Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 49

The Top Five Tools of Mobile Home Park Owners

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You can’t really get the tough jobs done without the right tools. In this first part of a five-part series, we’re going to investigate what the top five tools of mobile home park owners are. What they do and where they get them. And we’re starting out the series with the GQ edition – all about what you wear, what you drive, your company name and website. In a nutshell, your image. We all form that important first impression everywhere we go, and smart park owners know exactly how they want to appear to the outside world; from park residents to bankers.

Episode 49: The Top Five Tools of Mobile Home Park Owners Transcript

What do you keep in your toolbox at home for when you need to do those handyman emergencies? Screwdriver, pliers, duct tape? In this first of a five part series on the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series, we're going to go over the top five tools of mobile home park owners, and we're going to be going all about appearance in this first segment. All the basic gear that park odors and parked buyers utilize to get what they want to set the right first impression. Let's start off with the clothes you wear. Now what do you wear when you go to meet with a existing mom and pop park owner? Or it could be beyond the mom and pop, it could even be a bank with an REO property or maybe a regular business person who is a good manager, but just wants to sell. Everyone will adopt their own uniform over time based on what's worked for them. What's always worked for me is to look kind of like a Sunday school teacher. So my basic uniform that I'm the most comfortable in is the following. Dark suit pants, black wingtips and a white brooks brothers button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

For some reason. I've been using that same look now through my entire business career. So for almost 35 years I've been donning that same outfit every time I go to meet with a property owner and first in the billboard industry and then later in mobile home parks and it's always worked for me. For some reason that image works well for me. Now, is that the only one you can wear? No. There may be something else that works for you, but for me that's the image I want to have. The reason I like wearing that is it's really hard to get a negative first impression of me while I wear that. I might be confused for a rumpled Sunday school teacher, maybe a city employee, maybe just some corporate guy who's looking to expand his financial future and buying a park. Whatever the case may be, that is my basic uniform, my basic gear when I go to meet with the park owner.

Now what do I wear to meet with the park manager? An entirely different outfit. I'm most comfortable when meeting with park managers wearing khaki pants and again, a brooks brothers buttoned down shirt, either wider blue with the sleeves rolled up. Once again, the shirt never changes, but the pants do. I find that the suit pants are a little too off putting when meeting with the manager, the Khakis appear to be more appropriate. What about when I'm walking a park? Maybe in due diligence or maybe I just go out there and my car to check on the park and I want to walk around, see what's going on in the areas you can't typically see from the street, walking around the backs of the homes. What do I wear then? Well typically the same outfit, the khaki pants, the button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, but I'm sure I'm not going to make that walk in my regular shoes.

So I've got two different shoes I wear for that. I either have what looked like L.L. Bean duck boots, which is a rubberized sole boot, which is water resistant, or I'll also throw a pair of old cowboy boots. You want to have something to separate the bottom of your pant leg from that grass because there's all kinds of insects and things that can climb up your pants, so you always want to have some kind of boot on. You can just keep those in the back of your car. It's no big deal.

What about when you're going to meet with the city? What's the right outfit then? Well, now I'm back to the original one. I'm now ... I'm back to my suit pants, typically gray or blue, black wingtip shoes, my button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. But if it's a really more important meeting, I may even don my suit coat and a tie. For some reason, city people like people in ties because often they have to wear ties and they really, really hate it. And if you don't wear a tie, they have a grudge against you because it doesn't seem fair to them that some people out there don't have to wear a tie. So I will often keep a tie around to wear in that situation. And keep that tie handy also, when you go to meet with the bank. Once again, I found that bankers really are more receptive to you if you wear the same outfit that they're required to wear, which is typically the suit and the shirt and the tie.

Now, are those the only things to wear? No, those are what works for me. You've got to feel comfortable. When you go to meet people, it's absolutely essential that you feel good about yourself. This isn't just true in business. I'm sure it's true also in, any kind of social gathering, you've got to feel comfortable in what you wear. I like to wear clothes that basically send the vibe that I'm a business person that I'm no nonsense. I'm not really into my image that much, I'm not that image conscious. So those are basically what I wear.

One other tip, if you want to wear an outfit like that, be very careful on the watch that you wear. You may own a nice watch. You may own a Rolex. Don't wear it, not ever. Wear a very basic watch. A Timex watch would be good, some brand that you can buy at any department store for under $100.00, that's what you should be worried because a lot of people will look at your watch to get again ... get a good first impression of what you're all about. And if you were at a fancy watch, you're going to make a lot of people not like you on the front end. So definitely don't go for the class you watch. If you want to wear that is if you drive off and go to the country club and you want to put your Rolex on, fine, but don't wear that when ... in encountering with really anybody. That doesn't really work for you as a choice.

Now let's move onto a car. What do I like to use for a car when driving a park? Well, really any car will do. If you already have a car and you don't own any parks and you're looking at buy in a park, you certainly would not want to necessarily go buy a car just for mobile home parks. But if you've got a fancy car and a not fancy car, definitely don't take the fancy car. Many of your mom and pops are very, very frugal people and they're not receptive at all to people who drive fancy cars. So if you've got a basic kind of car, that you mainly use as a daily driver and then you've got a fancier car that you use maybe on those date weekends. Well, stick with the car that is not quite so flashy because in no instance whether it's your property owner, your manager, or city official, none of them will take well to you having a fancy automobile. They'll be jealous and you'll also send a bad first impression. With the manager you'll send the message, "Hey, spend money on anything you want. What do I care? I've got a fancy car." So it's just really not a good idea.

Now for myself, I've got a lot of parks to go drive all the time, so I picked my car based on comfort and again, based on the image that I sent out. So I drive a Dodge Challenger. That is the most comfortable car that I've ever driven. It's ... The seats fit my back so perfectly that I can get in that car and drive 12 hours straight without stopping and I will have no fatigue at all. So if you're looking at buying a car for driving around mobile home parks, pick something that's very, very comfortable 'cause you do a lot of driving, but also pick something that while luxurious, maybe with leather interior and good sound system and car play and nice air conditioning, isn't showy, but is often reflective of what your residents drive. When I drive into most mobile home parks driving that Challenger, I typically see five or six residents pulling out also driving a Challenger. All it tells me is some of our residents have good taste in cars, at least for driving cars that work well when you're buying mobile home parks.

Let's move on down to your company name. That's also a very important tool in your initial gear tool kit. When you pick your company name, typically you want to pick something that's very positive, something that sounds maybe bigger than it really is, particularly if you're just starting out. You never want to set yourself up just under your name. If your name is John Smith, you wouldn't want to be John Smith LLC or John Smith LP. You'd want to be something completely different. Don't put your name in the name of your mobile home park buying entity. Go with something different. When I first started out buying my very first park, my entity was The Charles Todaro Company. Why? Charles Todaro was a long deceased grandfather of my wife who was an old coal miner in southern Illinois, but I liked the ring of it. I just liked the way that it sounded.

So think outside the box. Pick a name that sounds a little bigger, a little classier. Don't put your name in it, and on that note also be very careful what you use for your address and your phone number. You probably will want to get a cell number specifically for mobile home parks and fully separate from your personal cell number. Because over time what may happen is your residents may find your number or you may have a rogue manager that gives out your number and all it would take is one resident, perhaps someone you evicted for nonpayment, someone you evicted for rules violation. That one person with that number can drive you insane. They can call you at two or three o'clock in the middle of the night, totally drunk. It's just not a good idea. So you don't want to mix those numbers. Your personal life and your park life need to be completely separate. Same with the address. You would never put your home address anything, on any stationery or your a business card or your website. Again, you must have separation of church and state here. You want to have an address, typically a P.O box, but never, ever use your home address on anything like that. It's just not a good idea.

Finally, let's move to your website. What do you do for a website? How do you get a good website? Well, most of your park website importance is going to stem with people that you encounter in the buy side, the people who own the parks you're meeting with perhaps the bank, maybe the city government. They all like to look at people online these days just to feel comfortable that you are who you say you are and that you're the kind of person that they would like to work with. So what does that mean? It means you need to have a nice website, nothing too over the top. But if you're just starting to buy parks, obviously you can't fill that website with all the parks that you've owned. You can't really fill the website with lots of testimonials from residents. So what do you do instead? Typically, you want to focus on three things, mission, vision, and values. These are things that even large corporations incorporate in their websites, and it's really a feel good moment for the viewer. Now they're going to get a glimpse into your personal life as far as your personal opinions, your goals, your morality. So focus on that. Focus on giving that. Make it the straight truth, what you're all about.

So your mission may be to provide clean, safe, affordable housing to Americans who need affordable housing. Nothing wrong with that. And your vision may say what you're seeking to do, which is buy mobile home parks and reposition them and make them into nicer places to live. And then talk about your values. What are your values? Well, you may have great morals and want to do things and in a way which all residents are treated fairly. Focus on those items and don't forget to put in some great photos on top of that.

Now, where can you get great photos? Well you're not warrantying in your website that these photos are of parks you own. So go out to other mobile home parks that looked nice and just take some photos of those parks. Don't put anything in your website saying who's parked this is and don't ever claim that it's your park if it's not. Don't lie to anyone, but it doesn't hurt to show people again, what matches your mission, vision, values. Show people photographically what you think a good mobile home park would look like. Also, on the topic of mobile home park, don't put that anywhere in your website. You know I've always been condemned for my use of the words mobile home park and trailer park. I feel like I have to say them because number one, it's a whole lot fewer syllables than the alternative it and number two, that's how most Americans know this product line.

If you look at Google analytics, you'll see no one ever searches for manufactured home community. It's absurd to use that as the new terminology when no one has ever adopted it. However, it does sound classy and to a lot of your banks and cities, that's what they want to hear as far as the business that you're in. So definitely on your website, any stationary you use, business card, be sure to use manufactured home community. Do not use mobile home park and never use trailer park. Make sure to give yourself the best first impression you humanly can.

So those are the basic gear that all good mobile home park owners and buyers carry around with them. The whole point to it all is to give yourself the best first impression possible, but I think it's also important that you be true to that identity. If that's not what you're all about, if everything I just said is not the image you want to give, then give what is really you. Be Truthful. I knew a lot of park owners who in no way match me. They don't dress like me. They don't talk like me, they would never choose a name for their entity that I would. They would never build a website that looks even remotely what I would want and they've done pretty well.

You know, it's a big world here in the United States particularly. There's all this opportunity for people and we're all completely different. And when you're out there looking to buying mobile home parks, don't forget that even the best mobile home park owners on earth and buyers on earth have a failure rate of about 99%. That's right, probably 99% of everyone they ever talked to does not sell them the mobile home park. So as a result, I've given you just basic guidelines of what has worked for me, but you may have some ideas of what would work for you and if so, go with it. I'm a big believer that you should always try things, test things out, look at the results, and then adopt what works for you. Again, this is the first of a five part series on the five top tools of mobile home park owners. Hope you enjoyed it and I'll be back again next week.