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What makes culture in your company ?

As the CEO of your company you may think ” Wow, I’m doing well. My company is ranked #1 in the XYZ market ” You did it. You built your success through your hustle and everyone is happy.
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The Breakfast Club was sharing their personal experiences in the work world this morning as I asked my daily blog question. What makes a truly successful company? We have all concluded that in order to build a successful environment for all, you must build a culture first.



David Lykken says that leaders should be intentional in every move they make. David thinks that sometimes he can be too open and honest but he’d rather be too open than have anyone feel unsure and insecure about their work environment.

Beth Ozenghar thinks that if you’re feeling tension when you walk into the room, it is happening because trust has been broken along the way somehow in the company. Something has been miscommunicated or even not communicated at all and assumptions have begun.

Scott Woll’s opinion is that culture comes from the top. CEO’s often assume that everyone knows what is going on because he told “Mary” to make sure everyone knows. Now Mary has taken what she got out of the message and has now told John to get the message out. Now John is “summing it up” for everyone and all of a sudden that water cooler is filled with whispers and side eyes!  Good CEOs will listen and see the employees. They cannot assume they understand you at every level. A good boss is involved. A good boss knows his company from top to bottom. That’s culture. There should be no assumption that your message is getting out properly.

Beth adds that it still boils down to trust. Bosses can make such a difference. CEO’s needs to have a staff that they can trust to relay the message properly. Trust can be broken so quickly by inefficient communication.

Trust Mortgage Lenders

My opinion (Stephanie Stevens) on this is that a lot of companies just want the hustle. Build your culture. Build your 9-5 family. You will probably be with them more than your actual family at times. Know them. Be the boss that walks into the room and says ” Hey did little Johnny win the big game?!” or ” Hey Mary I know your son wasn’t feeling well yesterday, did he make it to school?”

Yes, this may take time out of your hustle. Our Breakfast Club meets every morning. At first, I’ll admit, I thought “Oh goodness, I don’t have time for this. ” Now, I wish we did it on the weekends too! I make sure I grab a fresh cup of coffee and sit down without any distractions. I really want to know how Beth’s daughter is after her first dirt bike accident. I can’t wait to hear about Scott’s newest Grandchild and I love David’s funny stories! That takes up about 10 minutes and then we are on to business. Updates on clients. Are we prepared for an upcoming meeting and my “topic of the day”.

This is called building Culture in your business. We have built trust and security within our company through effective communication and we can help your company too!

Look around. Do you see your staff gathered at the water cooler? Do you feel tension when you walk into the room? Are your meetings quiet with arms crossed? Do you know who’s kid is in the spelling bee and who’s kid is home from school sick today? Here’s a little funny to make you smile today…..

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You Can’t Rush Excellence

There’s an old adage in business: you can’t have it done fast or you can have it done right, but you can’t have both. Of course, it’s not that simple. There’s a continuum of how well you do something—just as there is a continuum of how quickly you do it. It’s not either/or. However, this adage does point to a profound truth in business—there is always a trade-off between speed and accuracy in our work. Improving one often does mean cutting back on the other. So, which is more important?

Of course, when it comes to regulatory issues, the answer may be quite obvious. We can’t afford to overlook the details when we risk incurring fines from regulatory agencies, not to mention how our reputations can negatively impacted but such oversights. But, apart from these matters, I still think it pays to go over everything twice to make sure you’ve got it right. Why is this the case? Isn’t “double checking” just a redundant waste of time? Shouldn’t you just do it right the first time and not have to worry about going over it again?

The problem is that we are often poor judges of our own work. All of us are a little biased toward our own abilities, and we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We’re much quicker to catch the mistakes of others than we are to catch our own. When we double check ourselves, we can stand a better chance of catching the mistakes we missed the first time.

By not reviewing our work, we may tell ourselves that we’re just “saving time,” but the truth is often that we don’t want to doubt our ability to do it right the first time. But, we’ve got to swallow our pride and be willing to examine our work. Success is worth much more than the pride that risks preventing it.

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How Important Do Your People Feel?

How Important Do Your People Feel?

The general public doesn’t always have the highest perception of the mortgage industry. Often, it can feel like we don’t exactly known for being selfless. We are, after all, in business to make a profit. We provide a service and expect to be compensated for it. We and are people have bills to be and goals to accomplish in our lives. We aren’t operating a charity, are we? That being said, we are helping people by what we do in the same way that other professionals are; so, there isn’t any reason why we couldn’t garner a less self-serving reputation.

The real problem with having a selfish reputation, though, has less to do with what the general public thinks of us and more to do with what our own people think of us. I think it is important that the members of our team don’t see us as merely self-serving. Otherwise, they will see themselves as replaceable and will be less likely to believe that they are valuable as employees. And when our people don’t feel important, they will less inclined to work hard and even less inclined to remain loyal to the organization. If we want to keep people, they must feel like they matter.

For leadership, making people feel important can mean taking a cut in compensation for the good of the company. Is this a good thing to do? Different organizations believe different things on this matter, but I will say that it is definitely a way to gain the respect and admiration of your people if you’re willing to sacrifice some of your own gain to make them better off. And I can’t help but think that the mortgage industry will be improved by making employees feel like their companies are great places to work…

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The Best Training is Ongoing Training

All too often, organizations in every industry think of training in a limited fashion. For many organizations, the only training that is ever offered occurs at the time of hire. Employees are first starting off in an organization, and they need to be taught how the organization works. So, they go through a period of training for the first few weeks on the job–and then they’re turned loose.

I think an initial period of training is absolutely essential. You always want to get your employees started off on the right foot, making sure they understand your purpose and values as well as how they will contribute to the team. That being said, while essential, I don’t the initial training that most organizations provide is quite enough. Training, if it is to be effective, isn’t a “one and done” sort of thing. The best training is ongoing training.

In all sorts of ways, the mortgage industry is constantly evolving. There are changing regulations that employees need to be made aware, new technologies employees need to understand, new process they need to learn, and new techniques they need to try out. The opportunities for learning don’t end after orientation; they go on forever.

As leaders in our organizations, we need to be willing to invest in training. Our team is only going to be as good as we’ve trained them to be. So, what about you? Is training something you just do with new employees, or is something you continually invest in as the industry chances and your employees develop in your organization?

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How Patience Makes a Great Leader

We live in a very hectic society today. In our always-on, twenty-four seven, never let up culture, it can be easy to get sucked into the frenzy. As leaders in the mortgage industry, we always want to be first. We want to be the fastest to adopt the new technology, the fastest to enter into an emerging market, the fastest to hire the most talented employees, and so on. Whatever it is, we move quickly because we want to get there first.

Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly something to be said for speed. Being more responsive and proactive than competitors has obvious benefits, and we should always be aware of the opportunities available to us by reacting as quickly as possible. That being said, we need to also be aware of the risks. It is possible sometimes to move too quickly. What if we make a decision too quickly and then new information comes to light that, in retrospect, renders it a bad decision? Or, what if we commit to quickly to something and end up missing a better opportunity that comes along later?

As leaders in the mortgage industry, there is a place for strategic patience. Waiting isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness or complacency; waiting can also be a strategy. Taking thoughtful, measured steps can be better in the long run than taking quick, erratic leaps. We want to move as quickly as possible, but we also want our decisions to make sense. At the end of the day, great leaders don’t just move with speed; they also move with purpose.

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Why You Need a Plan B

Why you need Plan B - Planning

Have you ever heard someone use the slogan, “No Plan B?” Usually, when people are trying to convince themselves and others that they are full committed to a certain path, they’ll take up this mantra to prove it. Of course, there is something to be said for persistence, confidence, and resilience in you work. You don’t want to do anything halfheartedly. On the other hand, in business, having “no plan B” could be perceived as a sign of commitment, but it might also be perceived as a sign of carelessness.

The mortgage industry has had plenty of ups and downs over the last decade and, with the incoming Presidency, it is uncertain how the industry will evolve. Some say that President Trump will introduce a more volatile market, while others suggest that he will be more pro-business. Whatever the case may be, one thing is sure: putting all of our eggs into one basket will not be an effective strategy. More than ever, we need contingency plans so that we’ll be able to adapt if our initial plans don’t work out.

Consider your particular place in the industry. Think about the business your currently engaged in and your plans for the near future. The smallest regulatory change can come out of nowhere and completely upset the foundation of how we do business in the industry. Are you ready for the next time that inevitably happens? Do you have Plan B? If you don’t, it’s probably time to get busy drawing one up. Remember: fortunate favors the prepared, not the ones who think they’re too unstoppable to need preparation.

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Losing Business: How to Be Irreplaceable

In the mortgage industry, it used to be that customers collaborated more closely with loan officers from the very beginning of the process. Once the conversation started, LOs could feel confident that prospective borrowers wouldn’t likely leave for another lender. Now, with the open access to information available to consumers on the Internet, people looking for mortgages are shopping multiple lenders before making their purchasing decisions.

It can be helpful for us to ask a simple question. If we’re losing potential customers to the competition, we might begin asking, “What went wrong?” Why do consumers choose one lender over another? When you ask people directly, they will offer a myriad of reasons: the other lender had a better rate, the other lender was closer, and so on. But answers such as these don’t really get to the heart of why we’re losing business. Might there be a deeper reason why customers are dropping out of the pipeline?

Here’s a phrase I’ve always loved: people may never remember what you so or what you do, but they will always remember how you make them feel. I think that, more often than not, the reason organizations lose business is because they fail to establish that emotional connection with their customers. It’s easy to leave when there are no hurt feelings, but it’s a lot harder when there are real relationships involved. A competitor could offer the best rate in the market, but if you have a close enough bond with your customers, they’ll pick you every time. At the heart of it, losing business is not about rates or geography; it’s all about how you make people feel.

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Leadership Means Owning the Failure

As in every industry, leaders in the mortgage industry eventually run into some kind of setback. It could be lost revenue; it could be problems with compliance; it could be regional economic challenges. Whatever it is, it’s only naturally when these things occur to start looking for the cause. Who’s to blame for what has happened?

The first thing we often do is look to our employees. Which employees were responsible for the problems? If we replace or reprimand those employees, the problems should sort themselves out, right? Well, not necessarily. We typically think of monitoring employee performance as a means of understanding how well our employees are doing. What if, instead, we thought of it as a metric for ourselves? How well are we doing as leaders of those employees?

Leadership means owning the failure. When things go wrong, we don’t just seek out an employee to blame. We ask what we should have done differently as leaders. Perhaps we didn’t provide enough training; maybe we didn’t give our employees the right incentives; it’s possible that we didn’t put the right people in the right positions. Whatever it is, we as leaders necessarily play a role in every failure.
Next time we run into another setback, let’s think about the incident as a learning moment—not just for our employees who were involved but also for ourselves. How can we set up our employees for success the next time around? This is the kind of question the best leaders will be asking.

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Great Leaders Never Stop Improving

I spend a great deal of time and effort writing, speaking, consulting, and coaching one single topic. It’s something everyone in the mortgage industry (and everywhere else, for that matter) wants for their businesses and their lives. It’s the goal for which we’re all striving—the reason why all of us get up in the morning. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about “success.”

It comes natural to us, I think, to frame everything in terms of how it will or will not help us achieve success in our lives and in our work. However, I think the way we talk about success sometimes detracts from what it really means to be successful. All too often, we see success as the summit of some great mountain we are climbing. Once we’re there, we’re done.
We have an obsession in our society with arriving.
We finish the college degree, and we’ve arrived. We don’t have to learn anymore.
We get the job, and we’ve arrived. We don’t have to focus on professional development anymore.
We get married, and we’ve arrived. We no longer have to impress our spouses.
Great leaders never stop improving. They know that success is not a destination; it’s a way. Success is a way of moving in the world. We can always become more successful, but we can never really “achieve success.” Success is not the summit of the mountain—success is rising to the next ridge.
So, what about you? How do you think about success in your organization? Are you pushing your people to “achieve success,” or are you pushing them to “become more successful.” This small distinction can make a world of difference in what you accomplish as you move forward…

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Your Best Prospects Are Your Past Customers

As a coach and consultant to leaders in the mortgage industry, I get to have conversations with people in a lot of different organizations. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that the organizations that have demonstrated the greatest growth are often those who place the greatest amount of emphasis on sales. These organizations spare no expense to give their originators the resources they need to go out and bring in new business. Revenue is the fuel that keeps a company going, and the best companies develop originators that are good at filling up the tank.

That being said, I have noticed a trend in some organizations that works against revenue generation. While originators may be great at going out and generating new business, they often miss opportunities by neglecting past customers. In recent years, technology in the mortgage industry has enabled most companies to keep thorough databases of their past customers. And yet, many loan originators still fail to mine these databases for leads on new business.

There are essentially two ways of getting business: waiting for customers to come to you or going out and finding them. Most originators wait for inquiries from home buyers, but the best originators will maintain relationships with previous home buyers and leverage that relationship into more lead generation.

So, what about you and your organization? Do your originators look at past customers as sources for referrals? Your past customers can turn out to be your best prospects, because you’ve already laid the groundwork of building the relationship. And once you have that trust, everything else will fall into place.