PERSON OF THE WEEK: Daniel Milstein was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was 16. When his five-member family arrived, they had only $375 and initially lived on food stamps in a donated one-room apartment in the Detroit area. Milstein sought work to help his family, and his first job was cleaning toilets at a McDonald's restaurant.
Fast-forward to today, and Milstein is CEO of Gold Star Mortgage Finance Group, which closes $1 billion in loans annually. Milstein tracks his extraordinary life journey and the keys to his business success in his new autobiography, ‘The ABC of Sales: Lessons from a Superstar,’ released by Gold Star Publishing. MortgageOrb spoke with Milstein about his distinctive business philosophy.
Q: In your opinion, what separates a good mortgage banker from a great mortgage banker?
Milstein: Great mortgage bankers are not just surviving in today's marketplace, but thriving. They are gaining market share, rather than maintaining the status quo.Â
The most successful mortgage bankers continue to look for new ways to grow. For example, they have added ancillary services; enhanced their strategic partnerships with Realtors, builders and others; placed a greater emphasis on purchase business instead of relying on refinances; and developed virtual loan officer capabilities so that they can minimize the overhead expense of new offices.
Q: In today's very challenging economy, is it possible for lenders to originate a high quantity of mortgages?
Milstein: Yes, it is possible for lenders to originate a high volume of mortgages. First, they need to seek quality high-performing loan originators and give them the necessary incentive to produce.
In addition, lenders have to be willing to go beyond their backyard to develop business, securing licenses to do business in multiple states. A recent report noted that 83% of mortgage companies are still licensed in only one state! One of the keys to Gold Star Mortgage Financial's success has been expanding our reach beyond Michigan's borders. It is also wise to develop new niches to complement your core business.
Q: Can you explain the philosophy mentioned in your new book that ‘lunch is for losers’?
Milstein: It is an essential part of my overall attitude about work ethic and success. Early on, I learned that when you take an hour lunch break, you will probably miss several calls from prospects, who are then likely to call another originator to arrange their loan. So I decided that it made sense to have lunch at my desk, enabling me to be available to borrowers, who often call during their own lunch hour.
‘Lunch is for losers’ actually means that those who insist on taking regular lunches should look forward to being losers of substantial business. This is a philosophy that everyone at our company has embraced.
Q: What professional advice can you give to a young person who may be interested in entering today's mortgage banking industry?
Milstein: This can be an exciting and potentially rewarding career. But you must be patient and learn the fundamentals of mortgage banking.
Try to find a mentor who will help you master the basics. Don't enter mortgage banking to get rich quick. Continue to raise the bar on your own production, and you will be successful. Develop and adhere to a strong ethical code of conduct. And, most important, don't ever lose your passion for this profession.
Q: What do you see for the mortgage banking industry in 2012?
Milstein: There's no question that it will be a challenging year, based on various economic forecasts and the lending industry environment. Recent reports indicate that we will face weaker overall growth in 2012 than previously anticipated.
The employment picture, falling stock prices and the debt ceiling ‘crisis’ have all contributed to this gloomier prognosis. We should definitely expect an overall business slowdown in mortgage banking. However, because of the loss of so many companies and loan originators during the last few years, there is much less competition.
Therefore, for the companies still in business, 2012 should be generally promising from a production standpoint. While the Fed has indicated it will keep rates low for the next year and beyond, we certainly can't count on a prolonged refinance period. We will continue to see the impact of Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry requirements, government regulations and other lending industry challenges.