The wheel of life

by Kimberly Greene19 Nov 2018

It’s common to think of origination success as doing a lot of production, whether that means doing a high volume or closing a significant number of loans each month, each quarter, or each year. But there are top producers out there with sky-high volumes who aren’t happy, or balanced.

It’s not just origination, of course. The same could be said for many professions where the top earners aren’t necessarily the happiest employees. Origination, however, is a particularly scrappy profession, and depending on how an originator’s business is structured, every time spent on originating loans literally means more income. Every time spent on originating loans is time spent beating the competition.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“I’m not trying to beat my competition. In fact, I don’t even focus on that at all because I know what the competition goes out and does. They go out with the lowest rates and fees; everybody wants to lowball with the lowest rates and fees and their service is terrible. They want to work 24/7, and that’s not how I want to live,” said Michael Mann, branch manager with Fairway Independent Mortgage. “I’m trying to set a different standard, and I’ve always done that. I’ve tried to revolutionize the mortgage industry.”

Mann set about revolutionizing the industry back in 2008 when he interviewed 100 real estate agents and asked for their biggest complaint regarding mortgage lenders. Mann said the results were so simple: not closing on time, not having proactive communication, and not providing reciprocation of referrals or business building techniques. He then built a process around those three biggest complaints.

Because he built his business around those problems, he doesn’t feel the need to work around the clock, regardless of what other people in the industry are doing. Instead, he’s a big proponent of The Wheel of Life technique, which involves dividing your life into segments, assessing what’s in- and off-balance, and identifying how to give more attention to areas that need it.

Mad Man anti-hero Donald Draper always said, if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation. Sure, part of working with partners is identifying their needs, sure; but also consider a) are their needs necessary/mutable/ and b) do those needs work for you? It requires being strong in your conviction, and building boundaries.

When a potential partner says they want you to be available 24/7 and how they work around the clock, Mann suggests turning the conversation around, asking that potential partner about their family life, how their family feels about them working around the clock, and whether they enjoy working that way.

“I act more of a consultant, or a life coach, if you will. And I say, ‘What if you could set up your business that you didn’t have to be?’ And then I talk about the wheel of life, and quite frankly, what I’m really doing is trying to get them closer to where my frame of mind is, because if we’re going to work together, I don’t want you walking around saying we’re going to be available 24/7 because we’re not. We’re just not.”

Mann says that he gets pushback, but that actually makes it easier to determine people who are going to be true partners. Originators seeking balance need to seek out other like-minded partners who will complement their business and the mindset of their team. Everyone needs to rest and recharge.

For originators in leadership roles, this is particularly important, because these people, branch managers and top producers alike, set the tone for the rest of their team. If you’re working 24/7, and they’re working 24/7, it can lead to a high-stress environment for everyone involved. Team members take their lead from their manager, and

That doesn’t mean that work doesn’t happen all the time, just that it’s important to structure your team so that the balance of work and being on-call shifts so it’s not everyone all the time; so that it’s not the team lead all the time.

“It’s like the boxer in the ring. They have three-minute rounds. Compare yourself to a boxer in the ring. After three minutes, the one boxer goes to the corner and gets the water or whatever, and the other boxer goes to the corner and does pushups during the break. That boxer’s going to get slaughtered, and that’s what’s happening in our industry. People are getting slaughtered and not just from a business perspective, but if you do that to your family,” Mann said.

This doesn’t just apply to work, either. Setting boundaries goes hand in hand with being present, w whether that’s at work or at home. So that means, if your spouse calls you at work to engage in small talk, be firm in saying that work time is work time. But equally so, if you have an engagement with your kids, don’t blow it off time after time as a force of habit because you can’t figure out how to leave the office at 5 o’clock. Obviously emergencies happen and exceptions have to be made,

It’s easy to equate working harder with working more, but if you are able to work smarter and establish firm boundaries around home and work, you will be happier, your team will be more productive, and you will be able to connect with your family on a deeper level. Don’t just build a good team and business in order to be more productive and efficient; build your business so that you can have a life that isn’t just work.