The secret to that growth, according to Chad Gomoll, senior vice president of business development, is a strong sense of identity and a well-defined company culture.
“The company is a straight mortgage retail banking platform, so 100% of our focus is new business development – putting new mortgages on the books,” he said. “The company is growing at a steady, significant pace.”
While Inlanta has added 12 new branches this year, the company isn’t in the business of expanding for expansion’s sake.
“We’re really trying to find a culture match,” Gomoll said. “…For us, it’s less about the gimmicky things and more about what the people of Inlanta offer each other. … We look for people that are entrepreneurial in spirit, that are good stewards of the bottom line – who are looking to run their own business. A lot of our branch network is made up of people who were business owners. Our platform gives them the autonomy to do that, and it gives them the tools to do that effectively without all the headache of trying to do it all on their own.”
Inlanta also looks for people who are willing to get in the trenches and originate loans, Gomoll said.
“Nobody in our network is just a non-producing manager,” he said. “Everybody in our system does loans. I think that’s a big differentiator in our system as well.”
Gomoll said that once those entrepreneurial originators join the team, Inlanta gives them the tools and technology to do their jobs more effectively than ever before, including a robust CRM, an innovative mobile app and an accountability tool that helps them stay compliant. In 2016, the company switched to a new loan-origination system that received top marks in an independent study by Stratmore.
But the real secret to a company’s success is its culture, Gomoll said.
“The culture that we’ve built internally, you can’t replicate it in a big company,” he said. “There’s too much chaos. At Inlanta, the branches leverage each other.”
The branches also have open communication with upper management – and a real say in the direction of the company.
“We’ve created an advisory board that consists of eight branch managers – elected by their peers – within our network, who represent their branch delegates,” Gomoll said. “We meet quarterly, and they lead the discussion on the topics they want to bring to the table. Then we as senior management let them know about anything new on the horizon.”
Many companies stumble when big changes are declared by fiat, Gomoll said.
“Say a company decides it’s going to use a new software system – but they don’t get the buy-in from the people who are actually going to use it,” he said. “We run those things by that advisory board. They have to sign off on it before we make a decision.
“One of the best examples of how well that works is when we switched to that new loan origination system,” he said. “The average turn time of getting companies switched over to a new LOS in about 18 months – and it comes with a lot of chaos, and some lost branches. We started with this system in January of 2016. By the end of April they had migrated everybody over to the new system, and by May they had recorded their largest month in the history of the company, using that system. So that shows you how effective that buy-in can be.”
This year, Inlanta has been focusing on getting that buy-in early by helping new branch managers learn the ropes as painlessly as possible.
“One of the things that helps when you’re building a company is to get people on board from day one with the culture,” Gomoll said. “We’ve spent this year honing in on our onboarding process and making it as seamless as we can. We’ve built an onboarding team, which consists of two representatives from each department, who foster each loan through the system for the first three to six months. It’s on-the-job training. It’s not a quick ‘that’s the way we do it, now go do it’ approach. Over time, it makes them an effective and efficient branch.”
Looking to the future
Gomoll said that he believes 2018 – Inlanta’s 25th anniversary year – will also be its biggest year for growth. The company has recently created the position of regional vice president. Those executives are responsible for supporting the branches in their regional footprint – and for recruiting new branches.
“That’s going to be the biggest catalyst of growth in our system,” Gomoll said. “This year was the year for them to get dug into their territory. Next year is going to be the year of results.”
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For nearly 25 years, Inlanta Mortgage has been one of the industry’s most consistently solid and successful companies. Since it was founded in Wisconsin in 1993, Inlanta has grown into a powerhouse with branches in 21 states.