Factory-Built Housing Exec Brings Fortune-50 Experience, Lessons from Kodak in Paving Path Forward for the Industry

Kodak’s demise from a 130,000-person company to bankruptcy has less to do with technology than it does product and channel understanding.
– Bob Bender, COO of The Commodore Corporation

LAKELAND, FL – 22 Aug, 2016 – Bob Bender calls himself  “a recovering engineer,” given how relatively little he uses his formal training these days.

But he still calls on the lessons learned from his years with Eastman Kodak, when the company that helped invent digital photography fumbled the ball of the future and lost it all.

“There was an underlying disconnect … between what Kodak wanted to sell (film), what the existing channel wanted to sell (film), and what consumers really wanted to buy (the ability to take and share pictures easily),” says Bender, now chief operating officer for The Commodore Corporation, an Indiana-based company with factory-built home divisions in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The Kodak experience taught him that change can happen very quickly (“My kids have never used a film camera in their life,”) and that companies need to adapt to serve customers’ needs if they want to grow.

“If we only hear what we want to hear, we could find ourselves in trouble,” he says.

Commodore specializes in residential-style HUD-code manufactured homes — a step up from basic “shade and shelter” models, as well as modular homes, which now make up about half of their product line.

“We believe there is a good market for people who can only afford so much,” he says, “but also a good market for people who will pay for what they want.”

And what they want are well-built, affordable homes that have as much curb appeal as the striking interiors the industry has pretty much perfected in recent years.

“Those people often buy from the ‘outside in,’ and many manufacturers are raising their game in designing better-looking exteriors,” says Bender.

The company believes in the market enough to launch a new division in Wisconsin, focusing on both HUD-code manufactured homes and state code modular homes.

“I still believe home-buying is a deeply personal process, and the retailers and builders that best help customers feel comfortable will succeed the most.”

For more insights into the future of factory-built homes, see MHProNews.com’s latest installment of its occasional interview series, A Cup of Coffee with…Bob Bender, The Commodore Corporation, here

(Photo collage credit, MHProNews)

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