For a more in-depth example of this, let’s take a look at two different wholesale lenders. Both underwrite loans at a 48-hour turnaround time. For one their advertising lists quick turnaround as one of many features. The other actually guarantees this turnaround with a penalty if they don’t hit it. Not only is one marketing differently, but their reaction to a busy market will also differ. One might move to 96-hours when things get tough. Another will do whatever is possible to avoid this—including having overflow contract underwriting in place so they can avoid the penalty and not contradict their mission. It’s the same performance, but a very different underlying commitment to the “culture.”
The issue of culture is more than just one of “service” versus “rate-based” advertising and sales. The issue may move to your internal staff and the atmosphere of the company:
- The development of minimum standards that are set for sales personnel. These minimum standards may be based on quality, action or production. An example of a quality standard would be the percentage of fall-out that is allowed. An example of an action standard would be the requirement that a loan officer attend mandatory meetings. A production-based standard would require a certain number or volume of loans per month or quarter.
- The development of a team atmosphere. How well do the loan officers support the processors and vice-versa? When someone is sick, do others pitch in? Are loan officers helping each other with their clients and helping to train new loan officers, or are they trying to steal deals from each other? Everyone must know what groups they serve—including the manager. The manager is actually a servant of everyone in the office and, if this concept is not part of the culture, the office will not function well as a team.
- The development of a professional atmosphere. How is the staff dressed and how well do they communicate with themselves and their clients? Is their language professional or do they use street language? How well do they treat vendors, including paying their bills and their loyalty quotient? Are lenders used as hedges for larger profit? Are people screaming at one another in a crisis?
- The development of an ethical reputation. There is no doubt that in the past, this industry left much to be desired with regard to how well they serve their clients and present their cases. Is unethical behavior tolerated, overlooked or completely banished within your organization?
How do you develop and/or change the culture of your organization? It is more than deciding what you want to be known for. You will have to make tough decisions, including firing those who clash with the culture or refusing to hire those who could help with profitability, but hurt your long-term direction. Likewise, it means turning away certain types of business—business that you know might be easy money but put you on the wrong side of the line.
You may have to change your advertising methods or even abrogate relationships with long-term referral sources. A culture is built from a foundation. A foundation is built one brick at a time. It does not exist because you say it is so. It is built with your reputation, actions and results.
Most importantly, everyone in the organization must know the culture and be a part of it. If they are not aware of your goals, they can’t be part of the solution. Your culture should help you make recruitment decisions, select candidates and orient new employees.