkers will beat you.
There are rising stars in our industry today who are rising despite an arguably rigged system. Some we have worked with on some levels, others not. That later isn’t the point. What they have in common is that they think long term. Several are trying to do business the right way.
- Take long term thinking,
- Combine it with an ethical, educational methodology,
- Don’t be afraid to point out black hat behavior,
- Don’t be afraid to admit your own mistakes (there have been several examples published in MHProNews of our falling for the Rope-A-Dope, and more).
- Warren Buffett and Sam Zell admit that they’ve made mistakes, but they want to hit over .500 or .600, using baseball terms. But unlike baseball, in business, Buffett is correct. You don’t have to take a swing at every pitch.
- There are scores of fine videos and fine websites in manufactured housing. If that was the solution, the industry would be selling over 1 million new HUD Code homes a year. Don’t get me wrong, it is useful, but eye candy and sweet-sounding words aren’t enough.
- Try to take the Godly view. Add to that long-term principled thinking. That alone will prove ultimately successful.
Most of us who have risen to a certain level have an ego. It is sometimes not easy to keep that ego in check, right? But when one admits to a higher power, the principles of truth and justice, and is willing to work toward those principles, then the ego is more in check. Then – with an ego in check – something amazing happens.
By more humbly pondering other possibilities, instead of thinking that you or I alone have all the answers, something nearly miraculous occurs. Take good times more good (Good x Good) and you get a multiplier effect.
Who says? God does. Planting the right seeds yields the right harvest. Plant weeds, and you get a plant that chokes out other plants.
That choking effect of the weeds, doesn’t that sound pernicious? Who does that remind you of? And did you know that he’s a self-professed atheist? If you obtained the whole world, but died without repentance, would eternity in hell be worth it?
For me and mine, we say, ‘no thanks.’
We’d rather put the good to work, even if it demands patient endurance to get it. Every farmer knows you must be patient. We better learn how to be a little more like those farmers who are among the customers of scores of manufactured home retailers.
We believe in free enterprise, but not in manipulated crony or vulture capitalism. We believe that someone can earn an honest living, even become fabulously wealthy, without the use of unethical or possibly illegally activities connected to so-called ‘moats.’
I wish no ill on anyone or firm in our industry, not even the moat-builders. God will sort that all out. But I do hope that those who deploy unethical or illegal behavior have an epiphany and realize that they must change while they can.
In God we trust. All others need to supply evidence.
“We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, fact-checks, and commentary. See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned the Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma. He has earned multiple awards in manufactured housing and in history. He’s a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
Office 863-213-4090 |Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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