For originators who are spending every waking moment (and restless nights) trying to secure more business and close more loans, it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to bring more people on board in addition to increasing production.
At some point, however, everyone comes to the realization that they either can’t do everything by themselves, or they don’t want to do everything by themselves. Maybe they want to spend more time in the field getting business and need more people on the back end; maybe they want more producers on their team to increase their presence in the local market; maybe they want to spend more time away from the business without the business suffering. Whatever the reason, attracting good hires becomes key. What are the most important things that a branch manager or sole originator should pay attention to when hiring?
The first thing is to separate the scalable work from the unscalable work, suggested Danny Horanyi at the most recent AIME Mortgage Expert Workshop.
“In the mortgage industry, there’s really two categories of activities. One of them are the scalable activities that technology can take over for you—OCR, taking loan application, same day certainty—all that is scalable, you can have a $10 an hour person or a machine do that work because it’s not high skilled work. It’s the taking the blood pressure that the nurse does before the doctor comes in and reads the chart,” he said.
Horanyi, a former top producer and now the head of non-agency lending at Caliber Home Loans, said that originators should get very clear in distinguishing between that work and the unscalable work that needs a personal touch and is suited to the skill set of a particular originator.
“Making sure that you’re spending as much time as possible on the unscaleable work that your unique gifts are suited to serve is a massive game-changer that will 10x your business if you can really separate those two things out.”
Shelby Elias, founder of United Wholesale Lending, only looks for a small handful of traits.
“I look for somebody that’s coachable, somebody that fits the culture, and somebody that’s educated. That’s all I care about,” he said. “I train every individual piece on my team . . . and that’s how I started to reinvest in my business and it took me completely out. So now what I’m focusing on is the realtor acquisition, the stuff that I know and I love, I love being in front of people, and I get in front of these real estate agents, I provide them with massive value, and I dump it right into the funnel, and now I have a good life.”
Finding someone coachable is key, regardless of the position that they’re coming into. There are some things that can be taught, other things that can’t, and if they’re not willing to learn the ins and outs of a particular lender or broker shop, then they’re going to be difficult to make a part of the team. This is true regardless of their tenure in the industry—and sometimes in spite of it.
Everyone wants to grow their business, but not everyone has thought ahead to what that looks like. How big is too big? Is there even such a thing as too big? At what stage does scaling become a concern?
That’s a personal choice, as everyone’s business is different. Shashank Shekhar, president of Arcus lending and a top producer, has been in the business for a decade, is only really starting to branch out and grow across the country. He didn’t want to go out and recruit until he knew that he could bring in $200 million a year while only in the office half as much. This way, he could turn his focus to his recruits.
“If I’m at that level, I can go and actually add value to the people I’m bringing to my team,” he said. “I’m at a point where I just don’t want people to come to my team and say, I’ll take 30% of your commission and then you’re on your own. If I can’t bring you on board and double your business in two years, I don’t want you on board, and you should not come on board with me. So with recruitment, really hiring for attitude and only hiring when you think you’re personally ready to grow somebody else’s business.”
Some originators don’t even think about scaling until they gets uncomfortable. Elias, for example, grew so big and eventually realized that’s not the life he wanted to have. The more originators he got under his wing, the most business they all brought in, the more problems he had. He sold half of the company to focus on his own origination and took tighter control of it. Now, he’s focused on a company culture instead.
“All of my employees, I’m making sure that they’re happy, they love where they work, they love their job, every single hire fits into the culture. Because one bad apple is going to screw up every single thing that I have already built. Everyone is friends, they love coming to work, and I love coming to work with them, which is really important when I’m trying to design my life,” Elias said.
Originators who design a business and a growth strategy that mirrors the life they want to lead are one step ahead of those who don’t, and one step closer to getting there.