Lizzie Garner, EVP at Guaranteed Rate, discusses the advantages of “letting go”, developing personal growth, and making the best use of your time even if that means taking a break. Lizzie demonstrates the benefits of collaboration and truly shows that hard work and adaptability pays off. 

An excerpt from the interview: 

Kristin Messerli: One of the things that I want to bring through this podcast or through this interview is just encouraging people to think outside the box and think about, what are those missing components here, how we haven’t done things a certain way, but let’s challenge that idea. So what’s one way that you have challenged the status quo in our industry or in your career?

Lizzie Garner: Sure. I think the biggest one that comes to mind, and there could have been other, but the biggest that come mind for me was our GROW organization, our Guaranteed Rate Organization of Women, which the acronym very clearly and quickly spelled GROW, but it was so great to see it start. Even Kristin, you were our very first speaker. We had this idea that we’d bring in experts and they would teach us things. And I think that first session that we ran had a couple hundred people or a hundred and a half people, and you brought information, and it was so new for us because we weren’t creating a safe space for women in the industry to talk about either what their challenges were or what their successes were, or where and how could we help continue to add women to the industry.

We looked at the industry and went, “Man, this is a way for so many of us to make a great living without being Harvard educated engineers.” We could all still really create great lives for ourselves. With this flexible schedule, we should be attracting more women into the business. This allows so much of what women were telling us they wanted in a career, but we still didn’t have people lining up to say, “I want to be a mortgage banker when I grow up. Please let me…” But for all of us who had a hand into this business, it was about, how could we create more of that? What could we do to ensure that women were able to have this place to exchange ideas and bounce things off of each other, and also make the move?

A big piece of what I do at Guaranteed Rate, the internal communication and the training, but it also became employee transitions and onboarding, and it became, how do we make this a place where you would want to work, but even more importantly, that you want to stay and work and that you want to continue to do more business here and that you feel connected to the organization? And I think the idea that we could attack what was unconscious, I don’t think that the mortgage business was declared to be men only, or mostly men, and we’re going to create a big wall.

It was done unconsciously, but what could we do thoughtfully and consciously to get in front of that sort of bias and say, “We’ll create and provide even more opportunity for women to grow within the organization, find a new sales assistant, who’s your next emerging, great, amazing originator who can help put families in homes”? And I think just creating that idea, I then was able to meet so many other women who were also challenging the status quo within the industry and find some additional network and sharing between. So I think that the organization of GROW itself was a big one for us.

Kristin Messerli: Now, before we started recording, you mentioned that on your last call, you had over 1,000 attendees, right? 

Lizzie Garner: Just at 1,000, yeah. I was thinking, Kristin, I should probably have done the math, but I think yours was about two years ago. And so we’ve done but one webinar a month for the past two years, and I think yours was a couple of hundred, and the one I just hosted a couple of days ago was just under 1,000. And so the idea that people are in this business as busy as everyone is investing in our and themselves to learn about financial planning. We’ve done so many amazing topics, some of which were more mortgage focused and some were professional and personal development focused.

And they’ve been just really received well in an industry where I don’t know that we always put a lot of time and effort and energy into education other than continuing education. It’s not that kind. It’s the stuff that you really want to take in and makes you kind of a whole person better. And so we’ve been thrilled with the turnout. It’s been really great.

Kristin Messerli: Yeah, that’s amazing. You had mentioned that over the last year, people were really using it as a social connection. And that’s something that I think is really interesting in today’s time that people would be able to build that kind of connection that you didn’t really have before that, right?

Lizzie Garner: Yeah. I mean, it’s so great that the organization itself, both Guaranteed Rate and GROW within it, have sort of evolved with the times. We did the webinar, and you came in and talked to us about women influencing decisions and home purchases and ensuring that we were really looking at this as a business opportunity as well. So it’s interesting because we really started it as women as originators want the same things that male originators want, which are amazing products and low prices and great service for clients.

We want all these same kind of things. But what it really grew into, especially over the last year, was what we called our Better Together. People were reaching out and saying, “Sure, you can talk to me about appraisal things, or this, or how to grow a renovation business, but you know what I’d really like to do, is get together and have a glass of wine and read a book and catch up about how my family is making me crazy.”

So we started calling them Better Together events, and we’ve hosted, I think, 12 of those over the pandemic that were… We did things like how to host a virtual event. How do you get on and host something where you’re interacting with people in a whole new way when so many of our originators and certainly most of us learned all of our sales and connection styles in person? We were hand shakers and out meeting at events and being social. People do business with people they like.

And to see the organization start to support not just originators, which was our original focus, but the women in our organizations as a whole to say, “This is just a place where I can also talk to others about the fact that during the pandemic, we’re so busy, and it’s so different than my friends are maybe experiencing or my family’s experiencing, and these are people in our industry who understand the waves and the cycles and are spending a ton of time during the pandemic helping people get into new homes and navigating the new regulatory or guideline places. I can complain about it and chat about it and work through it and have a sense of community,” versus what was really our initial focus was education and growing business and giving you additional tools. People were using it in a whole new way, and we’ve been thrilled to just move along the journey with them.

Kristin Messerli: Yeah, that’s incredible. I love what you guys are doing.

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