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Cowboys and Indians, Football and Mortgages

FEB 20, 2013 3:04pm ET
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WE’RE HEARING that visiting Dallas for the MBA servicing conference is particularly hard for me. Not because servicing has been such an embattled part of our industry for the last four years and not because the weather is different than other parts of the country or the hats are so much bigger. No, I’m going to have a hard time in Dallas because I am a Washington Redskins fan.

And I’m not one of those “come lately” fans who loves RG3 and bought his shirt because he is so cool. I’m a lifelong, grew-up-in-the-DC-area-type fan. As they say in Texas, “I’m born and bred to it.” Anyone who watches our federal government knows that folks in Washington can’t agree on anything except their love for the Redskins. Of course, that love comes bundled with a healthy dislike for the Dallas Cowboys.

But as a consultant, I like to make my arguments fact based (as often as reasonably possible), so, as I land in enemy territory this week, I find myself thinking of the concrete reasons I don’t like the Cowboys and how that is related to the mortgage business.

First off, the owner is just awful. Jerry Jones is like a meddlesome old fool who has not changed with the times, just like some old time salesman or mortgage originator who came up through the ranks and has never learned any tools of the trade other than the art of the deal. That is how Jerry manages his team and that is a trait common to any bad mortgage executive.

Success comes from creating teams with strong leadership, surrounding yourself with people who challenge your assumptions and then letting these leaders have the authority to make decisions and be successful. Jerry actually got rid of a coach after he won the Super Bowl! Who gets rid of successful leaders like that?

Of course, the Redskins are also run by a maniacal owner, but at least he made his money in a new-fangled way by being excellent at direct marketing and advertising. I might actually learn something from Dan Snyder, while the only thing I can get from Jerry Jones is nausea.

Second issue with the Cowboys is that their brand does not match their execution. They call themselves America’s team but have only won one playoff game since the mid-90s. That is really no different than a mortgage company having a branch on every corner but not being able to close a loan in less than 90 days. The brand should be a promise of execution, not just a way to sell T-shirts.

Third issue with the Cowboys is the stadium—it’s great looking, it has a huge screen and it has that original way that the players enter the stadium through a tunnel that looks like they are in a Habitrail. But it’s so big, like everything in Texas, that you get lost wandering around the place. I think the standing room only section is not a choice, but rather a symptom of folks getting lost trying to find their seats. The stadium is also a suspect investment in a challenged market. I know that team revenue is going up up up, much like mortgage volume when rates are low. But this is juiced by high television revenue, not high attendance at stadiums. So, how do the Cowboys expect to fill all those seats when times get tough? It’s much like companies in the industry today that are investing in huge new facilities or expensive new systems when they have not invested enough in core functions like process design, marketing or sales management.

So, here is my final jab at Mr. Jones and the Cowboys, and my final commentary about the industry (for this post). What exactly does Jerry do for the consumer? After all, that is the most important question for any business—it allows you to make the customer central to everything you do. Well, fans of the Cowboys get very high ticket prices and very poor execution. They get pretty-boy leaders with poor performance under fire. I think mortgage bankers need to try desperately to avoid being like the Cowboys, and be more like the successful teams that make execution on the field and experience for the customers core to their strategy—and very existence. Any lender who can figure this out will have a winning team.

Garth Graham is a partner with Stratmor Group, and has over 25 years of mortgage experience, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, including management of two of the most successful mortgage e-commerce platforms. He was formerly with Chase Manhattan Mortgage and ABN Amro, where he was a senior executive during the sale of its mortgage group to Citigroup.

Comments (2)
Great article Garth, HTTR! As a 2nd generation Washingtonian, I went to my 1st game in 1965 (Charley Taylor and Chris Hanburger were childhood favorites) and I have been going ever since, including 3 Super Bowls. Now I have three daughters (ages 23, 19, 16) we really had a blast this past-RG III renaissance season. Remind your Cowboy hosts who dominated them this past season and there is more to come-it should entitle you to some free meals this week. Enjoy the conference, wear your Burgundy and Gold proudly and Hail, Victory!
Posted by | Thursday, February 21 2013 at 9:16PM ET
Great article Garth, HTTR! As a 2nd generation Washingtonian, I went to my 1st game in 1965 (Charley Taylor and Chris Hanburger were childhood favorites) and I have been going ever since, including 3 Super Bowls. Now I have three daughters (ages 23, 19, 16) we really had a blast this past-RG III renaissance season. Remind your Cowboy hosts who dominated them this past season and there is more to come-it should entitle you to some free meals this week. Enjoy the conference, wear your Burgundy and Gold proudly and Hail, Victory!
Posted by | Thursday, February 21 2013 at 9:16PM ET
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