Intelligence by design

Growth simply for the sake of growth can end up hurting a business more than helping it. The key to growth, says Silverton Mortgage Specialists President Josh Moffitt, is to grow smart

At the helm of one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies, Josh Moffitt obviously doesn’t fear expansion. But growth for growth’s sake, he says, can be a recipe for disaster.

Moffitt is the president of Silverton Mortgage Specialists, an Atlanta-based direct lender servicing the Southeast and Illinois. Founded in 1998, Silverton is booming; between 2011 and 2013, the company grew by 527%. It’s also been named one of the top 100 financial services companies three years running, and Moffitt himself has been recognized as one of Georgia’s top residential loan officers and entrepreneurs.

“I don’t know if there’s a secret sauce. It’s the mortgage business – it’s been around for a hundred plus years,” Moffitt says of his success. “But I think our greatest strength is our people – knowing who you are and hiring the right people along the way.”

Bringing the right people on board, Moffitt says, helps his company grow with an eye to the future rather than simply focusing on the next branch.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges – knowing how to grow smart instead of just growth,” he says. “…I think in business in general, growth can mean more than just the size of your company or topline revenues. You always want to be growing, and revenues are a part of it – but you’ve got to be growing in your processes, your operations, the benefits you offer your employees, everything you do. Growth to me doesn’t always mean we’re just shooting to get bigger and drive more revenue. In business, that’s the end result that you hope comes with it, but you can’t forget everything that growth entails.”

And one of the major requirements for smart growth, Moffitt says, is considering how expansion is going to affect the people you’ve already brought on board.

“If you’re an employee sitting three states away from the corporate location and you’re constantly hearing, ‘Growth, growth, growth, more people, more people,’ you’re going to be thinking, ‘What’s that do to me? What’s that do to my people?’” he says. “If you know that, you can help yourself grow smart. If I’m growing, there are people helping me grow. Let’s make sure whatever we do is going to help them grow their business as well. If we’re bringing on new loan officers or new sales teams, that could be great for the company. But if I’m a branch manager in Myrtle Beach, I’m thinking, ‘Oh boy, more folks. Does that mean my business is going to slow down?’ So you have to be mindful of what your growth does to the rest of your business, and you have to make sure it’s a good fit for that.”

With that in mind, Moffitt says, he wants to make sure he’s got the right people in place before opening a branch – not just people who can close loans, but people who are a good fit for the company.

“If you know who you are and where you came from and where you want to go, you find the right people to get you there,” he says. “I feel like that’s one of my daily roles is to foster that – give the folks the tools so they can succeed and then get out of their way, and attribute any accolades or success we have rightfully to them. … With the business today, everyone has basically the same products. There’s not a magic bullet, so how do you separate yourself from the pack? It’s your people, the health of your organization.

“One of the sayings that kind of defines us is that we’re a communication company first, and we just happen to do mortgages really well,” he adds. “We survey all of our clients when we’re done with our closings, and 99.9% of the time, both realtors and clients talk about communication. Sure, we’ve got to have great rates, we’ve got to have great products, all that kind of stuff. But to me that’s just permission to be in the game these days. If you don’t have that, then you shouldn’t be doing this. The people that understand that tend to be very good fits for us. The production will be a result of that.”

Ultimately, Moffitt says, smart growth is about realistically assessing your current market position – and using missteps as paths to opportunity.

“We know our place in the world – we’re a small or medium-sized regional company. We’re not sitting at the mountaintop looking down by any means,” he says. “And as much as you have success, you’re going to screw up along the way too. Sometimes you do chase volume and it’s not the right fit. And to bring on somebody who’s not a good fit, you expend three times the energy just realizing that. It takes away from your overall focus tremendously. You’ve got to learn from those mistakes and learn from them. As long as those mistakes don’t become patterns of mistakes, then you’re learning and growing. If you constantly do it over and over again, then that’s a problem. Maybe you’re not ready to grow."