Rather than let a devastating experience get the best of her, Louise Thaxton took all her energy and focus and used it as motivation to quadruple her volume in less than one year.
In September 2005, Hurricane Rita destroyed homes and businesses across Louisiana and Texas, affecting families and the livelihoods of many. Louisiana’s farmers, including Thaxton’s husband, suffered a crushing blow in the middle of what was meant to be a successful crop year.
“My family was in a critical situation with our finances. I knew I had to do whatever it took to support us,” said Thaxton.
She woke up the very next morning and began journaling about strategies she could implement to increase her volume and improve her business. She drove out of her small town where she was closing around 74 units annually and reconnected with a real estate agent she worked with in the past, asking for help. That agent introduced Thaxton to some of her military clients, which later became a big part of Thaxton’s business, but also turned into a lifelong passion.
“The more I served veteran clients in the mortgage space, the more I saw the challenges they faced, including post-traumatic stress, an extremely high divorce rate, homelessness and a high rate of suicide,” she said.
Thaxton began to immerse herself into the military community. She learned everything she could about their culture and way of life and began to offer support in any way she could. She wanted veterans to know that the community cared. She became the go-to person for VA loans in surrounding communities and approached every client with purpose, passion and a positive mindset. Within a matter of months, Thaxton closed four times the volume compared to the previous year.
“I had a plan, I set out my priorities and I did what I had to do. I worked 12 to 14 hours most days during that time,” she said.
Since then, Thaxton continues to be a huge advocate of the military community, which also accounts for about 35% of her business. With the support of Fairway Mortgages, Louise spearheaded the creation of American Warrior Initiative, a non-profit that brings awareness to the challenges that military men and women face when returning from war. Last year, Thaxton said the real estate and mortgage professionals raised almost $1 million for the cause.
Thaxton is also somewhat militant in the way she approaches her goal-setting for the year.
“I divide my year up into seven 52-day segments and during each one of these periods, I am extremely disciplined and focused on my goal,” she said. She has developed daily habits that push her toward her longer-term goals by just making small improvements each day.
“Don’t just do it on a Monday; do it until it’s like brushing your teeth. Loan officers lack focus and we get distracted easily. We need to choose something that fits in our business plan and really focus.”
One technique she uses to reinforce these disciplines is what she calls “7 by 11.” Every night, she writes a list of seven things she wants to accomplish by 11pm the next day. Some items on the list may be to-do's, but there is always at least one task that pushes her to be just 1% better.
“I was a mediocre loan officer. By changing my mindset and my approach, I transformed my business,” she added.
Today, Thaxton leads a team of almost 30 loan officers across Arkansas, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana. Collectively, they closed over $250 million in volume and about 1400 units in 2019. Thaxton is coming up on 20 years with Fairway Mortgages and for her, company culture is everything.
“To anyone looking for a company, look for leadership that rewards the hungry, humble and smart. Not every company will have a culture of excellence, speed to respond and most importantly, a culture of giving.”