Rookie Superstar – Kristi Hardy

Advice to New Originators:
“Don’t give up. Market at least three times a week and be relentless.”

By age 28, Kristi Hardy was one of nine female area managers in the country for Enterprise Rent A Car. She had gained experience as in car sales, worked as a finance manager, then branch manager, and as area manager, was eventually running the most profitable branch out of 300 dealerships. But there was only one problem: she was exhausted.

“I felt like I had worked myself to death at that point,” said Hardy, 36. “I was ready for a break.” Since she had always dreamed of traveling the world, the timing seemed right for her to take a break and embark on an adventure. Hardy traveled for six years, visiting over 40 countries throughout Central and South America, across Europe, Russia, Greece, and beyond. During the last two years, she met her future husband and eventually decided to settle down with him Northern Virginia. “At that point it was time for me to go back to work because we wanted to buy a house I was also ready to put some structure back into my life,” said Hardy.

She called the regional director of CTX Mortgage when she saw their ad in the paper and was told that they only hired LOs with two years of experience, but that she could start as an assistant. “I’m not really the assistant type,” she recalls saying. “So he told me I could pay my own way at Xinnix Mortgage Academy and they would reimburse me when I met their production goals.” Convinced that originating was going to combine all her strengths of financial consulting, marketing and working with people, Hardy decided it was worth the $15,000 investment.

After six years of time away from the professional world, the six-week mortgage “boot camp” at Xinnix was a bit of a rude awakening. “Just using my brain again that way was extremely challenging,” said Hardy. “I learned so much—from guidelines, to how to take a prequal and everything about the overall loan process. It was also great preparation for working long hours again.”

As part of the program, Hardy was required to create a contact database of everyone in her life she could inform of her new career—”basically anyone I had access to.” When she officially started with CTX, the database proved to be effective when it generated her first loan from a family member.

“I started originating without any leads or much guidance beyond what I had gained from Xinnix,” said Hardy. “I was confident in being a certified loan officer from a mortgage academy and felt that that was a unique selling point.”

She began to implement ways of developing business partners in the community, including giving presentations to local real estate offices. When visiting an office for her own personal home search, she and an agent had a casual conversation and somehow got to discussing shoes and discovered a mutual affinity for footwear. “We seemed to get along really well, so I decided this was a perfect opportunity to create a whole campaign around it,” said Hardy. “I took a picture of the shoes I was wearing that day and sent it as a postcard with no name. Then I sent another shot of a shoe going through a door with the note ‘How am I doing at getting my foot in the door?’ Finally, I took a picture of my foot in a my husband’s big slipper on and wrote ‘Mamma needs a new pair of shoes,’ and included my business card.” Before Hardy could follow up with him, the agent had stopped by to leave his card. “He said he was very happy with his current LO, but that I had earned a meeting with his team. I told him that I was just as creative with my financing as I was with my marketing.”

Hardy hit it off with the agent’s business partner and she had officially created one of the most essential relationships of her new career. “I began earning their trust with the way I do business and was so fortunate to have referrals coming in from one of the top agents in the area,” she said.

In other efforts to make herself known in the community, Hardy joined the Chamber of Commerce, some key Realtor Associations and lead-share groups that were limited to one per profession. “These organizations allowed me to socialize and get to know people,” she said. “And the networking groups especially allowed for me to bounce ideas off of other professionals—it wasn’t just about asking for business.”

Hardy found her years of sales and management experience invaluable as she began to grow her originating business. “I was able to feel really confident in my abilities to sell,” she said. “I also had the advantage of knowing that hard work really can get you the results you want—especially in a commission job.”

For the first eight months of her rookie “season,” Hardy worked at least 60 hours a week, and then scaled back the remainder of the year to about 45. “I never really worked weekends, but I stressed that I was always ‘reliable and available.’ If I had to take a call on a weekend, it was usually about 10 minutes of my time.” The time proved worth the investment, as she closed 112 loans for nearly $26 million in volume. Hardy also generated enough business in her first three months gain reimbursement from CTX for the money she invested in Xinnix.

Hardy plans to add two new personal mailings to her already proactive marketing plan. “I send out monthly postcards or newsletters, weekly market updates, or any tips I may find helpful, and I call Realtors or e-mail them at least once a week, just to check in,” she said. “I usually make a point to visit them once a month as well.”

Currently seven-and-a-half months pregnant, Hardy has built up a team to help maintain her business when she is on maternity leave. “I’ve had an assistant since about eight months into the business, but I added a junior LO in February to help handle my pipeline while I am out,” she said. She is certainly not letting the pregnancy slow her business down and is maintaining ambitious growth plans. “I am going back to the basics,” said Hardy. “We are going to focus on targeting relationships with top-producing Realtors and I plan to cultivate two builder relationships.”

–Gretchen Lees