CEO on being in the business of building relationships

The key to professional success is putting others first, says industry head

CEO on being in the business of building relationships

Dale Vermillion, founder and chief executive of Mortgage Champions, is known in his industry for working to improve people’s financial situation and, ultimately, their lives. In this interview, he tells Mortgage Professional America about how his nearly 40-year career is inspired by a simple philosophy: “Others first.”

The son of a construction worker from northern Illinois, Vermillion himself went into construction after high school and was motivated by a co-worker’s comment: “You talk a lot – you ought to be in sales.” He moved on to sales, and later had the opportunity to join large companies such as Transamerica Financial Services and Sears Consumer Finance. Due to frustration with corporate politics, he established his own firm, Vermillion Consulting, which he described as a worthwhile risk.

“I would encourage anybody, if you’ve got that entrepreneurial heart – and I know I always had that spirit – take advantage of it, jump in and try something that you didn’t think you could ever do,” he said.

At this stage of his career, Vermillion has worked with hundreds of clients and is a mentor to younger people in the housing industry. Believing that industry professionals should look out for the interests of others and not only their own, he says that loan officers make a mistake when their approach is transactional instead of relational.

“I’ve always been a believer that […] we were put on this planet not to make ourselves successful, but to make the people around us successful,” he said. “Zig Ziglar [talked about how] your success will be really based on how many other people you help make successful, so that’s our mindset.”

Vermillion also notes how the industry is becoming “very tech heavy” and says that getting a loan without ever talking to another person is a problem. For him, buying a house is “the largest single financial transaction most people ever go through in their lifetime,” which means that mortgage applicants need someone who can guide them through the process. Technology should only complement human efforts to provide customers with good advice, he said.

Another common mistake that he has noticed in the business is the tendency to quote rates without considering other factors that could affect customers’ decisions. In any sales transaction, emphasizing only the product price is not enough, he said. Rather, salespeople must show the benefits of the deal so they can build a relationship with their clients.

To be successful in this business, young professionals have to remain teachable: “[In a lot of meetings], you’re always going to see those people that think they’re the smartest person in the room every time. And you know what? I’ve been around a lot of places, I’ve worked with a lot of people, and I never think I’m the smartest guy in the room. I always know I can learn from somebody who’s sitting to my right or to my left. […] Markets are changing. Customers are changing. Products are changing. You’ve got to have a teachable spirit and learn. […] There’s so much knowledge out there that can be gained if you’re just willing to constantly learn and adjust,” he says.

Vermillion’s insights are also recounted in his book, Navigating the Mortgage Maze (2009), which is aligned with his goal to help clients simplify the loan process, get out of debt quickly, and make a difference for their families.

Watch the full interview here