Chip Poli | Crain's Boston

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chip Poli

Background:  

Based in Canton, Mass., Poli Mortgage Group has lent mortgages across the East Coast for more than 15 years.

The Mistake:

We became a marketing company instead of a sales company. That was probably the biggest mistake I made.

At one point, we were the 44th largest mortgage company in America. We had about 18 branches up and down the East Coast, but the truth of the matter is, I really didn't like the model. The expenses continually rose and I was looking for a new solution. So I basically went away for a week and did the old plus-minus. And came up with I thought was a good change. So we went from a branch model with a multitude of sales people up and down the East Coast to a virtual company, an internet-based company.

We now have just one location in Canton, Mass., where we do our underwriting, our processing, et cetera, and we have dropped our overhead down quite a bit. So our pricing is some of the best in the industry, and I assumed by having that pricing it would be really easy to grow my business.

I believed in what I did, but mistakes were made along the way. What I didn't know when I made the change to go virtual is that virtual marketing is a whole different game. So we went from a sales company to essentially a marketing company.

So I hired out, I subbed out the majority of my marketing people—and I really believe that was one of my biggest mistakes. What I would have done differently is hire inside people that were exclusively working for us and were 100 percent set on doing what we wanted them to do for the company.

It was one of those penny-wise, pound-foolish kind of conversations. It was a cost-effective, easy solution. They were ready to go, and seemed committed to helping the company. The truth is they've got 40 other clients that they're trying to take care of, plus they're out selling new clients every day, so the results versus the savings, there was no benefit. You think it was a good decision because you save some money, but in reality it cost me a lot of money because we did not not grow.

Dates were missed, milestones were missed, and at some point in time I lost some control over exactly what we were.

Sometimes just trying to save a dollar is not the right decision.

The Lesson

Since then I've hired my own people in-house and we've already seen the results—it's a huge improvement because they're focused on what we're trying to accomplish. As you learn in life, sometimes just trying to save a dollar is not the right decision. It's more important to have the right strategy.

It's hard because the amount of work you need to do to put an infrastructure in place, it takes time. I would say be thoughtful, be patient, be caring, be organized. And then do it step by step. Once we got back to our roots of how we built this company originally, we started growing again. So believe in what you are and get the people in your company to always drive the same path, focused on one thing: your platform, what you are trying to become. And then just do it day by day, and that's how you build a successful company.

I'm not saying you can't hire out services. Services are different than hiring out managers. You can outsource that, but if you're asking someone else to manage your company and they just slash one category, it's a failure waiting to happen.

Follow Poli Mortgage Group on Twitter at @Poli_Mortgage.

Photo courtesy of Chip Poli.