Q1: Tell us what a normal day looks like for you in your position.
As an owner and CEO of a mortgage company with approximately 250 employees, each day has a lot of activity on various fronts. My role is to provide the vision, direction and resources necessary to guide the company to success. Over the years, I have acquired the best-in-class executive team. We are involved in setting goals and objectives, and prioritizing the most critical tasks for our company. The CEO sets the tone for the company in terms of ethics, core values and accountability. My philosophy is to empower people, allow them to take control and make decisions within their areas of expertise.
By giving our employees the resources and autonomy they need to make decisions, Hallmark is positioned to be more nimble and responsive to opportunities as they arise. Our company’s characteristics are components of our culture and core values. At Hallmark culture is everything. Communication is also a big part of each day. My employees want to hear from me to provide updates to the regulatory changes, market conditions and how all of it will impact Hallmark. I lead all-staff meetings to discuss these items and highlight our people who live out our mission and core values. Developing our employees and providing career paths provides stability within Hallmark. Beyond the daily work that impacts Hallmark directly, I am on several national industry-specific boards and housing summits where I can lend a voice to important industry initiatives.
Q2: Congratulations on being named the 2022 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society National Visionary of the Year! What did that award mean to you?
It was such a surprise and honor to be named the 2022 LLS National Visionary of the Year. My team and I worked tirelessly toward the goal of ending blood cancers. The generosity of the donors in northeast Indiana was overwhelming. When you consider the fact that we raised more funds than cities like New York or Los Angeles, that speaks to the heart and commitment of our community. Appearing in Forbes magazine as the top Visionary of the Year was something I could have never imagined, but I am extremely proud of the achievement. I have received so many blessings throughout my life, it is a joy to be able to give back to our community. Taking time to serve others is a big part of who I am.
Q3: As we are slowly crawling out of the winter months, what are you most looking forward to this spring and summer?
I look forward to spending more time outdoors this spring and summer! Winter is always long and I’m ready to get some sunshine and fresh air. I have a few trips planned, but always at the top of my list is the chance to visit my daughter, who lives in southern California. Beyond that, I look forward to being at home this spring and summer. I am fortunate enough to have some acreage and I love taking walks through the woods, tending my gardens and playing tennis. My home is really my getaway — my little slice of heaven right here in Fort Wayne.
Q4: Can you tell us about the recent acquisition Hallmark Home Mortgage went through?
We recently completed an acquisition of 60 new employees from Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Georgia and South Carolina, positioning us for continued growth and success. The latest additions to the team bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise in areas such as sales, marketing and operations. This acquisition has allowed us to expand our services and offerings to customers in a wider geography while maintaining our core value of superior service.
Developing relationships is so critical when bringing talent into a company. We look primarily to see if the people will be a fit within our culture. Similar cultural philosophies must be a match no matter how desirable the economics may look, because we understand for a long-term successful engagement, culture must align. With the mortgage market being in a down year, we saw some players exit the market. Hallmark has always thrived during downturns in the housing/mortgage industry. We were founded during the great recession, and we landed one of our most significant acquisitions this past year when many were exiting or downsizing their lines of business.
Q5: How long have you been in the mortgage industry? What has made you stay in this field, and have there been mentors along the way who have aided in your success?
I have been in the mortgage industry for over 30 years. The ever-changing and dynamic nature of the business has kept me engaged and looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition. As a result, I am constantly learning about new strategies, technologies and best practices that ensure our company delivers the best service for our customers. Throughout my time in this industry, I have mentors who have aided my success. Some individuals may not know they were a mentor to me and, in some cases, a mentor has shown me what not to do. Regardless, their guidance and advice has been invaluable. I hope I serve as a mentor to people both personally and professionally. I am honored to provide guidance to others just as others have helped me, and usually you will always learn something valuable from the time you invest into other people.
Q6: What is the best part about your job and why? The most challenging?
One of the most rewarding aspects of being the owner/CEO of Hallmark is the ability to impact people's lives positively. Providing meaningful employment opportunities is one aspect of this, as it allows individuals to grow and develop professionally while supporting themselves and their families. Even more rewarding is being able to aid in providing our customers with the American dream of homeownership. Think about how many times you may drive by a home you used to live in and relish those memories. We take pride in helping our clients navigate the process and understand all available options. The most challenging aspect of my job is keeping up with the ever-evolving industry standards and regulations, and managing the cyclical aspects of the business.
Q7: How do you achieve and maintain a positive work environment for your employees/team?
I create a positive work environment for my team by maintaining an atmosphere of open communication, mutual respect, trust and collaboration. I encourage my team members to openly share their ideas and feedback to foster creativity and problem-solving. I also ensure that everyone is accountable for their tasks and deadlines are met. Additionally, I recognize individuals who go above and beyond in their roles. Every team member knows they can approach me. This has been a key aspect of providing a positive work environment, and it serves me well in getting to hear a variety of viewpoints and opinions on different challenges and opportunities.