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I recently attended a holiday party at a real estate agent’s office. I ran into a loan officer husband and wife team who used to work for me. Even though I was there to get business, and they are now my competitors, they pulled me aside to tell me how much they enjoyed working at my former company. In fact, they recently ran into another former Carteret Mortgage employee and told me all they could do was talk about how much they missed the old company. I don’t think they were just kissing my behind because why would they have to do that now, I am no longer their boss and I get that a lot from former employees, too many for it to just be an act. There is the distinct possibility they were being truthful. Maybe, they really did like working there.
So, what was it about the old organization that made it so much better than all the jobs they had before and after that? One word: ME!
As a loan officer, when I started my company, I knew all the things I liked about the companies where I worked, and all the things that just irritated the heck out of me. I pledged that my company would be different. The loan officer’s happiness would be my main goal and the money would flow from there. Think about it. If they are happy, they tell other loan officers who are drawn to the outfit. If they are content, they don’t quit, which leads to lower turnover and no learning curve. In truth, it is MUCH cheaper to keep a good loan officer than to try to hire a new one. People do not like leaving their jobs. An employee would stay forever, if they could, because changing jobs is such a hassle. So, why not make it a good experience for them. I am continually amazed how the companies where I have worked previously and since cannot get this simple concept. Here are some tips if you own your own company;
Don’t screw with their money
Even though it was a major inconvenience and cost a bit more time and money, I made payroll a weekly event, not once a month or bi-monthly like my former employers. People like me want their money and they want it now. There is absolutely no reason why, if I close a loan on the first of the month, I have to wait until the 15th of the next month to get paid … 45 days later! That was how it worked at a bank I was employed. I noticed the tellers and bank president were paid weekly. I brought it up to them, but the idea went nowhere. They just did not care. How much interest can they possibly earn holding my money extra month? Even though I just love the place where I work now, it takes them 30 days to cut expense reimbursement checks. What’s the hold up? It is just irritating. I got bills to pay and the bills won’t wait 45 days.
Praise in public, criticize in private
We had a broadcast e-mail that went out every month called “The Winners List.” These were the top 10-15 monthly revenue earners for the month. Those on the list got a congratulatory call from me and an ill-fitting, putrid blue, baseball jacket. It was not much of a prize for the loan officers making $100,000 in the month just to get on the list. Yet, when they came to a company meeting, they wore that stupid jacket with pride. It signified success. They got their name up in lights and won the admiration of their peers. When they obtain all the money in the world, what is left to motivate your loan officers? Praise. Conversely, when they screwed up, and they did, as everyone does, it was a private call by me to them. “Fix the problem, not the blame “was my motto because that’s how I wanted to be treated by my boss.
Open door policy
At my previous job, and to some extent, where I work now, I never wanted to talk to the boss. At this job, I know he is busy and do not want to bother him with any petty problems. At my previous job, well, he was just a … let’s call it just not a very nice word. The policy at my company was that everyone could call me if they had to, but I preferred they didn’t. I know that sound a bit “anatomical,” but when you have 4,000 employees, there are just not enough hours in the day. That is why I had a “mentor” program. Every employee was paired with a “mentor” (usually the person who hired them) who they could call day or night to ask a question or get some help. If their mentor didn’t know the answer, then they could call their mentor’s mentor. If that person didn’t know, you kept asking up the mentor chain, until you reached me. Ultimately, I was every one’s mentor since I hired the first person. You might say I was patient zero of the mentor system.
Everyone needs someone to turn to once in a while. Some bosses don’t have time or just don’t want to be bothered. I can understand that, so there should be a mechanism in place to handle that. Everyone wants to work for themselves, but nobody want to work by themselves. It takes a village to get a loan done nowadays. Make sure the support is there for them to make money for you.
Back office support
We had a very simple rule at Carteret. If a question was asked once, we would answer it. If it was asked twice by two separate people, it went in the employee manual and on the Web site. The chances were that if two separate people had the same question, a hundred others did too, but were too shy to ask. Office employees were taught to first answer the question and then gently tell them where to find it on the Web site.
Some of the common questions led to some really innovative things on our Web site. You always got questions like, “What is so-and-so’s junk fees or mortgage clause? Who is our account rep there? What is their FHA lender number? We developed a “Lenders List.” This was a file they could download from our web site and search by lender. It contained all the human knowledge in the world about each particular lender and a comment section where you could praise or trash the lender based on your experience. Loan officer could send us “edits” for when information changed and we would keep it constantly updated. It was the first Wikipedia, before there was a Wikipedia. Wish I had patented that idea!
Other links included:
►“Why aren’t we paid as Statutory Employees?” linked to a paper I had our CPA write when that came up on a few employees personal IRS audit.
►“What is the Payroll status of my file?” which tracked the movement of the file through the post-closing audit process and finally payroll approved.
►“What is my license status?” which tracked the coming expirations and renewals of loan officer licenses through the licensing department.
►A ”Marketing Library” with media ready, compliance approved TV, radio and print advertisements, flyers, door knockers, etc. for the loan officer’s marketing needs.
All this and more costs me tons of time and money, but it was for people who were paying my mortgage with their labors. I think having four kids helped me a lot. You love your kids and you want them to get ahead. That’s how an employee should be treated. That’s how I wanted to be treated when I was a loan officer.
Now granted, if you are a three man shop, this may not be feasible at this time. But now you know how to get there. Be a virtuous boss. Be good to people. It will come back to you tenfold.
Eric Weinstein worked in banking, on the commercial real estate side until 1991, when he fell in love with residential lending. In 1995, he started a small mortgage company in his basement called Carteret Mortgage Corporation, which in 2003, grew to one of the largest mortgage broker companies in the United States. Eric is semi-retired, doing mortgages by referral only. He may be reached by phone at (703) 505-8692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.