Stephen Novotny was halfway through college studying to be an X-ray technicial when he decided he needed to follow his passion for real estate.
After extensive research, Novotny eventually landed on the mortgage industry. It was 2010 in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, Novotny was 21 years old, and the industry was still shaky from the financial crisis. He sent out several applications, but no one in mortgage seemed to be hiring, and for a while, Novotny lost hope. In a stroke of good luck, Novotny met a top producer at a local mortgage company at a pickup basketball game.
“I ended up applying at his branch, he took a chance on me, and I’ve been with him ever since,” said Novotny.
That’s when everything clicked into place.
“One of my advantages was that I was so new to the business, so eager to succeed, and I didn't know anything about loans. I just went out every day and worked as hard as I could, I was consistent,” he said. “I was kind of like a sponge. I just did exactly what I was told to do, didn’t come in with any bad habits and just went out and worked hard every day.”
Fast forward to 2018, Novotny closed almost 300 loans and over $75 million in volume with Willamette Valley Bank. He has consistently been a top producer in his region and has received a number of accolades throughout his tenure, most recently being the top loan officer in North Idaho. Novotny adds that he’s on track to surpass last year’s numbers after a successful run in 2019.
The key is consistency.
“It’s all about relationships, being honest and creating a routine. Stick to that routine every day, be consistent and keep trying to get better every single day,” he advised. Having a mentor also made a huge impact on his success. “I was fortunate I had a manager and mentor Jim Wallace, who was always a top producer, but at the same time, really loved seeing employees grow and succeed and get better. Without him, I don't know if I'd be where I'm at today.”
Now, almost a decade into the business, Novotny tries to be a mentor to his team, who he sees as family. It’s a priority for them to always look at ways to better themselves and their process.
“During a transaction, there are so many people that work on a file and if one person is not on their game, it can create a mess for everyone. When the sales team and the operations team work together with the same goal, good things happen,” he said.
His branch is one of the top lending offices in the Northwest, and Novotny says that’s partly due to the health competitive atmosphere among team members, which fosters good habits, goals and routines.
In 2020, Novotny just wants to keep growing and evolving while remaining focused on customer service and good communication.
“Technology continues to make a big push in the mortgage industry, but being a local lender at a local bank, that in-person experience remains extremely important. At the same time, we're trying to make sure that we provide our customers with the most updated software to make the loan process as smooth as possible,” he said.
The mortgage industry will give back what you put into it, according to Novotny.
“If you’re motivated and willing to learn and be consistent, it’s an amazing business and I would encourage anyone to consider it.” But it’s a numbers game. He stressed the importance of networking with real estate professionals and talking to as many people as you possibly can about what you do and who you work for. “Show them how passionate you are. The more people you talk to you, the more opportunity you have to earn business or build relationships with people who are going to believe in you and trust you to do a good job for them and their clients.”
Novotny also credited his parents Bruce and Christine for instilling a good work ethic in him from a young age and teaching him the importance of being a good person. Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, and now raising his own family there, Novotny says it’s really fulfilling to help other families get their dream home in the city he loves.