In 2009, Billy Taylor adopted a child from Guatemala. He was blown away by the staggering poverty in the country, so when he returned to the U.S. he created Mission Firefly, a 501c3 organization that focuses on eight areas: spiritual development, medicine, education, food, clothing, shelter, water, and economic development in Guatemala.
Billy Taylor is the owner of HomeTown Lenders, a fully integrated, multi-channel mortgage lender based in Huntsville, Alabama. Company executives and employees quickly got on board with the ethos of Mission Firefly, and its inception caused the company to start operating with a better ‘why.’
“We knew what we did, we knew how we did it, we were doing it really well, but we needed to know why we were doing it. So Mission Firefly became that,” said John Taylor, president of HomeTown Lenders. “Over time, that has just sort of created and actually dictated a lot of the culture inside our company. So when people come in and are interested in working for HomeTown Lenders and they ask me or they ask Billy, ‘tell me about Hometown Lenders,’ I don’t start talking about the mortgages. I start talking about how we are an overtly Christian company and then I tell them about Mission Firefly and what we do there and how that has not only helped so many hundreds of thousands of lives in Central America, but it has transformed the lives of our employees.”
This is a roundabout way of saying that the slogan of HomeTown Lenders, “People Before Profits,” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a lived experience for individuals within the company. That sentiment also translates to how the company treats their branch partners, who benefit from using the best resources available to grow their individual businesses.
“From a corporate standpoint, we know that if we don’t have the right tools in place then our branches won’t be able to grow, and if our branches don't grow, then—because we’re not direct to consumer—HomeTown Lenders doesn't grow,” John said, adding that the real formula for success lies in their employees.
“If you don't know how to work relationships, then you’re not going to get anywhere, and for us, the difference has been hiring really good people that understand the bond between them and their referral partners. If you hire those people from a company standpoint, you almost can’t help but grow because they get the basic foundation of business.”
If you’re thinking this all sounds a little cliché, a little folksy, a little touchy-feely, don’t be fooled. HomeTown Lending isn’t some backwards company, stuck in the good ‘ol days of mortgage yesteryear. They recently signed a contract with Simple Nexus, and are in the process of rolling out advances in the borrower experience, from a browser-based online 1003 and front-end point of sale experience to a competitive mobile app.
From a product standpoint, John said, they're exploring options that most other lenders aren't exploring. One of these options is a delegated construction to perm product, where they’ve established their own warehouse lines to finance both the temporary loan and the permanent financing.
“That has been a big hit inside our company . . . that has put us in a competitive edge. Realtor referrals are how we’ve paid bills for many, many years now, but as we look for other referral partners out there, expanding into builder market, especially in today’s market where there’s a housing shortage, has been really big deal for us,” John said.
HomeTown is also currently working on their Fannie Mae agency approval, and soon expect Day 1 certainty.
For John Taylor, originators and branch managers don’t have to choose between an old-fashioned way of doing business or jumping on the technology train. It’s about keeping the best of both worlds, and balancing them in order to do good business, and do right by everyone.
“Billy and I don’t drive Ferraris, we're not concerned about our bottom line. What we are concerned with is what our legacy is; what are they going to say at our funeral. As depressing as that is to think about, I hope they don't stand up at my funeral and say, ‘Boy, John really did mortgages well.’ What I want them to say is, John created a legacy that was much more than profit. It was truly about people.”
If you ever find yourself in Huntsville, pop into HomeTown and see why the company is named as such. Everybody generally has similar products, pricing, and processes. But when they put People Before Profits, HomeTown lenders gets better results.