Top Originator: Cathy Haddad fired herself in order to get to $94 million

by Kimberly Greene17 Apr 2019

Sometimes making a business better means getting rid of what already exists.

Cathy Haddad is a mortgage originator with Atlantic Home Loans, and in 2018 closed nearly $94 million in total volume. Sometimes in order to get better, she said, you have to fire yourself.

“Get rid of the things that you are no longer good at and hire someone that’s going to do it better than you,” she said. “Free up that time from those things that you are not good at and that you’ve gotten to a point where you can’t really do anymore.”

Haddad, for example, never liked the back end of the business. She didn’t enjoy sitting down all day, poring over income documents or getting down and dirty with a CRM. She knew there were other people who enjoyed those detail-oriented tasks and were better at performing them than she was. So she hired someone to take care of those things, as well as to help her organize and set up systems so that she was prepared to expand her business. And expand she did, going from $24 million in closed loan volume to $50 million. At that point she hired another team member, and that’s when things really took off.

“I became a marketer, I started branding, things that I never would’ve had the time for if all I did was work for myself and I was the only one doing all jobs. And that’s what I mean about firing yourself, and it felt really good when I did it.”

Haddad started in the mortgage industry when she was 19. She didn’t have a path laid out ahead of her or the financial resources to go to college, so when she was introduced to someone in the mortgage industry, she jumped in with both feet.

“I really loved helping people and I was really good at numbers and dealing with people, and it just became one of those things that I really enjoyed it, so I didn’t feel like I was working and before you know it, I was hitting some really good numbers.”

She got a lot of those numbers by reaching out to people organically, being top of mind, sponsoring different events, attending broker opens, doing lunch and learns, and generally staying in front of people.

“You name it, I pretty much try to be a part of it,” Haddad said.

She’s stepped up her game in terms of video content in particular. She had always engaged on social media platforms, but after attending a conference a couple of years ago, she realized that she wasn’t doing nearly enough for her business. Now, she’s more strategic about the amount of content she produces and how that content is shared through different channels. More importantly, she doesn’t treat social media marketing as an afterthought. She said that originators have to put in the work to get social media to pay off for a business. Originators also need to pay attention to the little things, such as the ideal amount of material, the overall message, the target audience, and providing genuine, authentic content.

“People will have more interest [in that] than just hiring some company just to put a couple of posts for you every month. Nobody’s ever going to pay it any mind and you’re not going to get the kind of traffic or the attraction that you really need,” Haddad said. “I’m able to get organic leads by people reaching out either my posts or my video that people start to share and before you know it, your phones and your messages start ringing with people showing interest.”

She doesn’t put all her faith in social media, though—far from it. As the mortgage industry hurtles faster into the next phase of its digital transformation and as the field becomes more crowded with lenders competing for business, expertise is the thing that separates one lender or mortgage originator from the next. There are a lot of moving parts, and the originators who are going to continue to be in demand are the ones who can escort the client over the finish line.

Haddad tries to explain to clients—and partners—that rate matters, but expertise matters more.

“The less that you focus on the expertise of the person, the less quality that you’re going to get. You’re going to find more and more denials end up happening just using technology because you don’t have that person that’s able to sit down with you and go through a file, structure a loan in the proper way, go through the proper channels of understanding a particular client,” she said.

Her clientele has shifted slightly over the last year. Jumbo loans and first-time buyers were both a part of her client base, but she has moved slightly away from the former and slightly more toward the latter. In previous years she had closed up to $120 million due in part to those larger loan amounts, but as the higher end business slowed down, she’s picked up more borrowers who are entering the market and working to improve their experience.

At this point, Haddad is concentrating on sustaining the business she has, keeping up with all of the changes and staying ahead of her competition.

She also wants to spread the message far and wide that the human element is just as important as technology to the mortgage professional.

“If you can blend the two, the experience is even better,” she said.