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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   April 2016

Keep the Bar High

The best mortgage managers create — and adhere to — lofty standards

Keep the Bar High

In any industry, setting standards for your business should be a top priority. In the mortgage industry, the top-producing branches and companies are those that have been able to successfully set standards for who they are and at what level they aim to operate.

Branch managers play an important role in maintaining the expectations of their respective branches. Yet, to take business to the next level and to help their loan originators truly thrive, branch managers should take the initiative to carefully and thoughtfully develop high standards for their team’s business.

As a leader, one of the most basic things you can do before coaching or correcting the individuals you manage is to set the minimum standards for performance. You cannot expect your loan originators to consistently execute at a high level unless that level becomes the standard at which your team should operate.

Just as you cannot be a great teacher, parent, athlete or salesperson without consistent execution of your responsibilities, your team of originators cannot become great unless you set superior standards — and then consistently work to execute at that level.

Know the benefits

As a manager in the mortgage industry, standards can impact your team. They give clarity on the target to shoot for, and people perform better when they know what is expected of them. When standards are not spelled out clearly, procedures and processes become vague and unclear, which creates inconsistent performance.

Standards help raise the bar. It is difficult to become an elite operation and team when you have average thinking and unclear objectives. Standards also help your team members understand why specific factors are important and how those factors affect them and the other team members.

They help you create buy-in and allow employees to have accountability, helping your business chart its course. Standards also help when you are recruiting and hiring talent, because the rules and expectations are defined at the beginning. Low producers will often not join your team, because of the lack of commitment they have. High performers, meanwhile, will be glad to see you have exceptional standards.

Keep in mind, when adopting standards, that leaders should review those standards with their team often. When employees meet their standards, the goals and numbers take care of themselves. When your team is not hitting its goals and desired numbers, either the standards are not high enough or people are not executing at the expected level.

When your team performs up to the standards, it will have a great sense of pride, accomplishment and fulfillment. It’s a great feeling to go home at the end of the day knowing you have accomplished so much.

Your team of originators cannot become great unless you set superior standards.

When standards are properly set and followed, customer service levels improve; volume, efficiency and profits improve; and client loyalty increases. In addition, loan originators make more money and stay loyal to you, and there is less turnover within operations staff.

Aim high

When considering a rigorous standards process, the average and the amateur leaders will ask, “Is all this necessary?” This is often because they are afraid of the price they will need to pay. These individuals are not really committed, so they do not want to be put in a place where they are made uncomfortable. Instead, they would rather know that things will stay the way they are. Often, they will compare themselves to other companies that are only average and say, “We’re doing OK.”

Elite leaders do not care about the price of setting standards, because they want to be the best. Unlike the average leaders, they realize being “good” in today’s competitive market is not good enough. In fact, they know that being “good” is really the equivalent of doing an average job. The elite realize that, to be very good or excellent, they need to set the bar higher, and they strive daily to find ways to get the slight edge that makes all the difference.

If you are ready to set standards for your team, keep in mind that every company and every team is unique. You need to find the balance of standards that works best for you.

If you are a strong leader, and everyone follows whatever you say, you can set standards yourself and then give them to the group — without possibility of feedback or change from the team. In reality, this method will only work successfully for a few leaders.

You may garner greater respect and responsiveness from your team if you decide to set standards together with your team members. Ask for their ideas and suggestions. This will help create buy-in, and they will be more likely to follow what they have agreed to, rather than what they feel they are forced to do.

Before meeting to develop standards, draft a document of best practices that are working for others. There is no sense in trying to reinvent the wheel. If it works for several others, chances are that it will work for you, too.

As you set your standards, make sure you have a way to measure key factors. The old adage is true: If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. Come up with ways to measure and track some of the key standards you set. Measuring will let you know if you are winning and on track. Additionally, your measurement of standards will let you know if you are going to hit your targets, before receiving the financials and quality reports.

Also, talk with your team members to decide which person — regardless of position — can be the expert who will help train others on how to meet the standards you have developed. This will help everyone to be involved.

Of course, celebrate the victories, so everyone is aware of how they helped the branch win. The more you celebrate and commend those who are executing at the new standards, the more the entire team will work to execute to them as well.

Implement and measure

When you are ready to begin implementing your new standards, consider the most important components of your business. External training companies, for example, have proven, time and time again, that measuring the number of contacts and appointments leads to greater production for loan originators.

Items you may want to measure for each loan originator include:

  • Number of weekly contacts;
  • Number of weekly face-to-face meetings;
  • Number of weekly networking events; and
  • Number of meals for meetings.

In addition, measuring these standards, among others, may be beneficial to each loan originator’s success:

  • Time to turn an application in from loan originator to processor;
  • Completeness of files sent from the loan originator or loan partner to processing;
  • Completeness of file for submission to underwriting; and
  • Time of initial submission from processing to underwriting.

You will only improve over last year by deciding what you will do differently this year, and how consistently you will fulfill the new standards. You may even consider putting posters throughout your office that describe standards for service levels. This is a great everyday reminder of how to perform well.

• • •

There is no better time than now to set high standards for your team. After all, the overall success of your loan originators and your branch depend heavily on the direction you provide and the standards you set.

The next time you find yourself too focused on the small details of your position, take a moment to consider the larger picture, and how you are setting the standards for you team members to excel. You will find that the details will take care of themselves.


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