It's an annual event I know we all look forward to. Two sides face each other on a familiar playing field, each willing to do whatever is necessary to secure the win. From among them can rise only one MVP, one leader who will either rally his team on to victory or see them crushed in defeat.
No, I'm not talking about the big football game that must not be named without paying a royalty fee to the NFL. I'm talking about the president's annual State of the Union address.
I'm sure you were all watching last night as the Republicans lined up across the aisle from the Democrats to hear (I'm taking some poetic license here, of course) the words of their Commander in Chief. If there is one thing no one can take away from President Obama, it's that he is a very good orator. I hope you were listening because there were some lessons we can take away for our own industry in his speech last night.
Here's how he started his speech:
"We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many."
From his first words, the president made it clear that his administration inherited this mess and that terrorism was the match that touched off the flames. We could use this same style:
We are now seven years into the Dodd-Frank era. Seven years that dawned with a financial crash that rivaled the Great Depression; that unfolded as hundreds of banks dissolved; that saw a vicious foreclosure crisis spread across our nation, costing millions of Americans their homes. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
See, we can do the same thing, but it's a trap. While we could spend time shifting blame around or complaining about legislative overreach and unintended consequences, ultimately, in the business world, we have to react, regroup and move forward. I'm not trying to take anything away from the president. Politics is the game he was hired to play. But our game is different.
So, how does your State of the Union speech start? Will you talk about the hard times you're in and make sure your LOs know that it wasn't you who caused legislators to cobble together 2,500 pages of financial reform legislation? Here's a hint: nobody cares. People want new homes and they need financing. Lenders need good loan officers who know how to serve customers. Regulators want...well, we don't have space in this column for that, but they have wants, too.
When writing your own State of the Union presentation, skip to the part where you lay out the vision for what your company will be in the future. How will you operate? What will be your corporate mission? What are the big goals you will expect your team to achieve in 2015? Will your company continue to react to the many changes that continue to impact our businesses or will you find a way to get ahead of that wave and build a stronger business?
Last night, the president said, "The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong." Given some of the bank earning calls we've heard over the past week or two, it appears that we find ourselves in a similar position. It's not over, but it's getting better. How good it gets will be up to us.
Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the lofty goals and visions that mortgage companies are now in a position to achieve in 2015. I'll tell you how firms can craft plans to achieve these ends and then successfully implement them.
In every case, you'll find that the CEO must set the vision for the organization, but to achieve it the services of a core group of executives will be required. It is this group that will figure out the critical success factors for each lofty goal and then communicate them clearly throughout the organization. This is the pathway to success.
You'll see that this gives our industry a great advantage over political entities. While we may inherit our problems and our initial teams, we can make changes far more easily than the president can. Recruitment, training, compensation management and motivation are tools we have at our disposal — all benefits I'm sure president Obama is wishing he had available to him about now. And best of all, the typical mortgage banker does not need to get the votes of congress to implement change.
Garth Graham is a partner with Stratmor Group and has over 25 years of mortgage experience.