Choosing the righter wrong?

It’s so interesting how different companies react or respond (there is a difference) to COVID-19.

This is a challenging time for title companies. Actions matter more than intentions or words.

Does your firm embrace abundance or scarcity? Does your disaster plan include adequate cash reserves to save jobs? What’s adequate? Are you prepared enough? What’s enough? How do you know?

In a sea of uncertainty what is your true north?

Do you:

  • Lower salaries across the board (including management) to keep employees employed? If so, how long?
  • Do you furlough or lay off – knowing that either choice can ruin the lives of employees you called ‘family’ who have been loyal to you for years?
    • Who stays and who goes?
    • Have all employees really been loyal?
  • Is there a way out? In a sea of uncertainty what is your true north?

Think none of this matters? Guess again.

So many firms are laser focused on the short term that they forget the inevitable, namely that the COVID-19 crisis will inevitably pass. No one is forecasting the end of time.

Then what?

Have employers considered post crisis employee morale or the ability to quickly ramp up production to meet demands when the faucet turns back on? What if the end of the COVID-19 crisis leads to a real estate boom as pent up demand strikes? What if rates stay so low that everyone with a mortgage decides to refinance? Who will process all those deals if you can’t rehire the folks you furloughed or laid off?

Do you think employees aren’t looking at the leaders of the firms they work for and judging them? Do you think they aren’t looking at their bosses and asking what sacrifices are being made at the top? How do you think they feel after commiserating with unemployed co-workers and ‘work friends’ while top brass maintains company paid country club and golf memberships?

Once this is all over, do you think they will not question excess (i.e. over the top ‘events’) rather than prudence?

Flip that, and ask yourself how employees might feel in an environment where everyone collectively tightened their belts for a while so as to minimize harm to those they called their work family.

Employees care when they feel cared for.

Employees who ‘care’ can make all the difference in countless ways. A lack of care makes them more prone to socially induced wire fraud, low production and escrow losses. Some ‘savings’ may well be a false economy.

Notwithstanding all the advances in technology, title is and has always been a labor intensive business. The people that make up a title agency workforce are the lifeblood of the business.

ALL of this plays directly into the M&A world. The sale of a title business is rarely only about money. Truth be told, there are some firms where the extent of the employer-employee relationship is limited to the fact that the employer signs one side of the paycheck and the employee signs the other. For others, culture and employee morale matters.

Cultural alignment is one of the most important factors title agency owners consider in selecting which of the many suitors we find for them is the best fit. They almost always want to know that they are not feeding their employees to the wolves just to make a buck; rather they look for a commonality of attitude and approach as well as career growth for their team.

How employers contend with COVID-19 is inevitably something that will be examined.

There are no absolute answers to the tough choices facing title agency operators these days. Interesting times indeed…

-Howard Turk

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