We all grieve and come to grips with death differently. We all have unfinished business in life too. This will address examples of both relevant to developments in our industry.
Over the years, we’ve worked with several video and web-tech personalities. As in any profession, some were obviously better than others. That noted, each person we’ve worked with in any capacity was a lesson in life and professionally. There were ideas exchanged, and lessons mutually learned. In several ways, we believe each can emerge richer upstairs, emotionally and/or financially due to several of those experiences.
In business, among the topics that we talk about is scalability. How does one grow or scale their firm? What should be explored by anyone seeking growth are the opportunities, obstacles, needs, talent, treasure, time and people required to make something good a reality.
Scalability can often be achieved by dealing for whatever time-frame is needed with independent contractors. That said, as in all things, there are tradeoffs between a contractor and an employee.
There are occasions that you don’t know what you are getting with a contractor until you are well into a project. Personalities and workstyles are among the factors that can be difficult to anticipate. Because we pay bills by doing lauded contract services for others in MHVille too, we know both sides of the contracted-work equation from experience. On either side of that fence, those who hire the help – or those who get contracted – depending on circumstances, nuances can limit or accelerate what one is – or is not – able to achieve. Working through the issues that always arise is what sets some apart from others.
Possible pitfalls noted, using an independent allows for scalability on a fairly rapid basis. Using the correct independent can be wonderful. But none of those titbits are the point of this column. Rather, those are merely a way of introducing a piece of painfully unfinished business of my own. That would be my failure, until now, to acknowledge a life that passed that was special, and ended almost two years ago without warning.
Let me explain, while sharing the story of a celebrated life.
We do ‘passages’ stories – obituaries – several times a year. But some things, right or wrong, weak or strong, just take time to acknowledge when they hit closer to home. My sincere apologies for that personal weakness. How and when to express whatever is said is an issue most adults have faced.
Robert T. ‘Bob’ Stovall was born on May 6, 1950. He died on July 21, 2017. When WL Pruitt stated that “Bob Stovall, 67 of Danville KY passed away unexpectedly Friday July 21. He was born April 6, 1950 in Jersey City, New Jersey to the late Rufus Reaves Stovall and Mary Ellen Stovall,” it was quite surprising for many, including us. It is with regret that his life and contributions here have not heretofore been properly acknowledged following his passage. The only way to make up for that is to do so belatedly.
What Pruitt’s obituary didn’t mention was Bob’s involvement in manufactured housing, SECO, or even conventional real estate. We’ll touch on that shortly. But what Pruitt did state was quite apropos. He mentioned Bob’s charming wife Maureen Loar, and other family members, at the link here.
“Bob founded Orange Cat Productions a website design and marketing development company that just celebrated 21 years in business. Bob enjoyed explaining the origin of naming the company after their beloved orange tabby cat. Bob loved the Danville community and diligently served as an Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce where he was awarded the Ambassador of the Year award in 2014,” said Pruitt, who added, “He was also passionate about BBQ and was one of the founders of the Kentucky State BBQ Festival, a non-profit charitable organization, where he served as a volunteer and on the board of directors. He was quoted often saying “I never met a rib I didn’t like!”” On a trip to Memphis during a Tunica Show some years back, Bob and we went to hunt down a place that he described as a ‘famous’ ribs joint. So that phrase resonated on our end.
But Bob had a love for a wide variety of foods. My sense of the gent was that he enjoyed a range of cuisine, travel, and much more about living. We had several experiences that made those come alive.
In the passages guest book on Pruitt’s there are this morning three entries. One was posted by Paula Lanham of Danville said: “Maureen, I was so sorry to here of Bob’s sudden passing. I found out While on vacation on Hilton head island and just returned. I would call but don’t have contact number for you. I will miss him being an ambassador…..always looked forward to his smile. I will be keeping you both in my prayers.” Amen to all of that.
Years before we launched MH Marketing Sales Management, what later evolved into and was co-branded as MHProNews, Bob and I met via mutual manufactured home industry contacts in Wisconsin, where my better half and myself did several projects for community operators involving retail, finance, producers and other industry firms.
During that time, Bob and I did several web-tech marketing items, some of which he kindly mentioned me on in LinkedIn. I likewise acknowledged Bob there, something that I don’t often do for others for various reasons. Bob earned it.
Bob had talent, creativity, wit, and much more. We each had a good decade of our own unique internet marketing and development experiences prior to doing joint web-tech projects. That was all prior to launching this website in October 2009. Some websites we’ve done since were solo, some we used Bob or another on, depending on time demands, other commitments, deadlines, and so on.
Bob wasn’t strictly speaking a manufactured housing guy but was involved in our industry and conventional real estate for many years, in good measure because of his online marketing connections. So he was far more familiar with our industry than the typical website builder. That matters.
Bob and I were quite different on a range of political and social issues, which did not keep us from working effectively with each other. He likely didn’t know it, but Bob helped me to better understanding the meaning of one of the gems from Steven Covey’s acclaimed book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People – “Good! You see it differently!” There were things Bob and we saw differently, some of which were quite helpful. God bless him, as he did us.
It wasn’t part of our initial arrangement for specific web-work, but at times we paid Bob to travel and meet us at various venues over the years. We did not often do that for contractors, but I respected Bob that much.
A good example of that was our mutual presence in the “Engaging the Media” series of talks that we gave for the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and also for other state-association connected trade events. Bob did a fine job of presenting.
Bob did a periodic column on marketing and web-tech items for us on this website, while we worked together. He was a good man. Like ourselves, he believed in the power of local
marketing. We also believe in the power of local marketing with national implications and connections, but that is another topic for another time. The photo at the right is one that Bob used for himself in articles published during his time with MHProNews.
Finicky Manufactured Housing
Apart from all of the drama, manufactured housing can fairly be described as a finicky business. People do, or don’t do, things for a range of reasons. Apart from this industry, having worked in RV projects for some 3 years, plus some financial services, trade show marketing, with academics, public officials, or others beyond and apart from manufactured housing work – I think it safe to say that our industry is unusual in several respects.
While we often spotlight the impact of market manipulations on our industry, we know from our years of professional service done for other operations that there are other factors that impact a specific organization, or a given location. For example, we’ve seen successful companies that weren’t successful at a particular location, for a range of reasons.
Ego, fear, ‘what would others think,’ hidden corruption, the desire for more coupled with an unwillingness to change are just some of the factors that may cause some organizational leader to hesitate from turning the page. The later point is obviously contradictory – but go figure. By definition growth requires changes. But people are complicated, this writer can be too, and manufactured housing is as complex as it is simple. All of that is said as part of my delayed respects hereby being paid to Bob.
It is precisely the willingness to open up to something or someone new that can make work more exciting, as well as more rewarding. Bob and I would discuss the industry’s complexities. We’d brainstorm about this or that client, among other topics and work. Again, that is said to acknowledge my respect for him.
The above also tees up the example that follows. An occasion comes to mind when Bob and I discussed a plan that envisaged a potentially revolutionary positive change for the industry. We had several such discussions, awaiting the right time and participants. I will only give one example that involved Bob that industry ‘leaders’ torpedoed.
Without going into details that might be dealt with later, it was about 9 years ago that the Louisville Show’s management announced that the decades-long running event was going to be being cancelled. Sad. But my professional view has long been that problems can often be seen as opportunities in disguise. I had a possible solution to their problem in mind.
I suggested to Bob the notion of doing a ‘virtual Louisville Show.’ He liked the idea. We discussed how it could be done. That was years before 3D tours became common.
I approached the Midwest Manufactured Housing Federation (MMHF) leaders at that time – the ones who ‘own’ the Louisville Show – about doing a virtual Louisville show. For whatever political reasons, they were as a group apparently not so keen on it. But at least one of the MMHF leaders at the time seemed to value the plan, but other key members didn’t. That said, the next year, Dennis Hill called me when we the MMHF decided to try and revive Louisville one more time after years of decline and that one year of cancellation. The comment below from that a specific MMHF state executive was shared after we and others collaborated on restoring the ‘live’ Louisville Show back. But as you read it today, keep in mind that he was made aware of the ‘virtual’ Louisville concept. It adds to the richness of his comment, because that arguably tipped his hat to Bob – as a contract member of our team – not just Soheyla and myself.
That failure to seriously consider and do a virtual trade show was an example of finickiness and MHVille industry politics. It is also an example of how Bob could be approached with a concept, and we jointly fleshed it out. There are so many such things that could still be done, but industry politics – to be polite at this moment – have kept them from occurring.
Bob and Public Speaking
Bob and I both spoke during the educational event in Louisville that year. George F. Allen, thoughtfully and modestly said in introducing us to about 100 professionals, that Allen and a gent standing next to him were the ‘past and the present’ in manufactured housing, but that these guys – pointing to Bob, myself, and our team – ‘are the future of manufactured housing.’ Thanks again, George. It was not unlike Bob Thieman’s comment, posted above.
As time passed and Bob and we went different ways, when Allen and his buddies decided to do SECO, given the dynamics between Allen and myself, Allen and the SECO folks asked for Bob’s web-tech help. Bob gladly provided services, good for him. It was just one of several things Bob did in MHVille after we amicably parted ways.
Bob was human, so like myself or several billion others, he was imperfect. I’m not sure why it is politically incorrect to say that the dead were human and imperfect, as if it diminishes them or us somehow? Not so. That humanity – how one wrestles a weaknesses while striving to work on our strengths – those are precisely what makes each of us who we are. Those strengths and weaknesses are also why a healthy dose of understanding – including some compassion – are useful anytime we encounter another person.
Sometimes it is what some might describe as ‘the quirks’ of a person that makes them creative. Who besides Bob would have thought to make an Orange Cat’s paw part of his logo?
We enjoyed Bob’s company on numerous occasions and trust he felt as benefited by our professional relationship as we did. He served us and others in this industry, as noted. As his Orange Cat website reflects, he worked with others in businesses in professions with no ties at all to housing.
When Soheyla and I began the remake of our latest version of the original site Bob helped us launch in 2009 – which over the years evolved into MHProNews, we decided that after the work on our new version of the website was complete – which took about 1½ years given our other duties, time demands, and the sheer size of this site now – that we’d pay our respects to Bob shortly after the web-work was revealed. It took longer than we thought to finish this, given some 20,000 articles online now, plus all else that life requires daily. That’s one more way of explaining why this belated ‘passages’ is occurring now.
But by doing this remembrance of Bob as part of our Sunday morning weekly headline recap lead-in, this will maximize the number of other souls that will read this about a gent who made a difference. I hope it will help those who knew him to remember him better. It will also shed light on industry stories never told, that need to be grasped in order to understanding why this grand profession is underperforming. Yes, one can make the case for market manipulation, but yes, other aspect of humanity are also at work.
Bob is a reminder of many things. However much we or others plan in business or life, we do not know what to expect, or when. He died unexpectedly.
As my gifted younger brother – the one with the 156 IQ – sometimes says with a four-letter word, stuff happens. Once stuff hits, all one can do is grapple with it the best way that we know how.
However belated, however unconventionally, we at MHProNews publicly and prayerfully hereby say that Bob graced us and numerous others in MHVille. He was a good, gifted, witty and often insightful man. The headline says, unfinished business. This is still ‘unfinished business’ regarding reflections on Bob, but more will come as possible. Meanwhile this will start the process, while setting the stage for future topics that matter to MHVille, affordable housing advocates, and American progress.
Thank you, Bob Stovall, we celebrate your part in our lives. May you rest in peace.
With no further adieu, let’s turn to the headlines from the week that was from 7-7.2019 to 7.14.2019.
What’s New on MHLivingNews
What’s New in Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s New on MHProNews
One last thought about Bob Stovall for now. Three Words. New York Post.
Matthew Silver may recall Bob and the NY Post, Soheyla and I certainly do. We’ll strive to look at that and so much more in the days and years ahead for reasons that will become clear.
Starting anew tomorrow, there will be unique features found in MHVille only on MHProNews. Thanks for making and keeping us the industry’s runaway #1. We value serving you. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Industry news, commentary, fact-checks, and analysis.)
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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.
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