Manufactured Housing Resources George Porter


"The very best recommendation I can give as further training is needed or additional assistance in developing training programs is required, my decision will be easy - Let George do it!"

Robert J. Henry
Home Installation Manager Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.

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How About Some Directions for the Directions?

By George Porter

Not so long ago I bought a new computer. Why I do these things to myself I don't know. The very first computer I owned fifteen years ago vastly exceeded my ability to use all of it's capabilities, and still does, so you can only imagine how far I am behind this Pentium 4; multi-gig; faster than light; memory that will exceed the known body of knowledge in the universe; "magic box". I do not know how it works and I never will.

This contraption is truly complicated and beyond the ability of 99% of the population of the planet to really know what is going on inside that plastic box. I have learned to use the thing (sort of), but I could never explain to anyone how electricity turns into words and pictures. I suppose if I went to school on the machine for a few years I would be a lot smarter about it, but I have other things to do, and to tell the truth, I don't really care as long as it works and gives me what I want.

What if you made something as complicated as a computer with wires running everywhere and had the capability of never working at all? What if you did just one tiny wrong keystroke or plugged in something with the wrong cable and destroyed the connection? How many customers would you confuse and then have them call you on your service line? You might need three technicians for each computer sold with eight hour shifts around the clock. Now sell millions of these computers to people who can't program the average VCR and watch what happens, insanity and chaos!!

Yet... Dell, Compact, IBM and many others do this all day and night and would love to do it more!! How can you sell something to the public so prone to trouble and survive, maybe even thrive? It's easy, you just give very good directions to the owner. The secret to success in the computer world is not necessarily how good your electronics are but how good your directions are! Directions make things work and really good directions make things work great. Things that work great are not only worth more because more people want them; they also have low service costs because of fewer complaints.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box with the computer in it was a very large folded up poster type instruction sheet. It said "STOP" in huge red letters. Then it said before you do one more thing read these "quick set-up directions". It said this to me, the owner of the product, not the store where I bought it or the UPS guy who brought it. There were 7 or 8 easy steps and all the connections were color coded. You would have to be, well... "impaired" to not get this right the very first time. I cranked it up and it worked! My computer does things for me now and I like it, simple as that!

That "quick set-up sheet" is all I have used. My computer did come with a big fat book with lots of digital equations in it along with thousands of initials and strange words for things that I know nothing about. My favorite is "twain." "twain" stands for "Technology without an Interesting Name" (I swear to you that I am not making this up) It has something to do with printers and scanners, I think. A couple of trips to the "fat book" and it went on the shelf, forever, the people who wrote it and can read it are not like you and me.

Directions are very important but it seems to matter who you give them to as well. For instance, what if Gateway Computer decided to not put the quick set-up sheet in the box and just inserted the note "see your dealer?" Gateway has many factory stores and people get the computers there and the store does help you a lot, but... They do not come to your house and hold your hand and if every sale required a long phone call to get the thing to run it would tie up the whole sales force all day. What if Gateway only gave directions to their dealers and said, "here, you deal with the people, let me know when you want more computers" Probably the home office would be getting lots of calls directly from customers and expenses would go up. Not informing the customer would KILL the computer industry.

There is even competition for the chance to inform the consumer, how about local community colleges, internet training, training programs on CD's and so forth. Consumers actually are actually willing to pay for this information! There is an entire industry based on training the consumer on how to use the computer they get from someone else. Why?, because people need computers, you just can't get along very well without them these days. They are very helpful and entertaining and people want them, but only when they work and are not too much trouble.

Who do you suppose helps support this computer knowledge industry? It is the computer manufacturing industry itself of course. They have figured out that the more people know about computers, the more people will buy them, and it seems to work pretty well. The "dot com" industry has spawned more millionaires than any other industry in recent history, all based on people getting comfortable with computers.

Why can't we do this in the Manufactured Housing Industry? I would much rather have a home than a computer, most people need a home more than a computer, in fact without a home where would you put your home computer. If directions are important to the ease of use of a product then why can't we have some kind of "short and sweet" ones too, just like all successful computer companies. If you are thinking "what about liabilities, we need to tell it all." Well you could still have the fat book just like the computer guys but you could also have large print big paper posters that give five or six major steps. And, you could give these things to the consumer, and community colleges, building officials and anyone else who would listen.

There are lots of things about out homes that are no different from conventional homes, but there are a few things that are very different. A computer is not a typewriter but it does have a keyboard. If you knew all about typewriters and nothing about computers, you would hate computers. They would make you crazy the first time two hours of work vanished from the screen, never to be found again. This could never happen with a good old typewriter! But, when you learn a few things about the computer you would never go back to a typewriter again. Being able to fix mistakes without retyping the whole document is wonderful! Once you become more familiar with computers you kind of trust them and you're your own ability to make them do what you want. You start this comfort level with some simple basic directions that will solve 98% of all the problems most people have. In fact most computer companies probably spend more time and money on the directions than they do on the labor to assembly the things. It is their primary tool in controlling expenses and generating consumer satisfaction.

Here is what computer companies know and we need to learn:

  • Products must be understood by the consumer in order to be used correctly.
  • Correct usage produces good product performance and generates consumer trust.
  • The average consumer will not buy, even at a low price, a product he does not trust.
  • Trusted products build strong thriving industries.
  • A thriving industry eagerly supports any entity that can build on and preserve trust between their products and the consumer.


  • Educating the consumer is the key to it all.
  • Education cost time and money but free ignorance is more expensive..
  • Advertising is rarely education but education is definitely great advertising.
  • If we can get only a small percentage of the support the conventional building industry has in all the schools and colleges around the nation we will greatly increase our market share.
  • Doing this today is better than tomorrow; we have a lot of catching up to do.