Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 292

Following The Studebaker Motto

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The Studebaker brothers built one of America’s largest and most successful carriage and automobile businesses using a simple motto: “always give more than you promise”. So how do we do that with mobile home parks? That’s the focus of this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast in which we try to unlock how to utilize this simple formula to deliver exceptional customer satisfaction.

Episode 292: Following The Studebaker Motto Transcript

In 1852, the five Studebaker brothers started their business. They started off as blacksmiths. They built wagons and buggies and carriages and harnesses. And then in 1902, they started building cars, and they were very successful at both. In fact, most US presidents used the Studebaker carriages in their presidential parades. And then later, their automobiles were very well-known to be very, very high quality, very long-lasting, a vast of very, very good product with lots of happy customers. And they built that business on one simple model from the very beginning, "always give more than you promise." In fact, that plaque hung in their original blacksmith shop. This is Frank Rolfe from Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're gonna talk about how you can use and adopt the Studebaker motto of "always give more than you promise" as a mobile home park owner. Now let's first ask the question, how can mobile home park owners give more than they promise to residents? Well, the first thing you have to know is that what do we promise? Let's start off with a benchmark. Well, we promise our resident basically a parking space, a piece of land that they can park their mobile home on and then access to utilities that are fully functioning, nice, solid roads, quality common areas and professional management. That is what we promise.

So to be like the Studebaker brothers, we have to exceed those five promises. And what you have to know is that to exceed those, in many cases, is very difficult because simply providing them is all you can do. So one big problem we have as mobile home park owners is perception, because the residents often do not appreciate what a great deal they are getting. So that's the first problem we have when we're trying to exceed their expectations, is often, we're already doing that and they simply don't understand what a great thing we do. How can you have them better understand what we do? Well, one thing is to give them, when you give them your rent notification, because we're always raising rents to meet market forces and to inject capital back into parks, let people know in comparison to the other housing options or single-family, two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom apartments where your rent stacks up. You'll be shocked how many residents who've lived in the park for many years or decades have completely lost track. They don't realize that apartments now rent for, in most markets, $1500 to $2000 a month. They don't realize that most single-family sales today average about $400,000. So let's remind them periodically of what a great deal they are getting and how we are exceeding their expectations.

And also, work on your social media reviews to reinforce what a great deal they're receiving. Reach out to residents you know are happy with the experience of living in your property and ask them to give you a review. You'll find with most mobile home parks the only reviews out there are typically very poor, one-star reviews from unhappy customers, maybe people you evicted for non-payment. But as park owners, we rarely take the time to seek out positive reviews from happy customers. If you do that, you can quickly change your social media reviews from probably one-star to maybe four stars. Also, try and help create community spirit. Community spirit is an amenity that they don't typically expect. Most people who live in mobile home park, they expect you to deliver their parking space, access to utilities, etcetera, but they don't really expect you to deliver something much more, the thing that Time Magazine raved about in their article a few years ago called, The Home of The Future, and that is the sense of community. How can you do that? Well, do things like a spring clean-up event, bring in a roll-off dumpster, elicit volunteers to help to make the property look the best it can possibly look, give them a free meal as part of the exercise and have the manager lead the way.

You can also have a Yard of the Month. We all love the Yard of the Month concept. It helps acknowledge those people who work extra hard to make their yard nicer than others, and just simple things like a bulletin board at the office that talks about what's going on in the community and special events that are coming up. And providing a monthly or quarterly newsletter, it's always a good idea, great ways to build community spirit. Also, do a helpline. Get a phone number and an email address where people can reach out if they're unhappy, so you can help make them happy. That's where the hallmark of a great business of over delivering for the customer by allowing them to reach out and give you their thoughts on their experience so you can try and make it better. And if you're gonna be bringing in homes to sell on your lots, try hard to provide really nice homes. Even an older home, a 1970s or 1980s home, with a little extra TLC, you can provide a very, very nice living environment. The bottom line to it all is you gotta deliver a better experience than what people think a mobile home park delivers. And of course, the bar is set very low for most customers, so it's really not that hard to exceed those low expectations. So maybe the key to being like Studebaker, which is an enviable goal, is to simply be constantly trying to do a better job as a park owner.

Now, that's gonna be found often in new buyers, people that go in and they inject new capital into aging parks to help bring them back to life, because that's how you're gonna over-deliver, is with that energy and that focus to do a better job. Now, Studebakers never built inexpensive carriages, and when they converted to cars in 1902, they had no desire to build cheap cars. They tried to build the best, they tried to exceed all consumer expectations. They were, in fact, the only coach builder that ever successfully transitioned into automobiles, and that's because they were completely focused not on sticking with the ways of the old, but the ways of the new. They were always trying to over-deliver on what they thought people wanted. So the bottom line is that the transition from old parks that are failing and failing to deliver what the customers want to new ones who strive to deliver a value that exceeds resident expectations. It's a positive. It's never a negative. The media and politicians should not fight or criticize this natural transference. It benefits everyone. Whenever you see an article or you hear of an old mobile home park that's being brought back to life by a new owner who's injecting in their capital and their attention to over-deliver on customer expectations, that should be applauded.

Remember that people want more. They want better living situations for themselves and for their families, and the future of the mobile home park industry and its success is in the same mission that the Studebaker brothers began in 1852, and that's giving more than we promise. If we all focus on the simple tenant, if we refuse to be annoyed or see as a roadblock the fact that frequently politicians and the media don't understand this concept, then we will continue to produce good businesses with good profits, situations in which customers are happy and feel that they are getting a good value for their dollar. This is Frank Rolfe from Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.