We all know someone (or maybe we are that “someone”) who volunteers for every “opportunity.” Maybe it’s to organize an event for church or community organization or provide all the snacks for the kids’ team events. Or perhaps this person serves endlessly on the HOA or community board when nobody else steps up to fill a vacancy. While it’s quite honorable to see this—especially at a time when more and more people are skilled at taking one step back when a call for volunteers goes up—I usually see these folks at some point abruptly step waaaaay back and burnout after a while.
This applies to work, too, although the principle goes beyond volunteering here. While WFH might be growing more and more acceptable in our economy, which is a good thing in many ways, not every decision-maker or manager has boundaries, or accepts them. Being online at all hours can sometimes mean being expected to be available at all hours. And while saying “no” can be a lot harder, in some ways, when it comes to pushing back on a burnout culture, it may also be more necessary, now more than ever.
Ours is a service-based business, whether one is charged with originating mortgages or providing technologies designed to improve that process. And while I often challenge our peers and friends to accelerate the pace of innovation, whether it involve technology or social perspectives, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what can happen when we go a little too far in our quest to accommodate new ideas and requests, both in our business planning as well as our personal lives.
This principle can be further extended into customer service and even business strategy. Sometimes, a business is better off saying “no.”
I’m extremely proud of how quickly LodeStar has grown in the past few years. But that’s come with a few pain points and mistakes—which I like to think of more as opportunities to learn. One of our biggest mistakes in our early days was the inability to say “no” to a client request.
Now, there can be a huge difference between being, say, open minded and/or accessible to clients, which is a key ingredient to delivering great service, and being bound by every last request or recommendation. And, especially for a smaller business trying to grow, it can be very difficult to turn down some client requests.
And yet, there’s such a thing as being accommodating to a fault. Especially when the requests being accommodated take the provider off of its core specialty or vision. Integrations with other technologies that many of our clients also use, for example, tend to be no-brainers. But where those integrations prove to be unusually challenging to bring to reality, or where the integrations involve solutions that most of our clients don’t and likely won’t use? Now we’re talking about whether we’re expending our own resources for optimum use.
Saying “yes” to every last request doesn’t just hold the potential to strain resources. It also threatens to take a brand off of its mission, possibly even diluting what it does best. In our early days, we dabbled with a lot of different variations on our core product—the closing fee calculator. Some made sense. Some were a little bit of a stretch. And none of them really advanced our growth—or even made the lives of our existing customers that much easier.
In fact, trying to be all things to all people is a surefire success to failed branding. Radio Shack, in its quest to do just that, ran into some overwhelming challenges that ended up forcing it to rethink its very existence.
We’ve learned to embrace a single-minded focus: becoming the industry’s premier closing fee expert. In so doing, we’ve found sustainable growth by building on the very thing that brought us early success. It’s a lesson all new businesses should learn quickly if they want to find long lasting relevance in our industry.
On a final, sad note, the mortgage industry lost one of its leading pioneers and thought leaders, Regina Lowrie, CMB, very early on in this new year. Regina will be remembered not just for helping to smash barriers in the DEI world, but for her passion for finding new ways to deploy technology and battle mortgage fraud. Our deepest condolences go out to Regina’s family and teammates.
We at LodeStar are grateful to all of our clients, friends and colleagues who take the time to view Deeper Thoughts. Please consider having a look as well at some of our other great content, including our podcast, “LodeStar’s Lending Leaders,” and “A Tale of Two Mortgages: an original webcomic for the mortgage industry, presented by LodeStar.”
As always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated!