Leaders have many areas of focus. Making your team your biggest asset comes when you develop them and keep them aligned to the company mission. Discover how making your team a powerful machine for growth allows the company to overcome its challenges. Today’s guest is Jacob Deegan, President at Simplify Home Loans. Inc Magazine ranked his company #192 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Simplify Home Loans LLC is made up of a team of professionals who are dedicated to one vision: making the home loan process easy and convenient for everyone who is taking such an essential step in their lives. Jacob shares how making your team your greatest asset is a long-term strategy that pays off. He gives you strategies in making your team create high-performance results. Discover how making your team the companies biggest tool for growth.
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Jacob Deegan: The Transcript
About: Jacob has been involved in the mortgage business since 2001 when he was a senior in high school dividing his time between his education and working for a mortgage company. Within his first few months on the job, he set the company record for most loans closed in a month. By age 20, he was managing the highest producing loan officer team of the year. Over the next 16 years, he continued to gain experience, managing as many as 30 personnel simultaneously. He was ranked as the #1 highest producing loan officer of VA loans for 5 years straight (2010-2014) by Scotsman Guide, the mortgage industry’s main publication.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Jacob Deegan: [00:00:00] Essentially for every 10 team members, whether they’re in sales, production, fulfillment, administration, marketing, whatever their role is, you know, we’ve tried to do a good job of for every 10 team members putting together a, a manager, a team leads. Coach a mentor, whatever you want to describe a, we call them team leads here for every 10. We have a team lead to manage coach, mentor their team, and we find that that’s a really good number that most people can handle. And that’s really helped as long as we follow that kind of, as long as we follow that, as we grow and continue to make sure that we’re cultivating that leadership or our team members, we found that we can grow at a very healthy and sustainable way.
Intro: Welcome Growth Think Tank this is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today we look at your [00:01:00] people. We want to make sure that you are prepared to lead the best team possible. Create predictable growth, serve your clients and make the impact that is necessary in your world. Now, how do you do that? Well, we know that as leaders, we have to leverage other people we have to con you know, rely on. As we grow the company, we can’t do it all ourselves. So today we look at making your people your greatest asset. Now, when you think about your people, hopefully you know that they are your greatest asset. I don’t have to convince you of that, but there’s some details around how do you actually do that? How do you do this on a to day basis? As the leader of a fast growth company, our guest today is the founder of Simplify Home Loans. He is Jake Deegan. Jake talks about the real core of what does it take to make your people your greatest asset? We talk about how he invests in training. What happened when he wasn’t training people and the impact that’s made across the organization. Also look at his own leveling up process as a leader and all of that inside today’s episode.
We looked through all of the things that you typically would expect and get some detail to help you execute at a [00:02:00] higher level, to be the leader that your team deserves. Now, one of the things I want to pause here for a moment is if you really want to level up as a leader, if you want to be extraordinary, if you want to drive predictable growth in a new way, then you want to make sure that you have a coach in your corner. If you already have a coach, then I’d love to hear about the success. Maybe we can bring you on the show to talk about your success with your coach, but when you don’t have a coach, my question is why don’t you, why don’t you have someone that can help you reflect back and reframe where necessary, see the blind spots and really take your business to the next level, your leadership, to the next level. Your team deserves the best leader that you could be. And I can help you do that. All you have to do is go to GeneHammett.com schedule your free call with me to be the best leader you can be. We’ve got to look really underneath the cover into the shadows of who you are. I know that may be scary, but what does it take for you to be a great leader? What you’ve got to identify your blind spots, and you’ve got to address them. You got to do it now, not down the road, not when you finish these projects because these things are getting in the way of who you are [00:03:00] today. All that being said, do you want to schedule that call with me? Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule it right now.
Now here’s the interview, with Jake. Jake, how are you?
Jacob Deegan: I’m doing very well. Gene, how about yourself?
Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you on Growth Think Tank.
Jacob Deegan: Happy to be here.
Gene Hammett: Well, we’re going to talk about a lot of things today, as it relates to leadership and your people, , you know, the big topic today is your people, your greatest assets, but I’d love for you to tell us about the business. So tell us about Simplify Home Loans.
Jacob Deegan: Simplify Home Loans as a, a multi-state, , license mortgage broker. We, , we distribute the home loan programs, the department of veterans affairs, the federal housing administration, as well as Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac to the American public. And, being that we are a mortgage broker. Our mission is to search and find our clients the very best the loan terms possible far as interest rates, lowest monthly payments, lowest amount of closing costs among hundreds of different lenders that we work with. And essentially our, you know, our mission statement is to help our clients get into the very best financial position possible while providing [00:04:00] them an exceptional and simple mortgage process.
Gene Hammett: Love it. Been pretty busy lately, I guess, with all this stuff going on a little bit of shortage of houses, just houses all across the country. But, sir, you’re still busy. ,
Jacob Deegan: yes, definitely. , you know, a lot of the business that we’ve been doing over the last 18 months honestly, has been a lot of refinance, you know, helping people go from a one home loan situation to another, helping them leverage their equity for either cash out or debt consolidation, helping them lower their monthly payments. And that’s one of the great things about our market for the last while is equity has been at all time highs and interest rates have also been at all time lows. So it’s kind of created a perfect storm, kind of an explosion of business for us.
Gene Hammett: Love all of this. Well, Jake, I’m excited to talk to you about the team behind you because you couldn’t do this alone. Every fast-growth company knows that employees are an essential part of this. And today’s theme is about making your team your greatest asset. What does that mean to you as a leader of this company?
Jacob Deegan: So, yeah, a lot of [00:05:00] companies, , you know, or, you know, I think it’s pretty stereotypical out there that the average, , the average customer would probably say, you know, a company’s greatest asset or even a team member themselves, the greatest asset is the company’s clients. And, you know, one of the things we really try to live by is our team members. Are our greatest asset. And essentially you do a good job from a company standpoint, administration management standpoint of taking care of your team members. And they will in turn, take care of the clients. So essentially you’re getting a two for one, you know, instead of focusing just on the clients and you might be neglecting your team members a little bit. If you, if you take care of your team members, they will take care of the clients. They will be happier. They’re going to be more productive. They’re going to enjoy their workplace, you know, be happy to come to work. Yeah. Get along better with their peers of who they, you know, management, , leadership, et cetera. And so, yeah, we, we genuinely live by that and take many, many steps on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis to [00:06:00] make sure our, , our team members know that they’re appreciated that we, you know, that, , that they are our greatest asset
Gene Hammett: I’ve got in my record, you have around 130 employees. Maybe it’s growing now, is that about right?
Jacob Deegan: yep. 132.
Gene Hammett: Perfect. And it gets a little bit more complex to lead people as the company grows. I wish it got easier, but when you put people and you’ve got to manage, , you know, the tensions and personalities and disagreements and conflict and all of that stuff, , how have you found that as you’ve grown the company?
Jacob Deegan: , yeah, it’s definitely grown in phases. You know, we’ve had different phases of, , you know, really. Explosive growth and you know, much slower growth, but I think each phase is different. And yet, , the, the challenges that you face when you, , you know, when you grow and you add on a bunch of team members, you know, you think, oh, we’re going to make a, , you know, just a, you know, it’s a simple formula, right? you know, you have. , you have these people and, and if you have the different leadership and whatnot involved, then you’re going to be fine. Right? Well, you know, that’s not really the case, basically the bigger you grow, the [00:07:00] more of the infrastructure that you have to think about, the more leadership that you need to make sure are properly trained and in the right places, you know, one, , you know, one thing that we did. You know, that I’ve observed from other companies in our industry that have done really well is essentially for every 10 team members, whether they’re in sales, production, fulfillment, administration, marketing, whatever their role is, you know, we’ve tried to do a good job of for every 10 team members putting together a, , a manager, a team lead a coach, a mentor, whatever. But we call them team leads here for every 10. We have a team lead to manage coach, mentor their team, and we find that that’s a really good number that most people can handle. And that’s really helped as long as we follow that kind of, , as long as they follow that as we grow and continue to make sure that we’re cultivating that leadership for our team members, , we found that we can grow in a very healthy and sustainable way.
Gene Hammett: So you’re training those people. I assume you mentioned training. What does the training look [00:08:00] like for a team? That’s putting people first.
Jacob Deegan: So we, we try to invest a lot into our training. , you know, I, I, some time ago I, I have the opportunity to visit one of the leaders in our space, , go out and meet with, , you know, , essentially the owner of the company and go visit their office. They had 5,000 team members at the time, and now they have 9,000 and so a really good company to kind of emulate and, you know, see all the good ideas. And they basically run their training, almost like a university. , they have dedicated wings of their, you know, of their company to, to training and essentially. Always constantly ensuring that your team members are, are leveling up. Essentially. You want to make sure that they are properly prepared for all of the challenges, everything that they’re going to face, all of the obstacles, everything that they need to know to properly do their job and essentially focus on continuing education, you know, , back to the, our team is our greatest asset and our team members.
It’s one of the things that people want is they don’t want stuff. They don’t want to [00:09:00] feel stagnant. They always want to be leveling up and learning new things and feeling like they’re growing their career and that there is a purpose. And so we, we actually built out little classrooms within our office, you know, that can, you know, , handle about 20 people at a time. So, , you know, we have two of them right now and that’s our goal. We’re constantly trying to invite and train our team members on different subjects. , you know, to help them increase their knowledge base, and that makes them better team members overall that makes them far more confident, helps them serve the clients better. Everyone seems to enjoy it.
Commentary: Now jake just talked about always leveling up. You want to make sure your employees are getting what they need so that they have more skills, more confidence, more courage, everything they need to perform at their highest level. Your job is to create that environment, give them the training that they need to create this space of psychological safety. There’s a lot that goes into leadership. I know. But you want to make sure that they’re always leveling up. I talked to too many companies that wish they would have started sooner on this leveling up process, investing in their people. And that is [00:10:00] what it reminds you of today. You want to not regret this. You want to start now because it will pay off sooner versus later. Back to Jake.
Gene Hammett: Now I know different size companies probably can’t do this. And I have no idea if you actually do this yet, but are you having in-house trainers a mixture of in-house and, and, , , outside trainers. How do you look at training?
Jacob Deegan: We do both actually. So, , we actually have our own mentor slash training team and they, of course they have their own team lead constantly are coming up and, , with the content that is relevant to what we want. Different, you know, in our different departments to know, and they’re invited into those trainings. So yes, we do a lot of live in person in house training, but we’ve done a few bouts of outsourcing. , one of the few things that we’ve done as far as outsourcing for training is actually management itself. , we’ll actually bring in outside training companies to train our management and give them tips. skills role-playing situations, , just to help them be better [00:11:00] leaders and better manager.
Gene Hammett: When you think about as much as you put into your, , team, what are you focused on yourself as a, as growing yourself as a leader?
Jacob Deegan: That you are. , there’s, there’s never, you never really master it. You never, you’re always, you always have to remain hungry, even as the CEO, founder, et cetera, you may have a really good knowledge base of your, of your company and, you know, the different product or service in which you can pay, but you gotta stay hungry. You gotta stay. Same thing, just like team members themselves. You know, they want to feel like they’re leveling up. You know, with technology and everything that’s changing within our, you know, within just business in general, you need to be investing time every single week and month, whether that’s attending conferences, whether that’s attending webinars, whether that’s, you know, just, having conversations with mentors, coaches, et cetera, you always have to be expanding your knowledge base. So, you know, cause there’s competition out there, right? We’re, we’re all business owners here. And, you know, [00:12:00] if, if we don’t do that, our competition surely is, and in order to stay in touch with not only our clients and our team members, but just the industry as a whole, it’s absolutely imperative that we invest in that on a consistent basis. So that we’re, you know, we’re remaining at the top of our game.
Commentary: Hold on. Jake just said it again. Always leveling up this time. It’s about himself as a leader. Are you leveling up as a leader now I’m not talking about reading another book and kind of putting some knowledge in your head. I’m talking about truly leveling the understanding who you are. What’s holding you back. What’s getting in the way. What’s what emotions are you not dealing with? What are the scars that you have to deal with so that you can be the best leader possible? What are your blind spot? All of these things are necessary for you to level up to that next level. The only way I know to do that is through coaching. You see, I didn’t become a coach because I thought it was a good way to make money became a coach because my coach 20 years ago made a huge impact on me. And it made such a profound impact on the business that I, I can honestly say that you can’t even [00:13:00] calculate the ROI. And I say that because I paid no, just a handful of dollars for millions in return and think about that for a second millions in return. My business grew to over 40 million over nine-year period. And that really is an incredible way for you to understand the impact this has. When I first got a coach, I was at a million and I had to deal with a lot of things that I had never done before. That’s the reason I became a coach. I was always leveling up and I’m going to ask you to do the same. You don’t have to hire me as your coach. You don’t have to come to me. If you think you’ve got a better fit in your own stable. But if you want someone that understands growth and understands how to lead companies that are growing fast and how to navigate the things that you’re probably going through, I’ve done it for the last 10 years. I’ve been doing this since I left my. Which my story is out there all over the place about why I left the business, but I want to make a difference in the world. My mission is to change the world, do extraordinary leadership. And if you have interesting coaching, I’d love to hear from you. Now back to Jake,
Gene Hammett: Jake, I want to turn the [00:14:00] tables a little bit on this. We’ve been talking about different aspects of training and the whole topic here is making your team your greatest assets. , you mentioned, you know, one of the theories out there, isn’t a lot of this comes from Richard Branson, but other people have talked about this, take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers. Are you seeing that reality is when it, when you make all this investment, you make all this time into the culture and developing your people. Are the customers getting better taken care of?
Jacob Deegan: Absolutely. There’s no question. There was a time, early part of our career, you know, career the, the company’s life span that, you know, training really wasn’t a big priority. It was more, Hey, we need someone to fulfill this job sitting next to this person that also kinda knows how to do this job and, you know, pick up some things from them. And then we’re going to set you to work, have a very trial by fire basis. Unfortunately, you can’t serve the client very well or the customer, under that, because you’re just not, well-prepared the bar, the, you know, in our, in our case, they’re borrowers, home loan borrowers, but the clients, the customers, they’re going to sense that lack of [00:15:00] competence, they’re going to sense that lack of, experience. And when you do that, you know, just like when we’re buying a product or service, we’re not going to feel real good about the company or the person we’re dealing with, if we can sense that they’re not, you know, they’re not comfortable quite frankly, in what they’re doing. And so as we’ve invested a lot more into training and making sure that our team members are very comfortable, very competent, you know, we have, we have them go through, you know, multiple weeks of training and, and then we do testing and then we do live environments. And so we’ve really tried to level up. The front and it’s definitely shown in the sense that, you know, we, we have nearly 2000, , Google reviews, most of them five stars, and that number is exploded in the last, in the last 12 months. And a big part of that is dedicated to training and improving the client experience as a part of that training.
Gene Hammett: I love that you’re thinking about the client. You know, this is a big purchase. Whenever someone is buying a house, refinancing is a little bit easier, I think because there’s not that emotional attachment. I remember the first house I [00:16:00] bought. It was very stressful, but you’re probably working with, with people that are in different levels of, of stress and pressures that go through this process. And it helps to have that level of training and understanding on the front lines of your team. , and that’s, that’s what you’ve done here with, with this focus on training. Is there anything else that we would see inside your organization besides training. It makes you put your people is the greatest asset.
Jacob Deegan: Yeah. So another interesting or unique part of, , you know, simplify a home loans, you know, the whole loan process. And I understand every industry is very different, but, you know, in the home loan process, you know, you’ve got. You’ve got a list of steps that let’s just say it’s a hundred different steps long that have to be conducted. And a lot of mortgage companies run their business in the sense that they, they don’t have that, that process very well delegated, you know, one person is responsible for, in some cases, all 100 steps or you’ll have one person that’s responsible for the first 50 and then have to, you know, another person is responsible for the other 50, but they’re still [00:17:00] bouncing around to a lot of different, The back of the home loan process. And so one of the things that we’ve really tried to do and focus on here at simplify home loans is breaking down that process into its individual pieces and hiring our team members and our different departments to be like, you know, , the great Henry Ford created the assembly line and, , stick these team members into places where they only have to focus on this 3 4, 5 different aspects of the process. And we find that through that repetition, through that repetition, because rather than them having to know all 100 steps or 50 steps, they only need to know those three, four or five steps and they become masters of those 3, 4, 5 steps that increases their confidence level.
It also enhances the speed in which they learn how to do their particular position within the organization. , because they’re doing the same thing over and over and over again. , very, very rapidly the frequency in which they’re doing that particular task comes at them fast [00:18:00] and often. And you know, like I said earlier, I don’t think anyone can ever truly master something, but they get very quick at being able to, , take on that role and they’re able to provide a very client experience because the client feels that, oh, wow. This is someone who really knows what they’re doing at this aspect of the process.
Gene Hammett: This reminds me of some of the work I do when I do executive coaching. I break it down into simple, easy to understand pieces, but there’s three main pieces to all predictable growth. The first one’s the theme, which we’ve been talking about here is the greatest asset. The second was the systems, which is kind of what you’re just going to. And the third one is you as the leader. , and then we may have many leaders that really play that role, but, the visionary that you have stepped into Jake, because you are the founder of this company, has to keep it all running together. I want to ask you in this fast growth, we typically have to run into things that challenge us, maybe there’s mistakes that you’ve made. Is there one that you were willing to share with us so that we could learn from your journey? ,
Jacob Deegan: yeah. I mean, it’s really the, you know, the, the reality of adapting, you [00:19:00] know, in the home loan business. Especially, we are very, very dictated upon the market in which we’re in, you know, we got home equity, we got the housing market. We also have the stock market and the mortgage backed securities market, which is where, you know, essentially mortgage interest rates come from. These things are changing on a daily, daily basis. And. You know, the one big thing that I’ve learned within this business, , you know, call it an obstacle, a challenge that I’ve had to overcome and, you know, it’s made us a better organization as a result of it is learning the power to adapt. There’s, you know, there’s, there’s one big guarantee in life. You know, some would say death and taxes, mine would be that life is going to change. You are going to be thrown curve balls and, , you, you can’t be on autopilot. You can’t get comfortable. You know, like I mentioned earlier, you always gotta be hungry for, you know, learning about new technologies and learning about advancements. And leveling up and, you know, a big obstacle within our businesses is learning to adapt to all of these market changes. Things come fast and furious at never getting too stuck or attached to [00:20:00] an outcome or the way things should be and learning to, you know, learning to realize a situation. Okay, this is a change. To be, you know, that needs to be had, we need to transition from this loan type to offering this specific loan type, because this one has, you know, is very interest rate sensitive while this one is not.
And, you know, being able to make that transition and being able to facilitate and be a good visionary and leader and, and presenting it in an optimistic way to your team. So that. They feel comfortable and confident in you as a leader in the organization that no, I’ve, you know, it’s okay. We’re going to be hit with changes, but I’ve got a plan for us and here’s exactly what we’re going to do to still be successful. And, and, , you know, in flourish through the changes that are thrown on us,
Gene Hammett: Jake, I want to wrap this up with a little bit of discussion about values. I find that fast growth companies that put people first have a high degree of attention to the values of the company. Would I be correct in saying that you guys do that? And if so, how would we see that playing out on a day-to-day basis?
Jacob Deegan: Yeah, [00:21:00] definitely. You know, like I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t agree more, you know, the values, you know, everyone has to wake up, you know, whether this is personally or professionally, we all have to wake up on a daily basis and feel like we have a real sense of purpose. Right. We have. Feel like, you know, are we serving the community? You know, whether that’s our, you know, our audience, our clientele, our demographic, whatever that may be, are we truly serving them? And, you know, within our company, it’s truly about, we’re trying to make their, after better than their, before, whatever their financial situation is, we want to make it better. And that is the purpose. Still in all of our team members, if that is why we come to work every day is to deliver that to our customers, deliver that to our clients. It’s written up, you know, on, on mission statements all over our office, including our core values that we have. And they all surround around, you know, we are here to be stewards. We’re here to be essentially fiduciaries and agents. Of our clients. We are here to, you know, how would we want, you know, how would we want [00:22:00] someone to treat us and to put us into a better financial situation? And, you know, we really try to convey that to all of our team members. So we’re all aligned in the same mission, the same goal, you know, throughout the entire organization.
Gene Hammett: Jake, I want to appreciate you for being here on the show, sharing that wisdom, sharing all the stuff that you’ve learned that create a place that make people a real asset.
Jacob Deegan: Oh, I appreciate the time, Gene. Thank you so much for having me.
Gene Hammett: Take a moment to just reflect on what Jake has just been sharing with us. You know, leadership is going to be something that can be the best thing in the world, or it can be a very stressful thing. I think Jake’s been learning the ways of leadership to really build a team around him that he cares about, that they care about each other and they care about the customers. They care about the work that they’re doing. And that mission statement that he keeps bringing up is a really central point of this. But making people, your greatest asset is not just about paying them well, in fact, it’s not even really about money at all. It’s about all the other little things that you do, the small things that [00:23:00] create space. , now you are investing in training for the right people and you definitely want to train your employees. Hopefully you got that message loud and clear today, but if you are a leader that, that isn’t adapting quick enough inside your business.
Like Jake talked about, I’m going to make sure that you know, that you can come to someone to talk about it. I find a lot of leaders, so like it’s lonely. They can’t go to their board. They can’t go to their, their, , teams. They don’t have anyone to talk to about certain things. I’d love to be that voice of reason or sounding board for you and help you with some of the skills I’ve spent 10 years as an executive coach. If you feel like you could use a little bit of conversation, clarity around something in the business to move forward. And make sure you reach out to me, just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. I’d love to help you be the leader that your team deserves. When you think about growth and you think about leadership think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. See you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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