Now more than ever, leading has become more challenging, especially with a global crisis engulfing industries. On today’s show, Jen Du Plessis is joined by Steve Kyles to talk about leadership in the loan management space. Steve is a veteran Houston mortgage professional, a Movement Mortgage loan officer, and the Founder of the Loan Officer Leadership Podcast and Facebook group. If you want to know more about hiring, leading a team, and defining team roles, tune in to this episode and have that confidence to become a practical leader.
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I have a wonderful guest with us, Steve Kyles. He is the Founder of the Loan Officer Leadership podcast and Facebook group. I had the pleasure of joining and participating in and I’m excited. Steve, welcome to the show.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of what you are doing. It’s been so much fun getting to know you and learning more about the community. You and I have been seeing each other across the aisle.
We’ve been paralleling for a long time and I think it’s awesome. It’s better late than never. That’s the important thing.
I’m thrilled to be here with you and thrilled to have you with the Loan Officer Leadership community. You jumped on an important town hall where we talked about relevant topics in today’s changing environment. Your voice, experience and fortitude in this Loan Officer community is such a breath of fresh air. I love even the positive nature of your message. It’s great to be here and be with you on your podcast.
One of the reasons that I want to bring you on is because I love talking to loan officers and managers. You’ve got a story and we want to know it. I love talking to people in our industry that are still out there pushing it every day. I mentioned that while I don’t have a license, I still originate. I originate in the non-owner-occupied world which doesn’t require licensing for some quirky stuff like fix and flips and buy and holds that are in that market. I’m still out in the trenches and call on realtors. There’s nothing that anyone can pull the wool over my eyes about what’s happening in the marketplace because I’m still doing it. I’m just doing it in a different category, on a different level, in a different way. That said, tell us a little bit about you. If you don’t mind sharing about how you got into the business. What was the tipping point that took you on a trajectory that led you to where you’re at now?
I’ve been in the business for over twenty years. I can remember that I got into the business because I understood that, at this point looking back, and recognized it was my calling. It’s what I was created to do. I was 25 years old. I was newly married. I was a musician at a large church in Houston, Texas, playing in lead music. I knew that I was supposed to get into the mortgage business. I had flipped homes. My brother and I bought our first investment property when we were nineteen years old. We watched one of those crazy get rich quick shows. It was a guy named Russ Dalbey. I don’t even know if people knew who he was. We bought our first investment property when we were 19, 20 years old. We paid $6,000 for a home. I came from a poor family. We didn’t have $6,000 so I borrowed $1,000 on my credit card. My twin brother borrowed $1,000 on his credit card. We convinced a guy to loan us $2,000 and the seller held a $2,000 note. We bought a house for $6,000 and a week later, we sold it for $10,000. I fell in love with real estate.
Fast forward a few years later, we were buying, selling and flipping homes. We partnered with somebody we shouldn’t have. We went into financial turmoil. We had four houses in foreclosure, $250,000 in debt, and $1.2 million in homes we couldn’t do anything with. I was making $250 a week playing music. I realized that it was not working. I prayed about what the direction was. I knew there was a calling and that this is what I was supposed to do. My wife joined me in 2005. We grew a team that we sold in 2012. I made a move to another company that I feel like I’ll literally spend the rest of my career at. When we sold, my wife went home to be a wife and I’ve been growing. I’m a producing Market Leader for Movement Mortgage. I produce at a high level and I lead guys at a high level. What’s interesting too is that the Loan Officer Leadership Facebook group has a passion to serve people. I started creating content designed tactically for the loan officer.
What I saw in the space was there’s a lot of leadership, management and the company people. There wasn’t a lot that was directed towards tactical. How do I originate? How do I hire team members? How do I go in and do the day-to-day? Here’s what I realized. Let’s create a Facebook group and let’s start doing podcasts. It started to catch traction. That’s how you and I came to build a friendship through the content that was created and in doing everyday work originating loans.
I want to talk in two facets of your career. Right as you were getting to that pinnacle point where you were becoming a top producer, what are some of the things that took you to that spot? What are some lessons that you learned as you got to that peak? Then, we’ll talk about after the peak. We all had trials and errors. We all had successes and things and anything that we can share with everyone that says, “If you’re doing this, please stop. If you’re not doing that, please start.”
What happens is this. As originators who are growing into top producers, what people don’t realize is the price we paid. When I first started originating loans, I was dead broke. I had four houses in foreclosure and $250 a week in pay. I couldn’t pay my bills and I was newly married. Every deal I got mattered. The truth is in my first twelve months, I only closed eight transactions. I’m starving and growing. It’s 100% commission. As a loan officer, when you take that leap, you’re going 100% commission, every deal and lead matters. When you make your first hire, the biggest challenge and most people’s roadblock is the ability to trust somebody else with your livelihood because it matters so much.When hiring people, put good people around you that you trust, and learn how to let go of control and allow people to fail forward. Click To Tweet
Looking back, we would have grown faster and differently. For me, I needed to learn and grow. You’ve got to put good people around you that you trust. Learn how to let go of control and allow people to fail forward. I was on a Zoom call with my market once. I said, “The interesting thing is this. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake because there’s no mistake you can make that I can’t fix.” Looking back, that’s probably the greatest empowerer to people. Let’s say you’re a producer and you’re bringing on a processor, frontend or backend LOA, Loan Officer Assistant, team members to help. They’re not going to get it perfect. If they can get it 70 to 80% as good as you can, if you give them permission to fail forward, they won’t be paralyzed by fear. In the past when somebody made a mistake, I was so hard on them. Good people were paralyzed by fear because I was fearful about making a good living.
I’m smiling about it because I talk about this all the time. We have these invisible chips on our shoulder. We say, “I built it. They want me. They want everything about me.” The fact of the matter is that what they want is the feeling they get by working with you. You build a system that allows for that beautiful feeling. When you’re hiring people, let’s flick that chip off your shoulder and allow for other people to help you grow and scale. Something that I work on with my coaching clients is that we get to a capacity where we want someone who breeds. That’s the worst time to hire. It’s not having the defined roles in advance so that you’re hiring people. Instead of pointing fingers at them, you’re pointing some at yourself and saying, “I’m the fault. I didn’t have an onboarding plan. I didn’t have a defined role that has deep tranches so that everyone is clear.” There’s no concern about overlay where I come in and say, “Just let me do it. I can do it faster.” That becomes enabling rather than empowering our people.
The other part I love that you said is that we think we do everything perfectly. As you scale, you start having leaks in your systems. You’re only functioning at 40% or 50% capacity. Why wouldn’t you hire someone if you’re at 70% or 80% capacity because they’re doing better than you? We have to realize that. Before you got to the point that you could hire someone, what did you do in your business that got you to that point? Were you more about realtors? Did you work with builders? Were you consumer direct? What did you do?
In the position I’m in, I’m hiring for my team, which is a top 1%. We do a lot of volume. I’m hiring for market. Think about this. We’ve got people in both of our groups that are closing two loans a month, wanting to get to four. We’ve got guys that are four, wanting to get to eight. Eight that are wanting to get to fifteen. There are ceilings you’ve got to break through. A guy who’s at two going to four is going to feel like you have no more time. I’ve got no margin. My business doubled. The work you did has doubled but it may not mean that you’re ready to hire somebody.
Here’s what you’ve got to look at. There are lead indicators and lag indicators. Lead indicators are going to be how many leads a month you are getting. How much of that business is purchased versus refi? How much of that is converting? If I’m getting 70% or better purchase leads that are coming in, my trajectory over the previous three months is growing, and I’m not dropping in conversion, here’s the problem. If I’ve got 80 leads and I close four loans, you don’t have a lead issue. You’ve got a conversion issue. What you’ve got to do is be looking at lead indicators. If those are all moving at the right pace, when you hit about 6, 7 or 8 lag indicators, which are closings, I need a shared team member. I’m watching my lead indicators to make sure that wasn’t an anomaly.
The problem with leaders is this, we fail. If we don’t fail with other great leaders around us, we get into a place of saying, “Maybe it’s a false start.” Years ago, I couldn’t have grown the market like I’ve done. I’ve doubled the market every quarter because I understand the power of lead and lag indicators. If I would have listened to the mindset years ago like, “I tried to grow but I wasn’t watching both of the right indicators.” It was a false start and I over hired. We got overstaffed and I had to let people go. We have to also fight through the mindset of number one, just because I made the mistake in the past doesn’t mean that it’s not the right time now. Let the data help validate what I’m feeling in my gut. Bring other people that are further ahead around to say, “What am I missing? Do I have full capacity? Are we maximized? Is everyone at a place where they’re being fully utilized?” You don’t want to hire people and then they’re not working to capacity. We’re going into profitability. Mindset is a big piece, but you’ve got to look at lead and lag indicators.You need coaching primarily for the accountability as well as the direction and clarity of what to do. Click To Tweet
You have to have defined roles. From my experience of having a big team and doing $100 million a year, you need to have a real definition of roles and make sure that people know it. Have backup roles too. Have people cross-training so that when someone is gone or leaves all of a sudden, we’ve got people that can pick up the pieces. We just need people. A lot of times when people bring on new people, they’re like, “I can’t do it anymore. I need someone.” They hire anybody and then they say they don’t work. What did you do in your business to create the volume that you brought on the team?
It goes back to the activity. I was a part of a coaching program and I was there for six years. It helped me dial in my discipline. I love that you’re coaching your program as well. You’re helping people grow. You need coaching primarily for accountability, as well as the direction and clarity of what to do. In the six years of being personally coached by this organization, I learned the daily disciplines. You’ll hear everybody say, “Make your agent calls. Do your Tuesday updates, your cold and hot leads. Do your searching actives and you do builders in business.” I fill it with technology. Things are adapting. I started with that as a baseline and I filled up the right activity every single week. I knew that I needed to have a certain number of talk to’s, face-to-face and break breads to lead to a certain number of leads.
I’m an active originating team. In our third month, we had over 120 active leads with super high conversion. We are doing it by finding out what I’m good at. I’m a great presenter. I don’t do a lot of robodialing or mass dialing. What I do is a lot of agent masterminds. I got up to eight agent masterminds. I present well. You’ve got to understand what your strength is. If you are closing less than ten, you need to be meeting them face-to-face. If you’re closing more than 10, 15 to 20 units a month, you have less margin to meet agents face-to-face. Find a way to utilize bandwidth. We utilize bandwidth by making it into smaller groups and go through an agent playbook.
I coach agents every single month on what to post on social media. “Here are some great ideas. Here are wacky themed days. Here are some of the prospecting ideas that will help you grow your business outside of the normal. Make your phone calls and circle prospects.” We’ve got some great coaching tools and techniques. It’s brand-new content we’re writing every month. It’s helped me find a vein of what I do well and where I can touch. I’m touching 120 agents a month that are bringing in solid business. That’s been a huge help for me. I don’t think you need to be paralyzed.
I love that you share that and I just want to give the opposite to that. When people are following this podcast, they’re taking copious notes. They’re saying, “That’s what I have to do. I have to do this, that, and the other because he said to do it.” In the next podcast that they listen to, someone else says to do something else, “Now, I have to do that.” The reason I know this is because I speak all over the country and see these panels of realtors. They go down the panel and they say, “What’s the best way to create a relationship with you?” They respond, “Only face-to-face,” “Only call me,” or “Never call me. Only text me.” Everyone’s taking notes for every single answer and it’s confusing. You do have to find where your high genius is. That is definitely key.
I had a database of over 3,000 but a total of 22 people that I worked with. That was $80 million a year with a team of 5 and 22 referral partners. That’s it. I didn’t make cold calls. I didn’t call everybody every week. I focused on my clientele. My acres of diamonds is what I call it because we have acres of diamonds underneath us in our database. That’s what I did to have my business go. I didn’t have masterminds. I taught classes. I taught this big online virtual math class. That was where I could take the pick of the litter by doing one to many instead of one-to-one and phone calls. I had a meeting with them to see if we were a good fit for one another. That’s key, one another. We don’t walk into meetings saying, “I hope that they love me.”
There will be three things that will happen. Either you’re going to like me or you’re not. I also get to choose whether I like you. That is something that we fail to do. I want to be able to express that to everyone to say, “Listen to the ideas that everybody has to present to you. Try them out but be sure that you’re using something that aligns with you, your core values, what you want in life, and your skills.” You don’t have to do everything but you’re finding what you can do. For me, it was great. In the last eight years of my practice, I only worked four days a week. I never worked on weekends. I still did $80 million.
Here’s what I would say to our audience that’s reading. What I learned over the years is there are some times in life you do things out of discipline. When you have the discipline of that done, you’ve got to go back. When I look at myself, I’m terrible with details. I’m great at vision and strategy. I’m even better at connecting people. That’s what I’m gifted at. That’s who I am. I found the discipline. Before, I wouldn’t make 40 calls on a Monday or I wouldn’t make 60 or whatever it is. I wouldn’t make Tuesday updates. I wouldn’t do Wednesday prospecting. Those gave me disciplines like working out. I had to tailor a discipline to my body type or to who I am. In the mortgage business, you have to do discipline work out of routine and building your muscles.
There comes a point in your career that you want to go from 4 to 8 and 8 to 15. Here’s the deal. There’s no reason that I’m closing more than some of you or there’s another guy closing more than another. The number one loan officer in the country was on a town hall. She has over 100 units a month. Why is she doing more than other people? It’s all in your mind. What happens is that she, I and you found our unique gift. What are you created and called to do? If you lead with value in what your unique gifting is, people will already be attracted to you.
In 2018, I was doing business with people I didn’t like. I found people with similar visions, values and beliefs that I know, like and trust. If I disconnect, I would go hang out with them. One of the strategies to grow is to do masterminds and group activities. The only way you’re going to crush it is taking those 10 or 15 people and going deep. I did one with some of my best friends. We’re leading our industry in the Houston market. I grabbed my top three agents, my top three partners and I said, “I need your voice in this community.” There’s a camaraderie there that we go to battle together. You have to throw a wide net to go deep. Once you go deep, you still have to keep a net coming where people are like, “You’re a thought leader but now I found my sweet spot.”When you go wide and deep with the people you want to, it becomes rich relationships. Click To Tweet
The way that I explained that is, “We go wide. We have to continually bring new people into our fold, but we need to go deep.” A lot of people will say to me, “I want to go deeper,” but they don’t understand how to go deeper. I always say, “Don’t work with people that complicate you. Work with people that compliment you.” If they’re complicating your team, whatever the case is, it’s time to let them go. Life is too short. You don’t want to work with those types of people.
When you go wide and deep with the people you want to, it becomes rich relationships. These are relationships that are for a lifetime. I haven’t been originating in the real world since 2018. I still get my realtors calling and saying, “Can I bend your ear? Can I pick your brain?” I still get them saying, “My daughter is getting married. Can you come to the wedding?” These are relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life, regardless of the fact that I’m doing business with them. You start leaning on each other in a whole different way.
There are tons of strategies that you can use. The whole key, and has been for the 5.5 years, is to listen to what we have to say. Take pieces that you can implement into your life to make it easy to create that discipline that you’re talking about. Discipline is not sexy. It is tough work. This is what the great Les Brown says. I say it on this podcast all the time. “If you’ll do what is hard, your life will be easy. If you do what’s easy, your life will be hard.” That’s exactly what it is. Many people want to skip a stone across a lake to try to be successful. There’s too much depth that is needed in order to be truly successful.
I know you’re doing a lot of virtual. You’re doing a lot of masterminding. You’re presenting some calm and patience in what’s going on in the marketplace. I would encourage everyone who’s reading to go and look at my feed for my interview with Jonathan Slain who is the author of Rock the Recession. Find out what he has to say about putting on an emergency brake to make sure you’re in the right position for it. I want to ask you a couple of other questions too. Our loan officers and realtors are both following this. What advice do you have for 2020 and moving forward? As you know, I’m calling it the Soaring ‘20s, not the Roaring ‘20s. This is the decade that your business will soar. Having been in the business for over 37 years, every time there’s been a recession, and I’ve been through many of them, my business has soared on the other side when I planted the right seeds. You’re planting seeds. What do you see for you and your team moving forward in the Soaring ‘20s?
I think you’re 100% right on. With the Coronavirus and everything that has happened, two things are happening. Leaders are emerging to the top. I would encourage your readers, you have a voice. Even the most introverted person leads north of 14,000 to 15,000 people in their lifetime. The numbers are staggering. What we see now, oftentimes a leader doesn’t feel qualified to lead. In times of chaos and uncertainty, there’s an opportunity to be a stabling voice in your community. You, as an originator or realtor, reading this can say, “What do I have to offer to my community? What kind of voice can I say even if it’s just informational?”
I’m going to answer your question twofold. New leaders are going to emerge because of technology and a willingness to look silly. We say it in the podcast all the time. I want to say it was Les Brown, but there’s somebody who said, “Anything we’re doing is worth doing.” That’s what my parents and our generation said. Anything we’re doing is worth doing badly. Just get started. Many of your followers are reading like I was. When I relaunched the podcast and the Facebook group in 2019, I was paralyzed by fear of perfection. What I began to do is say, “I believe we can give hope. I believe we can lead the way.”
This does not lead to a recession. It leads to a thriving real estate community. The pent-up demand is going to slingshot. I got off the phone once with my regional and some of my key leaders. I told the guys, “I think we can quadruple in the next twelve months because of the opportunity. We’re uniquely poised to not look at it as a recession or go into depression or look at the anxiety and the frustration.” I’ve seen loan officers posting things like they’re just hanging out at home. Why aren’t you getting on Zoom calls and communicating?
We had a little over 180 realtors on the call. I said, “Where are the other thousands and thousands who are doing the monkey thing?” I can’t see, I don’t want to say, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to do anything. That’s a bad mistake in this environment to hide and be there with everybody.
Great leaders leading lead health. Sometimes, we lead afraid. You haven’t figured it out. I don’t have it all figured out. This is what I told my guys, “We’re going to lead and we’re going to make mistakes. We will lead with hope and encouragement and be the ones who are saying there’s an opportunity that we’re going to come out of this thing so much further ahead.” Fight fear with facts. Look at the statistical data. Dr. Ted Jones, Chief Economist for Stewart Title, posted some slides on his blog and I was showing it in the podcast. What people don’t realize is they’re saying the fear of a backstep or recession, but housing actually soared after 9/11, SARS and H1N1. People don’t know. When H1N1 came to the US, it affected over twenty million people. The deaths were staggering. The difference is that it wasn’t so prolific in the news. It wasn’t a lockdown shut down.
That’s why it’s going to happen again. That’s why if you’re ever going to get your ducks in a row, you need to be doing it now so that you can shine a light on your expertise coming out of this and emerging. Those that aren’t will be gone. We’ve seen it over and again. There will be a filtering out of loan officers and realtors. Those of you that are reading, I don’t want you to be that part. I never wanted you to be that. That’s why I created this podcast. From the beginning, I don’t want you to be the person that leaves and says, “I’m done. I can’t do it.” You have all the tools. It’s just putting them in place.
I call that execution laziness. What’s going on now that you’re not executing? Where’s the issue? This is why coaching, mentorship and leadership are so powerful for you. You’re saying, “Get me out of my thing here. Get me out of my own head. Get me out of my funk so that I can continue to grow.” It’s been a blast having you on. I want to say thank you for sharing so much great wisdom with us. What quote are you now looking at that is keeping you inspired in your business and your life?
It’s what I continue to tell my people. Boats sink only when what’s on the outside gets on the inside. I’m working 12, 15, 16-hour days. I’m leaving before the kids are up and I’m getting home almost at the time for them to get to bed. I’ve got an office a mile away. I’ve got an 8, 5 and a 2-year-old. I felt fatigued. Here’s the lie that you’ll hear, “How can I lead the LOL community well? How can I be an industry thought leader? How can I lead my market and my high producing team? I don’t know that I can do this.” When I heard that quote, it was such an encouragement to me because we’re designed to soar and lead. I can do this. If we will stay connected with people like you, the communities that we’re building, and the thought leaders, we can rise above and truly lead an opportunity for people. I’ve been doing this for years.
We dreamed of times like this. We had that opportunity. Don’t be paralyzed in fear. Everything you need God has placed on the inside of you. You have to recognize that there’s nothing incomplete. You have to allow not what’s on the outside to get inside. If you do that, together, we’re going to change this industry and we’re going to touch lives. I was on the phone with a client who had a refinance loan that would save him $3,500 a month because we are restructuring his debt, which is a game-changer. We have an opportunity to lead clients or industry, friends and family. I am so thankful for you, Jen, for being here. Thank you for being part of our community.
I appreciate it. I’m so excited to continue to move forward with you. We’re going to have a lot of fun this year. Sky’s the limit. I’m looking forward to having a rich relationship with you long-term. That’s what we wanted. Everybody, I want to say thank you again for following us. If this is your first time, welcome to our community. Hopefully, you had a blast on this podcast and you say, “I want more of it.” Get more of it. Be sure to subscribe. Make sure you’re subscribing to it. Please pay this forward. Share it with other people so that they can follow, especially your realtor partners. You guys can learn together and sit down and say, “How can we apply this to our businesses and help each other’s businesses grow?” More importantly, please head on over to Facebook and make sure you join our community of Mortgage Lending Mastery. We’d love to have you in the community because we are doing some behind the scenes after the show. You’ll get more information from us as time goes on. I want to thank you so much for joining us. We will catch you next time.
- Loan Officer Leadership – podcast on iTunes
- Facebook group – Loan Officer Leadership
- Movement Mortgage
- Jonathan Slain – episode 239
- Rock the Recession
- Mortgage Lending Mastery – Facebook
About Steve Kyle
Steve Kyles is a veteran Houston Mortgage Professional. After beginning his career as a residential real estate investor, Kyles realized the hardest part of most transactions was securing financing in a way that honored the people involved in the transaction. He became a licensed loan officer 15 years ago and has built a dynamic team that is highly committed to helping every client and business partner succeed.
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