- By Lori Johnston Fast Copy News Service
More than 2,300 companies were nominated or asked to participate in the 2018 Top Workplaces contest by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its partner, Energage (formerly Workplace Dynamics). Employees across the metro area responded to print and online solicitations that began appearing in September.
Using survey results, a list of 150 workplaces was compiled, consisting of 25 large companies (listed below; 500 or more employees), 50 midsize companies (150-499 employees) and 75 small companies (149 or fewer employees).
Supreme Lending - Southeast Region is the top-ranked small company for the second year in a row. That doesn’t mean it’s resting on its accomplishments.
The residential mortgage broker moved last year into an expanded operations center and sales branch in Alpharetta with features such as a larger break room, meeting area and state-of-the-art video studio.
“It’s beautiful,” said David Queen, a mortgage closer. “The other space was fine for what we needed, but come down here, we’re spoiled.”
The Southeast region of Supreme Lending has grown to 165 employees since 2007. It financed over 5,500 homes with nearly $1.2 billion in loan volume in 2017, said Pat Flood, regional operating partner.
Flood, who is involved in every hire, said the Southeast Region plans to add 20-25 workers in 2018 and could grow to 200 employees in the next couple of years. In addition to the Alpharetta office, Supreme Lending has sales branches in Buford, Peachtree City and Gainesville, as well as employees in Florida.
Even during the hiring process, job candidates learn that Supreme Lending is about more than mortgages. The company’s Professional and Personal Best program is focused on helping workers reach goals by providing accountability and support, whether they’re in the office, in the field or telecommuting.
“I think that environment has made this really a life changer for me. I think that I have become the best version of Nancy that I have ever been in my life by working here,” said Nancy Frazier, a loan officer.
In addition, the company and workers contribute to an Associates’ Emergency Fund to cover unexpected financial needs. Long-term disability is provided at no cost, joining other benefits such as medical insurance with co-pays, a Health Savings Account option, dental and vision plans, group life insurance and 401(k) plans.
As other needs arise, Supreme Lending seeks to respond. For example, when an associate went through a difficult time financially, including having her car repossessed, a car was provided.
“If it was family, we would do it, so we don’t see it any different than that,” Flood said.
Some benefits may be a bit nontraditional, but create loyalty among workers.
“That makes me feel they’re concerned about us, about the company,” said Camilo Escandon, a loan officer. “My background is finance. You always have the belief, when you go to school, you have to present numbers. You have to have results in terms of profits. Here, it is important, but it’s not the main thing. You take care of the people, if we feel well, we’re going to be productive. That’s simple.”
In fact, the company is the winner of the 2018 Top Workplaces Doers special award, with employees noting that Supreme Lending does these and other things efficiently and well: close loans, deliver customer service, serve others before self and serve the needs of others.
Teamwork is on display outside the office, with community activities such as building a house with Habitat for Humanity.
The new studio helps Flood record videos with company updates and motivational messages as short as 30 seconds.
“I just have a personal belief that everybody wants to be their best in life,” he said.
Queen said the focus on well-being is something he’s never experienced in a company setting and has helped him exercise more regularly and watch what he eats.
“We’re constantly hearing about it at work all the time and talking about it on a regular basis, so whether it’s what we do professionally or how it affects my personal life, it always kind of in the forefront of my mind,” he said.
In the fast-paced mortgage lending industry, Flood recognizes the company could be solely focused on money. The company provides incentive pay for exceptional performance, but he wants to give his workers more than a paycheck.
“If you wake up every day to make a difference in the lives of other people, everyone will experience that as well, and that doesn’t preclude you from making money,” he said. “I think that the American workplace leadership, for the most part, takes something out of people, takes something away from people and doesn’t give nearly enough back, because a paycheck’s not enough. You should get something much better than that. And that’s what we hope to give.”
Some perks have a purpose. Flood delivers Chick-fil-A throughout the month, having quick conversations with individual workers.
“He goes cube by cube. ‘Do you want to have the (egg white grill)? Do you want to have the regular biscuit?’ Or something like that,” Escandon said. “It’s something random that he does. Or Friday, or the end of the month and we’re busy, he gets food from somewhere close by, or pizza. Those kinds of things that look like it’s not a big deal, but end up being a big deal because you can focus on what you are doing and you can focus on some other big thing.”
“Delivering the industry’s best customer experience” is displayed on a wall in the new office, with the word “best” capitalized and in lights.
“It’s just a daily reminder,” Queen said. “That’s every single person in here, that’s their goal. In our daily lives, personally, and best in what we do professionally. It’s always what we strive for, is do our very best. And I think it’s one of the special things about this place, the culture. The entire company buys into it, and we all want to be the best at what we do.”