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Interview: Loan officer Joe Bass focuses on organic growth for his mortgage office

Process, personality, and humility have Joe Bass’ team on pace to close over $70 million in volume this year

Joe Bass, of The Bass Group, has a goal: to be the #1 VA originator in San Antonio. On their way to that goal, his team achieved over 35% loan volume growth from 2013 to 2014 and is on pace to grow their volume another 20% this year.

We checked in with Joe to see how his team maintains their organic growth, and here’s what he had to say:

Joe Bass VAREP presentation

What market do you consider to be your main focus?

My expertise is builders because I grew up in it. Right when I got out of college, I graduated in 2002, I started processing loans before I ever started originating.  I know builder business very well, backwards and forwards, to a fault. My internal focus is that I do a lot of VA loans, my goal is that I want to be the #1 VA originator in my city. That, and education and giving back to the VA community.

Has your past experience processing loans helped you run your business?

Yes, it’s probably my secret sauce over anything else. All of the people that I work with, they were never processors before. I think there’s a huge disconnect when people get wowed at being a loan officer. Well, there’s a lot of stuff that goes behind that and when I’m able to say, you’re not doing this right because of X, Y, or Z, it’s because I processed the loans before I ever originated. I was in the position where I was processing myself, 30 loans a month. I don’t think of it as there is any executive structure inside of my team. I think of it as it being very flat and I’m here to contribute and prop them up for success, they’re not here to do that for me.

How have you gone about branding yourself as the go-to guy in the builder niche?

Tell people. If you’re not willing to state that you’re the best, then you’re not the best. The first thing is to say it, the second is to write it down, the third is to pronounce it to the world, and the rest will follow. I believe in that, and if you’re not willing to say it, then you’re not ever going to do it. If you don’t believe you’re the best in executing it, then you won’t be. You have to live by that motto or else people won’t believe in you.

If you’re not willing to state that you’re the best, then you’re not the best.

What is your process when hiring for your team?

Probably the biggest thing that is important to me is attitude. I stopped caring about aptitude a while back, because attitude can solve anything else. Any of the stuff that we’re physically doing, it’s not rocket science, it’s just about good communication and making sure everybody feels comfortable. With that being said, I can train anybody to do anything and almost prefer to have somebody that’s fresh, young, ambitious, and motivated rather than finding somebody that’s used to doing it the old way. Just because it’s old and proven doesn’t mean there isn’t newer, better stuff out there, which technology proves all the time.

I try to hire people that are on the same page, and I purge toxicity from my business.  Anybody that doesn’t want to accomplish something, or get it executed and have ownership of it, I don’t want to have work for me. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. When I’m hiring I’m very thorough and systematic about making sure I do a DISC personality profile to make sure they’re going to be a good hire. But I also look at the different pieces, like even if they are a quality candidate, but they don’t fit where I have a void, then they’re not necessarily going to be a good hire for me.

What are the different “pieces” that you’re looking for when you hire?

There has to be tellers and doers, just like there has to be closers and upfront people. For example, there has to be a mother hen, the fostering older person that takes care of people, but also the young and ambitious people that drive and push everybody to excellence because they’re smart and go getters.  We go straight off the DISC. I meet with a guy that has his PhD in people reading, and he gives me the breakdown. I tell him the position I’m trying to hire for, and he tells me where the candidate is going to fail and where they’re going to prosper, and I follow that lead.

There has to be tellers and doers, just like there has to be closers and upfront people.

What is your basic approach for the team?

I do a lot with a little. You don’t need to run people ragged, but you also don’t need to run them where they’re slow. If you look at my numbers, I have one of the most, if not the most, efficient production groups in our company. It’s because, first, the type of loans we do are profitable, but also I try to keep it lean when I’m looking at it and making sure we hit our metrics, and keep our growth in check without over-hiring at any point in time. I certainly re-look and re-interview all the time just to make sure we’ve got all the right people.

Joe Bass VA recognition

What are the metrics that you track?

One of the things I try to laser in on in the front end is the total number of opportunities I have, or what’s my universal opportunity. I go from the aspect of saying, “how many clients that physically are available, that are in my bucket, that I can get and execute a decision out of to take an application.”  I do that everyday. I go back through and I think about, who can I contract on an inventory, who can I contract on a build, who is a hot pre-qual that I need to pay attention to, and who do I need to solve a problem on today. I think about that and I write it down everyday.  I sit down with everybody on the front end and go through: who’s hot, who’s hot, who’s hot. In my mind, I’m thinking I need to have 10-12 applications a week, so I’m going off of that bucket list in my universal opportunities to look at who’s going to get converted today.  It comes down to looking at that daily so everybody stays dialed in on what their piece is to do. I try to make it simple like that and say you’ve got to do this today for us to get from A-E and E-Z.

How do you stay current in the industry?

I’m spread so thin, the amount of casual reading I get to do is not really hot, so I don’t necessarily endorse social media, it’s not my niche. I’m 35, so I’m not inept in that, but I’m not Generation-Y in my mentality. I live in my business and I keep the pulse of it by living and breathing with it. I try not to follow trends or what other people are doing because I have the best resources in the world on what’s hot, new, and challenging, between my company and especially the CORE. I get to see what the biggest trends and challenges for building a business are through CORE. I get to compete with the best of the best and know what they’re doing. You get to be a trend setter in your own community just by knowing what other people are doing outside of your business world.

I get to compete with the best of the best and know what they’re doing. You get to be a trend setter in your own community just by knowing what other people are doing outside of your business world.

Joe Bass

How long have you been a part of the CORE, and what has that experience done for you?

I’m on my 6th semester, more or less. I started working for Legacy at the end of 2011 and I immediately went to my first CORE Summit in May 2012. I immediately applied and joined and have been doing it ever since. The CORE is absolutely crucial and it’s kind of like a total mental growing thing, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever been through before. It’s really just wrapping your mind around the idea that I’m not trying to be transactional, I’m trying to be a functional business. In the first part, it’s breaking down what you’re doing, get used to using the forms, and going through the mentality of the day-to-day regimen you have to go through to execute and be accountable. The second phase is working your tail off to build the relationships to make it functional. The third phase is really trying to become a better leader and working on your personal growth through that leadership. It comes from breaking down things that you’re mentally used to doing, but now understanding why that works or doesn’t work because you’re business is getting bigger. The fourth phase is trying to duplicate and have good, steady growth that’s not going to be like a shooting star with quick burnout. CORE is absolutely crucial, it revolves around everything that I do. I wouldn’t be here without, first, my company, because we work for an outstanding company and my bosses are incredible, but with CORE especially it has made everything happen. It’s had the single biggest impact on my business that I can contribute.

As a student, what has been your experience with the CORE training coaches?

I think that the good thing about CORE is that you have different people that you get coached by and some are good for you and some are not. Some are the right timing for you and some are not. It depends on who you are, and sometimes they hit home. One of my favorite coaches I’ve had was Heath Barnes, because he helped me realize that just because your business is prospering, your personal life may be terrible. When you’re home life is terrible, everything else gets terrible. If you don’t have harmony between your personal life and your business life, nothing else matters. Heath has been the most important coach I’ve had that’s helped me get through the toughest times I’ve had. Jimmy Reed, awesome, probably one of the best. Todd Scrima was the best for running at 30,000 feet, Jimmy was great at 15,000 feet, Heath is great at a holistic viewing of life. Those are probably my three favorite. Rick Ruby is just incredible. He’s very intimidating when you don’t get to see him on the inside, but once you get on the inside of him and he gets a feel for what you’re doing, he’s an incredible person.

In 2013 you did $41 million in volume, last year it was $57 million. How is this year shaping up?

I’m outpacing 2014. I’m tracking for over $70 million right now, so I think it’s going to be somewhere between $70-$75 million in volume. It’s good, but it’s also a reality check. You’ve got to ask yourself, “is my business balanced right so I don’t have that burnout?” Does everybody have success just because they’re good, or is the market good with activity, or am I doing the right things so I grow organically and it doesn’t fail. Everything comes into play for reasons. Would I be just as happy closing $57 million as $75 million? Yes. It’s just a matter of doing the right thing, trying to be as helpful to everyone as you can, and a little self-deprecation sometimes and not growing an ego. Organic growth is more important than anything else.

Would I be just as happy closing $57 million as $75 million? Yes.

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