You Can Be a Top Originator and Have a Life

It’s possible to work hard, close hundreds of loans, and have a balanced life.

Are you one of those people who have been so busy you’ve not had time to enjoy life? The warp speed growth of the mortgage industry and related services within the last 24 to 30 months has created the greatest disillusionment, frustration, and employee burnout I have seen in 23 years of mortgage consulting. The tentacles of “production at any and all cost” are powerful and the fear factor of low production is exceptionally taxing. The disconnect between production-driven cultures and “lip service” concern for quality of life is not a new phenomenon. However, the frequency with which employees must make personal choices that are often diametrically opposed to their corporate culture has changed. This article will examine the costs of “forgetting to make a life” and what steps loan originators can take to bridge the gap of professional and personal balance.

The costs of losing perspective and valuing work over everything else can lead to increased stress, frustration, high blood pressure, ill health and eventual burnout. Are you really more productive if you don’t take vacations? Are you really more productive if you continue to make some of the same mistakes on the phone you have made for years? Medical science has proven there is value, both physical and mental, for maintaining a balance of core values in your life. Unfortunately, this is a difficult sell for thousands of originators and wholesale account executives. However, there are exceptions.

For example, Ashley Valentini, Synovus Mortgage, Columbus, Ga. recently said, “About four years ago I realized that a key core value for me was my family, so I do not work weekends. I do not come in on the weekend, to get caught up or take additional applications. Weekends are the only time I have with my family and friends. I realized that to reach my core value goal I had to become more organized and work smarter. Therefore, I try hard to get all the information up-front. This enables me to get the loans processed with less hassle because I am not always scrambling for additional information. My core value goal actually drove the change in my behavior.”

The Workaholic
Valentini runs her business. Do you run your business, or does your business run you?  Are you a workaholic? “Workaholism” is defined as having an addiction to work. This does not necessarily imply success at work. In fact, the workaholic is likely to be an under achiever because of his/her obsessive tendencies. The workaholic is compulsive about work. Generating loans is more powerful than anything else. The workaholic wastes time and energy on insignificant actions. Often a victim of the “only I can do it syndrome” in their drive for efficiency and getting a lot done, the workaholic neglects to ask whether he/she is being effective getting the right things done. Workaholics lack specific goals. This person puts off self-improvement because he/she is “too busy” with current undirected activity. The workaholic undervalues his personal life. They cancel out on social occasions and disappoint their children and spouse. They make work the “religion” of their life and consider it important above all else. If you recognize yourself in the above description, it is time to take stock.

Get a Life
Following are some key steps you can take to help avoid mortgage originator burnout.

Draft your “team.” You are not generating mortgage loans all by yourself. You must add onto your internal and external teams the people who can best help you reach your goals. If you are assuming that you are the only one involved in the process, you are working too hard and generating a minimal return.

Cut your losses quickly and move on. Production time is wasted when you continue to make sales calls on unproductive sources.
Build, maintain, and regularly mine your database. You are your own business. You are your own profit and loss statement. It is imperative that you maximize the investment you have made in past borrowers to generate ongoing referral business. Note: A typical business spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones.

Maximize each call you make. If you are going to make the time to enter an office, why limit your call to seeing the one or two people who may be your buddies when there are over 20 others there? You should also have a specific call objective. What do you hope to get out of the call?

Establish a system of priorities. Make sure your priorities are in line with what you have determined to be your key core values. Review and revise at least monthly and hold yourself accountable to those priorities in allocating your time and energy.

Formulate a weekly written plan and break it down to a daily plan. Within that plan, analyze the total hours you are working and the changes you would have to make to increase your volume while decreasing your total time commitment.

Share expectations with your customer base. Do a better job up-front of sharing expectations. Explain that, “Here is what you can expect from me and here is what I expect in working with you.” Becoming more committed to this action step will save you countless headaches over a year’s period of time.

Be more proactive. Most loan officers are reactive. This approach limits their performance and success. What five things are you doing today to increase your volume 8 to 18 months down the road? Most loan officers reply “Just leave me alone, I am just trying to make it through this month.” Long-term goals will help you identify the actions you must take today for a successful tomorrow.

Eliminate “fire-aim-ready” approaches to your job. Many loan originators are so driven that action, in and of itself, is a measurement of success. Every move an originator makes should be designed to fit within a personal business plan with both short-term and long-term goals. “Fire-aim-ready” is not an effective long- term approach to success.

Make time for yourself . This business takes a lot out of you. Expectations of what you can deliver are high. In addition, absolutely everything within a mortgage loan is date driven and urgent. It is therefore easy to fall into the rut of always serving others at the expense of making time for yourself.

Look at it this way. Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. Brian G. Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola states: “You name them work, family, health, friends, spirit, and you are keeping these all in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the four other balls: family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

Making time for yourself or your family does not mean that you are not a team player. Maintaining balance, both in your personal and professional life, does not mean you are not a committed member of your team or company. Quite the contrary. People who feel good about themselves are usually more fun to be around, (and more productive) than those who are so driven they drive you nuts just by being in their presence.

The real fun in life is continually bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be and from who you are to what you want to become. Only you control this journey. When you get so busy making a living that you miss life, it may be time for a reality check. Start yours today.