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The Firing Decision

No longer flush with cash, companies face tough choices

Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman
The Firing Decision

In today’s mortgage market, the rules regarding hiring and firing have been turned around. During the boom, most loan officers were productive. And, even if they were not, most companies were so profitable carrying a few extra bodies was no big deal.

As the market transitioned, companies were so flush with cash they immediately reacted by paying out huge bonuses for top producers whose volumes were pumped up by refinances. The goal was to stockpile producers so that the drop in production could be mitigated.

In reality, production has fallen so much that many of these “bonus-baby” recruits were overpaid, at least when considering the present environment. Of course, in the long run, this strategy may work out. But in the meantime, the cash positions of many companies have changed. Not only are they not paying these huge bonuses, but they are taking a closer look at those loan officers who are not productive. Non-productive loan officers have proliferated in this environment, which is not surprising.

Thus, managers all across the country are faced with some tough decisions. The market has changed so much that we are facing choices we have not had to make for years. In this regard, it is all about going back to basics. Here are the basic rules of management:

  1. Hire the right people
  2. Fire the wrong people
  3. Tell the right people what their jobs entail
  4. Give the right people the tools necessary to do their job.
  5. Monitor, but get out of the way.

Clearly, the most important rule is to hire the right people. If you hire the wrong people, you will never be a good manager — end of conversation. However, sticking with the wrong people can be just as devastating to your business model. The cost you will incur entails more than the results of poor performance.

Managers think they are all-powerful, but they are not. Sticking with poor performers represents your greatest impediment to implementing your recruitment plan. Managers tend to spend up to 80% of their time supervising the wrong people, and the opportunity costs they incur as a result are very, very significant. These costs include lost time and additional stress. Just to accomplish something that is impossible: trying to make the wrong people into the right people.

Why is it so hard? Because of the great myths of employee development:

• Myth #1: They are not succeeding because I am not a good manager.

At the worst, you have not truly defined the job, so you do not have a good handle regarding why they are failing and by how much. At best, you have hired the wrong person for the job (see Rule number one).

• Myth #2: If I ignore the problem, it will go away or become better over time.

Even the worst performers have bouts of efficiency that will enable you to justify this statement. Performance problems do not fly away. Yes, you might retire first. More likely, they will quit first because they are as miserable as you.

How many times were you relieved over a resignation? This is a bad sign! Remember leaders are proactive. Anytime you go to the office in hope that the employee will make this decision for you, you have already wasted much too much time.

Want another bad sign? I know managers who have called loan officers and asked them — do you still work here anymore? If you have to ask — they are either not working or working somewhere else.

The Firing Decision 2

• Myth #3: They are just in the wrong position.

Do you have a job they can do adequately? Then make the move! Don’t transfer them to another division and make them someone else’s managerial problem.

• Myth #4: But dealing with problems is my job as a manager!

No, eliminating or preventing problems is your job. Who said that managers need to hit themselves on the head with a hammer to become successful?

• Myth #5: If I can just get them to do this or that right, they will “cut the mustard.”

Yes, if you coach and coach and coach, they might become adequate. They will never become peak performers. Your success will be dependent upon how many peak performers you have.

It is absolutely true that offices with top performers will attract top performers. People who excel understand the need to be surrounded by others from whom they can learn. They also like a challenging environment. So just keeping less-than-mediocre performers around will hamper your recruiting efforts not only by using up your most precious resource — time — but by creating the wrong environment.

Should I just go back to the office and fire someone?

We are not usually in a position to do this, because you have not dealt with the problem adequately. If you have been ignoring the problem for some time, you can’t just come in and make a move. Your company probably wouldn’t enjoy the legal liability of a Valentine’s Day massacre. What you would like to do is to make up your mind to take the steps necessary to bring the problem to a closure. Make the commitment and then act! Moving to Rules #3 and #4 will help you do just that because these rules deal with the correct creation of expectations and making sure that you and the employee are fulfilling these expectations.

Again, these are the basic questions you must face when considering whether to let go of a producer. Of course, in today’s environment, even decent producers are having trouble hitting minimum standards.

This means that you will have a tougher time separating the wheat from the chaff. The last thing we want to do is let those go who are solid producers and likely to return to that status as the market turns. If they were not as productive as they should have been during the boom, it is not likely they will revert to productive as the market turns.

For those on the cusp, there are plenty of measures we can use as evaluators. For example, what activities are they undertaking? Are they at open houses on the weekend? Are they working their sphere? Certainly, this is a decision that no one should take lightly. Today’s environment makes some of these decisions harder. But others are going to be more difficult.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine December 2022 issue.
Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman

Dave Hershman is an author for the mortgage industry with eight books and several hundred articles to his credit. He is also senior vice president of sales for Weichert Financial Services, head of OriginationPro Mortgage School and a top industry speaker.

Published on
Nov 30, 2022
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