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The decision to grow: the moment of go

I've been asked how I knew when it was time to invest in order to be in a position to grow, perhaps because many other companies were not able to handle the demands that the market presented this year.

Photo of Stanley C. Middleman, CEO and President of Freedom Mortgage Corporation
Posted on Oct 13, 2020, 6:11:54 PM GMT

In 2020, we've experienced significant growth. Indeed, we've had repeatedly successive months of record production. I've been asked how I knew when it was time to invest in order to be in a position to grow, perhaps because many other companies were not able to handle the demands that the market presented this year. For us, there was no single moment that incented us to "go!". There are instead, millions of moments during which we repeatedly assess how to respond and how to fulfill the market demands we're given. We do that every day.

It's my fundamental belief that you're either growing or dying, with little in between. That's just how life works. It's never appropriate to rest on your laurels. If you do, you go backwards. That's what I see as a fundamental law of nature, and it's the foundation on which my belief system is built. Given this, my instinct is always to pursue growth. It's to challenge and to continuously examine every facet of the market in order to find, and be invigorated by, what's just around the corner. Which is to say, I'm probably most comfortable when I'm uncomfortable. At Freedom, our normal state is growth - the more challenged we are, the more excited we become about the work we are doing.

Adaptive, Resilient, and Thriving Amid Uncertainty

As far as success and happiness go, what can fuel them more than being challenged?

We rise to challenges. We're invigorated by them, and we succeed or fail in response to them. But whether we succeed or fail, we learn, and we take what we learn to the next challenge. Which gives us a greater chance to succeed in the next challenge. This virtuous cycle repeats as we challenge ourselves to reach new heights and achieve new victories. Win or lose, it always fuels growth as the cycle continues. That's the lifeline of our business, and that's one of the things I love about it!

So, there is no definitive moment in which we "know to go". As the global situation intensified on all fronts earlier this year, we saw it as simply a time to play the cards that were dealt - which isn't anything different than our natural approach. After all, it's not like we create the markets. I like to say that we're market exploiters, not market makers. We don't create the markets, but markets create opportunities for our customers, and we move quickly to deliver win / win solutions.

These past months have been filled with unimaginable challenges – many more than we'd have liked - but still, everyone is faced with a choice: either crumble under the pressure or see a possibility for growth. Since change is constant, we're always looking for growth possibilities.

Strategies in Motion

It's still good to know what's coming, though. Having some sort of idea of what lies ahead is necessary to strategize for success. But these event windows are always short and the expense to respond is always great. There's no time to sit around and plan surplus, waiting for our expectations to unfold. Instead, we need to be prepared to respond to whatever arises.

We plan based on our view of what market conditions could be. We prospect the 'now' moment and project what may happen in the future. "If this happens, we'd do this…", "If that happens, we'll do that…". We sketch out possible scenarios and add the details only when it becomes imminent. Our strategy lies in continuously embracing and assessing variables, then remaining ready to pivot.

2020's Lessons

A great example is what happened leading up to the pandemic. Back in 2018, when interest rates were rising and unemployment was extraordinarily low while spreads in yields were wide, we were expecting the 'ebb' to these flows. We anticipated unemployment to rise and yield spreads to compress - ushering in a significant economic downturn.

And that's exactly what's happened. More than we anticipated, though, so we kept changing with the market. Since we had looked ahead and prepared our movements, we had already built the infrastructure to expand and scale our business along the lines of this impending economic change.

Even now, we're planning for what happens when the interest rates go the other way - even though it may be far off. But, in between now and then, we're getting ready for anything.

Winning in the Face of Adversity

With change always happening, then, we're always in what you might call a 'moment of go'. We went for growth earlier this year, and the results were amazing: noteworthy numbers in March that have continued right into this fall, fueled by a receptive and connected remote team. The situation got tough, but we sharpened our tools, addressed the risks, and delivered more.

Looking back, did I expect this all to happen?

Well, I did expect the economic changes - but I certainly didn't expect the magnitude of them, nor did I expect to see the world turn upside down. Who expected to see hunger, illness, and poverty rampant in the modern, tech-powered world? I'm surprised and concerned about the human implications of it all. This has been a time of unimaginable suffering beyond anything I've seen in my lifetime.

Making a Difference

But, when reality is worse than your 'worst-case scenario', you've got to band together and take action to reduce the human suffering… and that's exactly what our Freedom community did. For that, I am extraordinarily proud. I am proud of the assistance we gave to Feeding America, and to our customers who struggled during these challenging times. We adopted the motto "making a difference", and I'm proud that we are! We will continue striving to find more ways to support our customers and communities.

The bottom line of our company and our purpose is to help. Our goal is to foster home ownership throughout the life of our customer's loans. Our team did that, and unknowingly became frontline heroes in the economic war against this pandemic. We have been successful in making it easier for many people who were facing uncertainty in their life. I'm grateful to our team for doing this work and for being heroic in difficult times. Collectively, we rose to the occasion and provided relief and sustenance for those in need, allowing them to have a place to live and to tap into wealth-building potential from their homes.

At the end of the day, 'making a difference' for our customers and our communities made some of the other challenges a little more tolerable. And it invigorated our sense of purpose, so that we remain postured for change and every "moment of go" every day.

Stanley C. Middleman
CEO President
Freedom Mortgage Corporation

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