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18 | M R EP O RT COVER STORY machines available to employees with more than a year of service, enabling them to work out at home. The company distributed more than 5,800 machines, at a cost of $19.6 million. In addition, Fairway offers virtual fitness class- es for employees and their families, as well as parenting webinars and mental health resources. "The flexibility that Fairway has shown in allowing employees to return to the office or remain at home has greatly reduced stress," said Amy Slotnick, SVP at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. "Knowing that going back to the office was my choice, and not a forced mandate, gave me the free- dom to decide what was best for me and my family. From the start of the pandemic, Fairway has sup- ported its employees' health, both physical and mental, above all else." Throughout the pandemic, Fairway offered members of its team extra personal time off to deal with pandemic-related chal- lenges. Anticipating its employees would want additional informa- tion about COVID-19 and the company's response, throughout the pandemic Jacobson sent out daily messages of encouragement to all employees, and Fairway holds regular COVID-19 update calls, including special guest experts offering advice. Fairway also maintains a dedicated email address employees can use to ask COVID-19-specific questions. "When you have 10,000 members of your team, you have to challenge [team members] to work from home," Jacobson said. "It was important that people stay physically active, so we rolled out this program and it has become a pretty cool program for every- body involved." In speaking of Fairway's commitment to an employee- first mentality, Jacobson took a moment to read a private text from a person who had hired him back in 1984, now retired, and who had sent thanks and kind words about the benefits provided by Fairway's annuity benefits. After reading it to us, Jacobson smiled and said, "It's always about the relationships." Overseeing a Shifting Marketplace L ike all others in the mortgage space, Fairway too has been forced to adjust on the fly and adapt to a sometimes unpredictable marketplace. Accommodating and keeping its workforce content is one thing, but the barrage of curveballs thrown by the market have kept Jacobson and the Fairway team on its toes. After a boom in refis in 2021, the market is forecast to move back to a push on the originations side, the sort of shift that Jacobson spotlights as one key reason why proper staffing strategy is critical for mortgage-industry success. "You constantly have to make quick adjustments," Jacobson said. "The industry teaches us that as everybody had to make quick ad- justments over the past few years, and it required the proper staffing to do so." Regardless of the hurdles the industry may throw in its path, Jacobson and Fairway never lose sight of the type of clientele it wants to do business with. "You want to work with people that are humble, good, unpreten- tious, sharp, and smart," Jacobson said. "If somebody is going to scream and yell, let the competi- tion work with them. You are actually picking your teammates in terms of who you want to work with. If it takes four to six touches to start a relationship, you'll get a sense of if you want to work with each other. You don't have to work with every- body!" Branching Out to Embrace Change I n addition to launching Fairway Independent Mortgage, Jacobson also launched Frisco Lender Service LLC (FLS), a company specializing in residential appraisals, as well as Fairway Ignite, a coaching division of Fairway that provides mentorship and growth opportunities to originators and corporate employees. FLS was started as a reaction to the Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines in December 2010, when it was ordered that appraisals must be performed by third parties. Jacobson decided to start his own appraisal company "It's still one of our biggest advantages," noted Jacobson of having FLS. "It's a huge competi- tive advantage for us to have our own appraisal management com- pany because we can call that person in the branch and can talk through any issues. It prevents us from dealing with a whole bunch of people in the process." Fairway Ignite—under the di- rection of COO Kevin McGovern and CEO Sarah Middleton—offers coaching, education, and training for Fairway employees, producers, and managers. Ignite offers one- to-one coaching and group coach- ing, aimed at focus on individual goals, proper planning, positive thought processes, and the execu- tion of business strategy. "We started Fairway Ignite more than five years ago, with separate leadership," Jacobson said. "Presently, 1,800+ in our company are being coached and trained through Ignite. There are some really good people involved in our operations and sales who have a great deal to share." Beyond the Mortgage T he clear-cut goal of any mortgage company is to put Americans into the homes of their dreams. Through trust and guidance, handing over the keys to a new home is the end game for all Fairway employees. Through the company's chari- table initiatives, the American Warrior Initiative (AWI), and Fairway Cares, employees can support the people within the Fairway community and beyond, giving back more than simply the American Dream of homeowner- ship. Each year, Fairway employees are offered 16 charity volunteer hours that can be used during the work week. In 2020, Fairway employees used more than 431 hours to volunteer at charitable organizations nationwide. "The industry teaches us that as everybody had to make quick adjustments over the past few years, and it has required the proper staffing to do so."

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