Deciding your success: Look withinDale Vermillionknowledgeable, responsible, ultimate goal, integrity To be successful, you must decide what success truly is Every one of us has been affected, and probably embarrassed, by the slew of bad press regarding the mortgage industry as of late. Recently, Money Magazine published an article titled "Mortgage Brokers: The salesman factor: The right mortgage broker is golden—a pro who can put you in the ideal loan at the right rate. The wrong one can hang you out to dry." Clearly, the title alone suggests that there is a question in the public eye as to the ethics of mortgage professionals. It seems that everyone is pointing at everyone else as to the cause of the problem. I once read a statement where a very wise man said, "I have determined the problem with the world—it is me!" The fact is that each of us, as mortgage professionals, is responsible for the reputation of our industry, as well as our own reputation. Our actions and not our words ultimately determine this. So, here's my question for you today: Are you one of the "golden" mortgage professionals referred to in the article? As mortgage professionals, we can take proactive measures to ensure that we are classified in the "golden" class. I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you on this subject. Let me begin by saying that just being knowledgeable about your products and your lending laws is not nearly enough. Although essential to being a successful and responsible mortgage professional, these are not the end-all answer. The real key is to apply some good old-fashioned introspection. At the end of the day, we all have to ask ourselves these questions: •What is my ultimate goal as a mortgage professional? Am I putting my customers or my commissions first? •Did my actions today support my goals? Did I display integrity in everything I did? •Am I developing meaningful, honest relationships with my borrowers? •Am I offering the right products to my customers for both their short- and long-term needs? Did I make a positive and long-term difference in the life of my borrowers today? Let's take these questions one at a time. What is my ultimate goal as a mortgage professional? Am I putting my customers or my commissions first? If you are like the hundreds of thousands I have met whose primary goal it is to make money, I would encourage you to immediately change your goal! With that as your goal, you are destined to fail. Although making money in and of itself is not a bad thing, making money your primary goal is. It leads to a slew of problems. First, it may lead you to compromise your integrity. When money is the primary goal, people do things they wouldn't normally do to succeed. Rationalization and justification become our modus operandi. Penn State coach Joe Paterno put it this way: "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good." By putting money before your customers, they will sense it. They will know that you are not looking out for their best interests, but your own, and usually go with someone else. And even if they do close, they surely won't give you any referrals. Your goal should be to make a difference in the lives of your customers, first and foremost. If you change their lives in a positive way, they will change your life by not only buying from you, but also referring everyone they know. Think of yourself as a consultant and confidant, rather than an originator. Position yourself as someone who offers excellent and life-changing financial products and advice. My friend and colleague Dr. Ron Jenson put it best in his book, "Achieving Authentic Success," when he said, "If someone has a sense of purpose, then he can endure all the problems he faces in getting to his goal." By making your number one goal to help others, you will be putting your customers first. They will sense that and want to do business with you. Did my actions today support this goal? Did I display integrity in everything I did? There have been far too many people in our industry who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. They want to believe they are helping people; however, they are selling products that do not. Their actions do not reflect their desired character. This includes products that may help in the short term, but actually hurt the borrower in the long term. This also includes products with inflated, frivolous fees that ultimately do a disservice to the borrower and only benefit the loan officer. Remember, personality is what we are in public, and character is what we are in private. Integrity is when they are both the same. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Forget for a moment that you are a mortgage professional. In your last couple of deals, did you truly help your borrowers? If you support and uphold your right goals with appropriate right actions, your character will project accordingly to everyone around you—especially your customers. Am I developing meaningful, honest relationships with my borrowers? Most people claim to be great relationship builders, but then spend only a few minutes with their borrowers. It is simply not possible to build relationships without investing quality time into your customers. So, how are your relationships? Do you really know your customers? Have you taken the time to know both their personal and financial needs? As you build relationships with your customers, you'll begin to learn what they want, as opposed to what they need. Plus, you'll learn about their plans for themselves, their families, their children, their homes and their lives. The best relationship you can have with your borrowers is one in which you aren't simply an originator, where you transcend to a friend and trusted advisor. We don't sell mortgages; we sell opportunity. This includes not just providing competitive and life-changing mortgage products, but also solutions to financial goals, like education, retirement, debt reduction, investment, family needs, etc. If you truly take the time to talk with your customers and listen to what they need based on where they are in life, you can match up products that will make their lives better. Not only is this a proactive means of ensuring that you are practicing responsible lending, it is a way of doing business that will have your customers thanking you and recommending you to their friends and neighbors. Am I offering the right products to my customers for both their short- and long-term needs? Did I make a positive and long-term difference in the life of my borrowers today? One of the biggest mistakes I see consistently in our industry is the focus on short-term solutions. This is evident in the constant focus on rate and payment reduction. Don't just look at the short term, but also the long term. This is one of the biggest financial decisions your customer will make in his lifetime. Help your customers by offering them products that will truly help their situations in the long term; don't just entice them with short-term incentives. Determine what products best suit their future plans and current financial situations. As a consultant, your job is to help them understand the difference between needs and desires, and advise them as to what products they need to achieve their long-term goals. For example, if you have a customer who is 45 years old and wants to retire by the age of 65, set him up with a 20-year mortgage, rather than a 30- or 40-year one. If he says he wants to start saving for his children's education, set him up with a loan with a lower monthly payment to free up cash to put into savings. Keeping your customers' best interests in mind is not only a responsible lending practice, but also vital to developing trusting consultant relationships with your customers that will last years down the road. If you take the time out of each day to ask yourself these questions, you will not only ensure that you are a responsible mortgage professional that people can turn to, but you will also be the professional that people trust and want to do business with. More importantly, you will be true to yourself. Your integrity will never be in question, your ethics will never be challenged, and your reputation will be outstanding! You will make a difference in the lives of others and, in turn, have the personal satisfaction of knowing you are life-changer. Dale Vermillion is an industry speaker, and founder and CEO of Grayslake, Ill.-based Vermillion Consulting Inc. He may be reached at (888) 824-3343 or through his Web site, www.dalevermillion.com.