FOCUS Group, Blogging Lessons & More…

a FOCUS Group opportunity; BLOG Lessons Learned; &,

Two Timely, Pithy Postscripts

‘How the Best LLCommunity Owners/operators Learn Together’;

‘Beware fakers & spammers!’;

‘How to Get Your 21st annual ALLEN REPORT;
Recommend ‘How to Save Our Industry from Oblivion by Year 2020!’

FOCUS Group meeting planning typically begins with a telephone conversation or email message from a LLCommunity owner/operator who asks, “George, isn’t it about time we got together for another FOCUS Group meeting?” If there’s no date conflict with an MHI/NCC or ULI/MHCC Think Tank meeting, and the MHCongress/NCC Forum or an annual International Networking Roundtable, the answer is usually ‘Yes’.*1 And the process starts….

But first; what’s a FOCUS Group? It begins with one or more pools of approximately 20 veteran LLCommunity owners/operators, who’ve attended previous FOCUS Group meetings during the past two decades, and individuals who’ve expressed interest in attending their first get together. List of past participants reads like a ‘Who’s Who List of Most Successful Owners/operators in this asset class! A FOCUS Group convenes for 1 ½ days, with attendees spending an evening networking over dinner, the following day working through an agreed upon agenda of timely and compelling topics.

Once the decision to meet has been made, a letter is mailed to the 20 name pool of LLCommunity aficionados from which the request originated; sometimes to both pools. The letter announces preliminary plans for a FOCUS Group to convene. At least two sets of mid – week dates are given (never near the beginning of the month, when rent collection occurs), along with a city location – if a FOCUS Group member has previously offered an invitation to meet in the clubhouse at one of his or her properties. If that’s not the case, a request is made for volunteers to make such an offer. A key part of this letter requests soon input, naming three issues or concerns of import to the FOCUS Group member – along with a deadline for submission.

As date and topic responses are received, generally by email and FAX, an agenda takes shape; prioritized according to the number of similar responses and concerns. A local hotel is identified, and transportation planned from there to the FOCUS Group meeting site. This information is put into a second letter to the member pool or pools, citing a deadline for positive response. Sign – ups are accepted on a ‘first call, first reserved’ basis, until maximum of 12 – 15 commitments have been made. If there’s a particularly strong response to the invite, a second FOCUS Group session is scheduled.

FOCUS Group members fly or drive into the designated city location mid – afternoon the day before the formal meeting, check into host hotel, and gather in the lobby around 6PM to attend a no host networking dinner. Next morning, following breakfast at the hotel, attendees are car pooled or bussed to the host LLCommunity, arriving by 8:30AM to tour the property and be in their seats ‘ready to begin’ by 9AM. While five topics are usually selected for discussion at one of these meetings, e.g. 9 – 9:45, 10 – 10:45, 11 – 11:45, over the lunch hour on – site, and 1 – 1:45PM, it’s not unusual to adjust the schedule when a particular topic commands lively and prolonged attention. A goal is to complete four or five sessions by 2 and 3PM, so participants, who need to do so, can get to the airport to catch afternoon flights home. Many stay longer.

Participants are encouraged to bring 20 or so handouts (e.g. forms, policies, ads.) relating to topics on the agenda. This is LLCommunity cross – pollination at its’ best! And attendees informally agree to keep meeting proceedings confidential among themselves. After the meeting, a summary is prepared by the organizer, with copies sent to each participant, along with an invoice covering meeting and planner’s expenses.

If interested in adding your name to one of the 20 name FOCUS Group pools, contact the blogger via (317) 346-7156, reply directly by message to this Blog, or via the MHIndustry HOTLINE:(877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. FYI; FOCUS Group meeting(s) are now being considered for sometime in late February or early March 2010, likely in one or another Florida LLCommunity. Remember however, this special education and networking event is intended for LLCommunity owners/operators and senior corporate executives. An effort is made to not have competing portfolio ‘players’ in same group.


On another subject. Read or post blogs? Beware fakers and a unique breed of spammer! Those are two things I’ve learned blogging, first for the defunct Manufactured Home Merchandiser, now at the official MHIndustry/LLCommunity website:

Fakers? These are individuals who’d like you to believe they’re experts, in one specialty or another (We’ve all heard the bromide: ‘Fake it till you make it.’ description of some novices), relative to HUD Code manufactured housing or landlease community asset class. There’re several ways fakers hawk their presence online.

First, they come across as being highly successful in their stated or implied MH or LLCommunity – related specialty, whether home marketing and sales, home finance, property investment, property marketing, or property management. When one takes the time to investigate, some of these folk lack the credentials and successful experience they infer. After all, establishing an online presence is not difficult or expensive, just an easy way to garner quick attention, get (back) into business, or head off in an entirely different direction, in the hope no one looks too closely. One indicator is their misuse of standard MHIndustry terminology. Do they talk and write about ‘trailers’ instead of manufactured homes, ‘mobile home park’ vs. landlease community, tenants rather than residents, and more? By the way, this ploy has long been a problem with print trade publications where editors and publishers don’t vet manuscript content and those who pen them. So, just be careful what you read and believe online and off.

Second, beware products or services fakers offer. Begin by examining their website. When was last time it was updated? What national trade affiliations do they claim? Before you spend resources on some novel idea (e.g. leasing vs. selling your income – producing property), product (leak detectors), training (‘Get rich quick, buy a MHPark!’) or service (‘We can easily sell your property; no listing needed!’) , request specific referrals, complete with contact information, to previous customers you can contact in person – and contact those referrals!

Speaking of national trade affiliations; this is a timely and effective acid test. How? If the online vendor/blogger, or trade publication columnist or feature writer – for that matter, doesn’t list a paid, direct membership affiliation with the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), Urban Land Institute (‘ULI’), or Institute of Real Estate Management (‘IREM’) – where professional property management of LLCommunities is concerned, Beware. They either don’t know of these national trade advocacy, networking, and education bodies; can’t afford membership in same; or, simply, seek to avoid the public exposure they’d experience if a bona fide ‘player’ or expert in the MHIndustry and or LLCommunity asset class.*1

Spammers? If you email, you deal with these folk every day. Turns out they’re on the blogger circuit as well! How so? In my experience, fully a third of the direct responses to newly posted weekly Blogs, comes from spammers hoping blogger will approve their message (vs. delete), leaving it intact, so future blog readers will learn of their (pharmacy) product or (sex) service imbedded within their email address. Seriously. Happens all the time.

Postscript I.

IMPORTANT REMINDER. This week, 4 – 8 January, will see distribution of the new Allen Letter professional journal, commemorating 20 years in continual publication serving the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class! This issue contains the only official 21st edition of the ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’ Unlike years past, it’ll not be released anywhere else, so ensure you receive your copy, as a lagniappe (‘freebie’) with January’s Allen Letter ($134.95/annual subscription) or for $250.00 for the report alone! In either case, phone (317) 346-7156 to subscribe, and or buy the ALLEN REPORT, listing 125 of the 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators in the U.S. and Canada. Other special features this month? HOW TO articles by Don Westphal and Joanne Stevens, CCIM, as well as a very special presentation of ‘The Near Perfect Storm Manifesto!’ that has our entire industry and asset class addressing the timely Premise: ‘Imagine No More HUD Code Homes being Manufactured by Year 2010!’ For that matter, for the first time I can recall, MHI and MHARR address said Premise in side – by – side columns in this month’s Allen Letter. What they pen, is an enlightening education in itself! GFA

Postscript II.

Relative to the ‘timely Premise’ quoted at the end of the previous paragraph (Postscript I.); it’s not too late to provide your input to a small working group envisioning and crafting a new Business Model, designed to return HUD code new home shipments (a key part of said model suggests changing our industry’s perspective away from its’ ‘shipment’ mentality, to tracking new home ‘sales’! What do you think?) to the 200,000 per year level! How to input? FAX @ (317) 346-7158, respond directly to this Blog, or telephone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. If you’re asking yourself: ‘Why isn’t this new Business Model coming from MHARR, MHI or the ULI/MHCC Think Tank or – best of all – the three of them together? Well, ask them, and the sooner the better! MHI will host its’ Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., @ 1 & 2 February 2009. Bill Matchneer from HUD will be present to field questions. Wonder if this historic Premise is on MHI’s agenda for that meeting? Ask! Contact MHARR via (202) 783-4087 Danny Ghorbani; MHI via (703) 558-0678 Thayer Long, CAE., and ULI/MHCC via (248)645-1077. Go ahead, tell’em ‘George suggested we call you with this or other ideas to prevent realization of the Premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by Year 2020!’ and, ultimately, to help Save Our Industry!

End Note.

1. MHI/NCC = Manufactured Housing Institute/National Communities Council division; the landlease (nee manufactured home) community real estate asset class’ national advocacy body. (703) 558=-678. ULI/MHCC = Urban Land Institute’s Manufactured Housing Communities Council, LLCommunity property types’ de facto Think Tank. MHCongress = MHI’s annual Manufactured Housing Congress & NCC Forum for LLCommunity owners/operators (mid – April in Las Vegas, NV). International Networking Roundtable = the asset class sole, annual,
education, networking, and deal making event for LLCommunity owners/operators; though, of late, HUD Code home manufacturers have been attending to display and market their Community Series Homes via their Business Development Managers (‘BDM’) – for a list, call (317) 346-7156.


George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247

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