When Jeremy Page and his partner, Kip Warzon, took over the Greenfield, Wis., branch of Inlanta Mortgage in February of 2015, the branch was underperforming. In less than 6 months, Page and Warzon turned the branch around, transforming it into one of Inlanta’s most successful branches. The secret, according to Page, was smart staffing decisions – and plain old hard work. Page, who entered the mortgage business when he was a teenager, said, “I was running the day-to-day operations as well as producing, and my partner, Kip, was one of our top producers. It was a natural progression for us to step into leadership positions.”
Making the transition
After becoming co-branch managers, Page and Warzon set to work on turning the branch around. “At the time, the branch wasn’t doing enough production,” Page said. “But from the moment that we took over – and that will be two years in February – we started on a plan to right the ship. We have gone from one of the bottom branches in the company to number three in October 2016, and year-to-date overall we are fourth in the company.”
So what does it take to transform an underperforming branch into one of the top branches in the company?
“A lot of hours, to be honest, and hard work,” Page said. “The reason Kip and I agreed to partner up is that we had a very similar work ethic. We’re the kind of guys that aren’t afraid to put in long hours when we have to. Also, just leading by example. When your staff sees you’re the first ones in and the last ones out – when they see how much you’re putting into your branch and your employees – it gets reciprocated back, and they work harder too.”
Gaining buy-in and simply making employees feel that their work is valuable also helps the bottom line. “We do appreciation events for our team, such as taking them on the company’s rewards trip. We try to find ways to say ‘thank you’ to our employees. Those kinds of things really make a difference.”
And, not least, Page and Warzon took a hard look at their employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and tailored their workflow accordingly.
“We position our structure and our file flow, and we put people’s strengths in the right areas,” Page said. “We have the right people in the right places, and we have those people do what they’re good at; we play to their strengths. That’s also been a big help.”
According to Page, that kind of smart staffing paid dividends in more than just increased success – it made attaining that success less stressful than it might have been otherwise.
“The last three months, we went back-to-back-to-back with record-breaking months for our branch, and we did that with very little pain,” he said. “Two or three years ago, if we were doing that kind of volume, everybody’s hair would have been on fire – stress levels would have been through the roof. But we were able to do it with a fair amount of ease.”
Perhaps as impressive as Page and Warzon turning an underperforming branch around, is the fact that they did it at a time of unprecedented regulatory change. Page credited handling that change to plain old preparation by Inlanta’s compliance department.
“We’re really big on being proactive, and we’re fortunate enough to have a company that’s ahead of the curve on compliance,” he said. “Inlanta did a lot of pre-planning for all of it – reading up, understanding what the changes were going to mean and how they were going to affect us. We were prepared for those changes – how we were going to do business, how our files were going to flow, how we were going to communicate those changes to the customer so that they understood and it wasn’t as much of an inconvenience for them. All of those things were prepped and ready to go before the switch was flipped.”
Page also credits Inlanta with providing the resources and support that allowed him and Warzon to turn the underperforming business into a thriving one.
“We have great leadership at Inlanta,” he said. “One thing I love about Inlanta is that they give us the support we need by providing resources and regularly checking in to ask if you need anything. This sets us up for success, and it allows us to keep sight of what’s important - the customer.”