Mindy Rothenberger takes out the business card and passes it over to one of their home buyers. The front of the card reads “Your home, your future…. My Commitment”, which reflects the promise of the President and CEO of SouthPoint Financial Services, Inc. to all home seekers. Her compassion towards such dreamers has always been remarkable and with a pinch of business skills, she took this company to its current stature.
Home buying made easy
The motive is crystal clear: helping people from different financial backgrounds achieve their goal of owning a house. Mindy discovered most people belonging to the lower and middle class do not consider the thought of homeownership. Many think of it as a mindset, yet the narrative is simply not true. “Our society often leads us to believe that you need to be wealthy or have a lot of money to buy your own home. Because of this false narrative, many do not attempt to buy a home of their own. They give up the idea of purchasing their own home before they even try,”—which needs to change asserts Mindy. She has made it her aim to educate these unaware homebuyers who do not understand homeownership and all the paths available to them to achieve owning their own home.
Founded in 1997 by Larry Overby and John Murphy, Georgia-based mortgage lender, SouthPoint Financial Services, is solely not about a transaction where the borrower is engaged for a short moment, while the company moves on with the next loan. Mindy says, “There is so much more to this financial transaction as it will be the single biggest purchase that many borrowers will make in their lifetime.” The company provides its clients with adequate education over the loaning process and more importantly teaches them about all aspects of homeownership. Aspects like—what happens after you close, what does it mean if you cannot make a payment on time, who do you call if your roof leaks a month after you close, and others. “All these are things we try to educate the FTHB (first-time home buyer) on BEFORE they consummate their transaction. I also have stringent overlay’s regarding the debt ratio allowed for an FTHB. I do not want to allow an FTHB to buy more than they can afford,” says Mindy. “I simply want to find the balance between ethical and responsible lending along with growth. We are in business to make money, but I do not want that dollar to be at the expense of an FTHB losing a home because the first problem that comes along, they can’t afford to fix their home. It can be a tough balance as some buyers want a million-dollar house, but their budget allows them a town home. Most want more than they can afford, so I feel that if I see that, rather than push a borrower’s income to the max putting them in a risky position, I try to get them to open up their minds to think about long term ownership. Maybe buy the smaller home today and establish your credit and pay history all while building equity and wealth, then in 3 to 5 years, use that equity you just paid yourself and put it towards that million-dollar house. 3 to 5 years of waiting on a bigger home is no time, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the years we are living. The first home does not need to be so grand that it stresses the family budget adding more and more stress on everyone. I try to get them to think of the stair-step approach to growing and obtaining wealth from real estate. Rarely is our first home our “dream home” but our first home is what will give us the step up needed to acquire our dream home!”
“As for the key skills that helped me as a leader, I think having started from the ground up, the experience is invaluable. The amount of insight learned from years of performing those tasks is invaluable”
It is the cumulation of her several life experiences that helps Mindy understand the emotions and needs of her customers better and work tirelessly to fulfil their dream of homeownership. Unlike many big D1 university degree holders, Mindy faced several challenges while growing up thus making her more driven if put front any obstacles. She was raised by a single father who tragically passed away at the age of 14. Since then, she has lived among various family members until she graduated high school and moved out at the age of 17. She shares, “I bought my first car for $1500. With a loan my grandfather gave me. My Father’s older brother made sure I paid that money back to my grandfather with interest through monthly payments.” Her difficulties continued even after high school, she moved from a small town in rural Indiana to the big city in Indianapolis to attend college all the while working two full-time jobs. “I think the sudden loss of my father left me with an internal fear of failure,” she mentions. Mindy’s fear of not having enough money to provide for herself and not having a support net became her biggest driver. “I did not have parents or a family to help me or give me anything,” says Mindy. “To say I have worked and fought for everything I own today would be an understatement.” Professionally, she started in this industry at the bottom, has worked her way up through the ranks learning all functions on the operations side. Eventually, she took the risk to go commission-only sales, SHE HAS PREVAILED EVER SINCE. “As a working woman, I had to still maintain all of the family duties while working enough to keep a top ranking in any position I held. I found that working mothers and women often struggle to find the balance between doing it all at work then still finding the time to do it all at home,” says Mindy. “The financial industry is dominated by men. Most of these men do not have this burden or challenge, so they simply do not understand the hustle and grind it takes for a woman who is a wife and mother to achieve the same heights. Because of these constant balancing acts, I think it influences how I lead today.” Being a hands-on leader Mindy attempts to understand every aspect of the job functions in her company and be capable to perform them. Mindy strives to understand each department’s challenges and how other departmental changes may have an unintended impact on another department. “As for the key skills that helped me as a leader, I think having started from the ground up, the experience is invaluable. The amount of insight learned from years of performing those tasks is invaluable,” says Mindy. “Also, because I came from the same humble beginnings as most, I understand bringing in that bag lunch because you want to buy your first home or your first new car. Like most working women, I have not only experienced those same challenges, I too, have had to master them and overcome them. I find that I can relate to the employee or borrower who has the same struggles, yet I have the strength and perspective to also be informed with the knowledge to command the respect from one of those older generational “good ole boys”.
Together through the Rough Patch
Mindy was impressed when she witnessed the company’s employees came together and supported one another like family amidst the COVID-19 dilemma. These employees have faced many challenges including dealing with the lack of an operating system that would allow them to work remotely and coming to the office daily; “but throughout the entire pandemic our staff came together and took care of each other like family,” she adds. By maintaining all the necessary safety protocols, Mindy and her employees made the business run without exposing other members to any possibility of flu infection. “They got tested for COVID as well if they felt they may have been exposed or did not feel well. Amazingly, through God’s grace, I’m proud to say all of 2020 we did not have 1 COVID case in our office! NOT ONE,” she tells. Mindy feels in awe of the respect, efforts made, and love for each that pulled this off, as she gleams to mention, “I have a tremendous staff who pulled off the impossible!”
Removing all limitations
Mindy believes that it is important to make equality a priority. “As women work just as hard in the workplace as men do. Many are not compensated the same,” she mentions. She states that everyone regardless of sex, race, or religion everyone should have the same opportunity to perform. And that performance must be judged over meritocracy—by the same merit, and compensation should be a derivative of those factors. She feels that the home finances are shared are not relevant to the compensation tiers within the company but rather the compensation tiers are solely based on the job function. Ever since she became the CEO, she has directed the company through re-branding. She informs that before her leadership, the baton was held mostly by men. Over the two years, the company’s leadership roles are primarily held by women. “We have a woman CEO, VP, Operations manager/ underwriting manager, Closing manager, Compliance Manager, Regional Sales manager, and Processing manager who are all women,” adds Mindy. “I have a VP of secondary markets who is a male and one of our sales managers in the consumer direct branch is a male. Other than those two, all leadership roles are now held by women.” The company is diversified as well. “Out of our leadership positions held by women, all are held by minority women but two,” says Mindy. She is a firm believer SouthPoint should promote and facilitate growth from within the organization when possible. It is important to her that her staff understands there are no limitations on their growth or the level of success that they can obtain. “The only limitations a person has on their growth will NOT be placed on them by the company, but any limits will be self-imposed,” declares Mindy.
It is no surprise as when asked, who is a leader worth admiration to her? Mindy says, “Working mothers who set the bar every day, showing younger women they can achieve. Women who came from humble beginnings, some having a child young and struggled to put themselves through college to get that degree. Or the battered woman who was controlled and beaten that found her strength to leave and start over despite the fear. Those are the women who I admire. I want to remind them of all they have accomplished that there is nothing they can’t do, there is no one who can tell them NO but themselves. They found the strength and perseverance to prevail without knowing what tomorrow held for them. Those women are who I admire, and I love talking to them to remind them of how much they overcame, and they have the ability to do whatever they desire in life. These women are worth our time to train and teach them and open the door for them. I will hire a woman from these difficult beginnings over one who got that big degree if she has a willingness and wants to learn. I changed our dress code to casual, so no one has to feel pressured to spend money to dress a certain way to fit in.”
Listen More; Talk Less
Becoming a proficient leader takes more than certain traits but skill management as well as believing in self. Mindy would tell any budding women leader to know her worth. As most of the industries are still male-dominated, Mindy asks women leaders to be brave and stand for themselves. She believes that every woman must not limit her spectrum and learn everything about the industry, including how to be humble, kind, and never seeing a task or an employee beneath you. “The janitor is just as important as you are if he is behind and needs your help… well pick up the broom!” says Mindy. She also believes that for women in leadership the biggest lesson is to speak less and listen more! “It’s human nature for most to find a man who is strong or stern to be admired, yet as a woman, if you use those same methods most people find the delivery to be rude or nasty,” she adds. The statement is justified as she thinks it’s part of human nature as people often look to men's leadership to be stern and strong; “So I try to choose words wisely by listening more and speaking less,” says Mindy. Her trait of being as direct as possible helped her in making everyone more aware of her intent in a face-to-face conversation.
“Be firm but fair in your delivery. Lastly, don’t let the double standard steal your ambition! Meaning do not use gender inequality as the excuse to why you didn’t excel or achieve,” says Mindy. She recommends women leaders, if they cannot receive an appreciation over their worth by the current employer then one must not be afraid to start over or start on its own. She feels “one must never feel the need to apologize for showing emotion, as being kind or caring does not make you weak. As it makes you human and relatable. Lastly, LISTEN more and TALK less!”
A Compassionate future
Mindy understands that going virtual is the future. A millennial who is now your FTHB likes things to be fast and automated, making more use of virtual channels. “They want to go online and fill out everything, upload documents rather than meet, they want to do every aspect with technology and automation,” says Mindy. The company has thus deployed a new operating system that enables it to offer automation technology. The most important thing the company is looking to automate is the closing of the loan. “This is where the borrowers will close their mortgage with e-signatures and not one real (live) document being signed,” explains Mindy. Moreover, she claims, “Our new software will be ready to roll out the first of Q4 for a test in both the retail and wholesale platforms, with a companywide rollout Q1 2022.”
Mindy states that eventually “the two owners of our company will want to sell and rather than go public or sell to a bigger lender, my goal and vision is to offer shares of our company to the employees based on longevity so that the hard-working employees who helped me build this company and turn it around will be rewarded for their hard work too.” She desires the company to become an “employee” owned company.
In addition to compassion, Mindy’s key aspect to focus on has always been the ‘trust’ which is beautifully emphasized on the back of the same card she hands to all home buyers. As it quotes “Earning Your Trust One Loan at a Time,” she has helped many borrowers by gaining their trust and fulfilling their long-waited dreams; which she is eager to continue in the future.