Preface by Joel Berman.
It was more than 10 years ago that I embarked on my new career in publishing and began what is now known as The Mortgage Press Ltd. Through a mutual friend, Ralph LoVuolo, I was introduced to a fellow mortgage professional, Chris Salazar of California. Chris's path through the mortgage profession was almost identical to mine. He had been a mortgage broker; president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers; and at the time of our introduction, a publisher of Mortgage Originator Magazine. Chris had a passion for the mortgage profession that was best revealed by his new role as publisher. The magazine provided a unique forum to express what he had said during the years at numerous meetings throughout California and the nation. Chris used the editorial pages of his magazine as a communication tool, and the readers enjoyed what he had to say every month. He was a pioneer in the new world of mortgage brokers, and with pen in hand, he sought to "tell it like it is." It was during the formative stages of The Mortgage Press Ltd. that I turned to our industry pioneer, Chris Salazar. Chris never regarded me as competition, and during the early years of our publication, he allowed me to share some of his editorial content and features. He welcomed my entrance into the mortgage brokerage trade publishing industry and, in fact, was one of my strongest supporters. He always told me that being a mortgage broker, which I was for almost 10 years, combined with my two-term presidency with the New York Association of Mortgage Brokers, afforded me the same unique perspective that had helped him build his own magazine. I can almost hear him in the halls of my office: "No one can tell a story as well as a character from the story." Chris was right, and I often wonder where the mortgage brokerage industry would be, and even more so, how I would have faired without his pioneering spirit and energy.
When I entered the publishing field, Chris always advised me to think like a mortgage broker. In fact, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I answer that I'm a mortgage broker who publishes newspapers for the mortgage profession, even though I haven't originated loans for 10 years. Chris has left his ink on all of the pages of our profession, and while his presence will be sorely missed, his impression on all of us is indelible. I personally and publicly thank him for all that he's done through his life to support this profession.
While I may not have enjoyed the close, individual friendship he had with many (probably a result of being on opposite coasts), I knew that our mutual friend that introduced us, Ralph LoVuolo, had sustained such a friendship with Chris throughout the years. So, when it came time to write a tribute for Chris, I could think of no one more suitable for that task than Ralph. What follows is not just a tribute, but a dedication to a man taken before he finished building his life, leaving his family and friends only to wonder what they lost by his early departure.
The life of Chris Salazar, an industry pioneer
On April 30, thousands of phone calls were made worldwide regarding one person: Chris Salazar, 57, who passed away in his home. It is sometimes too easy to praise people most don't truly deserve the adulation that is heaped upon them. In Chris's case, the words here will not do justice to his importance to you, me and every person that has been in the mortgage business during the last 25 years. His impact on our lives is so far reaching that it's difficult to adequately describe his contributions to our society. He was our advocate, warrior, watchdog, keeper of culture, inspiration, voice and mover of ideas. No one else, anywhere, could do it all, better than he did.
Chris Salazar was the founder and first president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers. Subsequently, he was the founder and publisher of Mortgage Originator Magazine, the foremost source of information concerning the origination of mortgages. Beginning his career as a shoe salesman, he discovered his penchant for solving problems and combined that with a learned skill making money. But according to everyone who knew him, skill was not first and foremost in his mind. Although he was driven by the desire for success, money was not the first thing he discussed. His overwhelming driving force was the manner in which the job was executed: correctly, professionally, passionately and completely.
Whenever I was in his presence, he would inevitably express some opinion sometimes harsh, sometimes soft, but always true to his standards. He expected, like Pete Rose, that you would play the game as hard as he did, and if you didn't, he would suggest that maybe you shouldn't be in the game. We once ran into one another at a national mortgage broker convention. I was wearing a tie that had been purchased from a street vendor on the sidewalk of Manhattan, N.Y.; it cost $3. Chris effusively expressed his love for the tie. As was my wont, I ripped the tie from my neck and tossed it to him. "Here, wear it in good health." Afterward, he often called to tell me that he had worn the tie to one event or another, and that he received so many compliments for that cheap piece of cloth. Then we had a fight, a serious one, that pitted his ego against mine. It was a fight that I was going to lose, I just didn't know how. So I stopped calling him, and he did the same. Then a package arrived in the mail with a P.O. Box as a return address, but no name. Inside was my tie, no note, nothing else. Chris wins! I called him immediately and told him that regardless of our divergent opinions, we needed to remain friends. He allowed me back into his grace. I was moved; the pope had given me absolution.
Chris's family took first place in his life. After someone passes away, it is often noted that they really loved their wife, kids, etc. Well, you can take it to the vault; his family overwhelmed every facet and action of his life. Family vacations with his wife and sons were highlights best discussed over Johnnie Walker Blue. And the descriptions of his grandchild were envied by everyone because he told the best stories imaginable. When he started to speak of his family, it was as if he just came up with a new business idea that would revolutionize the mortgage business.
In talking to a few people who were close to his personal life and, conversely, in the mortgage industry, you can see into the life of this very complicated man. His signature was this unique ability to frustrate and then enthrall someone with just two sentences. He would start with words as cutting as a razor, followed by a comment or suggestion that could change your life for the better. This is the most telling insight I can offer.
Chris's integrity was beyond reproach. If he told you he was going to do something, create something, perform some activity, he turned heaven into hell to get it done. Accomplishing tasks was his mantra. He understood how to get things done better than anybody I know. And his insight into your mind was flawless. He knew the loan originator's mind better and clearer than anyone I've ever met. He could give you 10 different ways to make money in one sentence, and it always suited his interpretation of your abilities. And for the most part, he was right on target. Mostly? Hell, I don't know when I found him to be wrong, and believe me, I challenged him constantly.
His family and friends will miss his complex creativity. Creativity, followed by action directed to the benefit of his narrow focus of the moment, made him a self-made man who began in the barrios of Los Angeles and rose to the top of the ladder.
When we talked about his office staff, it was just like talking about his family. He considered every one of them his child. While nurturing and suggesting how to help them, he occasionally drove some of them to leave the office in a huff. Then he would chase them down and take them to lunch or dinner, just so he could make his point. His point always was: Do it my way; I know how to do it! Follow me and I can lead you to the Promised Land!
We all owe him a moment of reflection. We owe what we do, in large part, to his fervent desire to raise the professionalism of the loan officer. He wanted us to be the best we could be. He wanted every one of us to not just see what we do as a job, but as the profession it is. He wanted to help everyone achieve the success he had enjoyed. I promise, he didn't have one jealous bone in his body. He would promote, help, teach, cajole and bother you, and in the end, he almost always got what he wanted. I do what I do everyday of my life, exactly how he told me I would. He was that powerful.
His ability to make complicated subjects understood by any person, whether in or out of the mortgage industry, was a talent aspired to by many, but reached by few.
Chris's foresight cultivated his magazine and elevated it to the prestigious level at which it now resides. Long before anyone believed that we were ready to read the articles he put in the magazine, he knew we needed it. And thousands envied his singularity of thought and desire. Chris changed our industry as few have done or ever will do. His early editorials caused tremendous hubbub because of his truthful questions and suggestions. Much of his writing was so cutting, many of us truly believed that he had a desire to crash, not promote, the magazine. In actuality, he was true to his personal code. He questioned the basic tenants on which our business was built. He asked the tough questions, which he had already thought through to their ultimate conclusion. Long before he sat at his computer to write, he imagined all the phone calls, e-mails and letters he would be taking, and despite all that, he was unafraid of naming names and getting tough. In fact, when he put together the first CAMB convention, he named it "Real World Mortgage Brokering." New business ideas came out of his mouth like breaths of air. He never failed to see the future and make it part of his life.
Therefore, we need to thank, in our hearts, Chris Salazar. He was a great man, husband, father, grandfather, friend, boss, thinker, leader and one of my personal heroes.
Ralph LoVuolo Sr. is a consultant and training and personal coach for the mortgage industry. He may be reached at (609) 652-6901 or e-mail [email protected].