Atlantic Bay’s Brian Holland on a remote work-life balance
Today’s HousingWire Daily features an interview with Brian Holland, CEO and founder of Atlantic Bay. In this episode, Holland discusses the importance of work-life balance in today’s remote work environment.
Here is a small preview of the interview, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Alcynna Lloyd: It’s now been more than a year since the pandemic first hit, and while stay-at-home orders have lifted, many companies are still practicing work from home business models. For these workers and companies, why is work-life balance such an important topic to focus on in 2021?
Brian Holland: Well, I think it’s always been important. My executive coach has coined the phrase work-life integration versus work-life balance because it’s really not a balance, it’s about integrating your work and life together these days, and how successful you are. I think that will determine your happiness on both sides of it. We’ve started talking more about that integration, and for us, it’s just always been important to have that from day one. Everyone in my company can tell you, I’ve got a 20-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter, a seven-year-old daughter, and from day one, I just won’t miss their things. You know, life goes by too fast, they grew up too quickly. I’m the first one to say, things have to wrap up because my son has a game, my daughter’s got a game, etc. So, I think that remote work culture has allowed us to continue to thrive, and we feel that same way for all of our team.
HousingWire Daily examines the most compelling articles reported across HW Media. Each afternoon, we provide our listeners with a deeper look into the stories coming across our newsroom that are helping Move Markets Forward. Hosted by the HW team and produced by Alcynna Lloyd and Victoria Jones.
Below is the transcription of the interview. These transcriptions, powered by Speechpad, have been lightly edited and may contain small errors from reproduction:
Alcynna Lloyd: Hello, HousingWire listeners. Today, I’m joined by Brian Holland, the CEO and founder of Atlantic Bay. And today, we’ll be talking about the importance of work-life balance in today’s remote work environment. Hi, Brian, it’s nice to have you as a guest. Thanks for joining us on “HousingWire Daily.”
Brian Holland: Hi, thanks for having me.
Alcynna Lloyd: Of course. Before we dive in onto this conversation, can you let our audience know more about you? I know you founded Atlantic Bay in 1996 and since its launch, you’ve grown the company from four employees to more than 900 associates today. How did you grow such a large team and what has your journey been like in the housing finance sector?
Brian Holland: It’s been an amazing journey and we’ve been very fortunate just to have some great people from day 1. And they’ve really lived down our core values, which has created an amazing culture which has allowed that growth, so it’s been just an awesome 25 years almost. We have a big 25-year anniversary party coming up in January but just an amazing group of people that really believe in our mission to not only provide homeownership but also to help the communities that will help support those.
Alcynna Lloyd: Thank you for letting us learn more about you. Let’s move on to today’s main conversation which will center on the importance of work-life balance in today’s remote work environment. To start off today’s interview, I’d like to focus on the unique challenges COVID-19 presented to many companies in the housing industry. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies across the country to close their doors as local governments enacted stay-at-home orders. As a result, many employees went from working in office each day to working from home. It’s now been more than a year since the pandemic first hit and while stay-at-home orders have been lifted, many companies are still processing work-from-home business models. My first question for you is for those workers and companies, why is work-life balance such an important topic to focus on in 2021?
Brian Holland: Well, I think it’s always been important and my executive coach has coined a phrase “work-life integration” versus work-life balance because it’s really not a balance. It’s really integrating your work and your life together these days and how successful you are in that will determine, I think, your happiness in both sides of it so, you know, we’ve started talking more about that integration. So, for us, it’s just always been important to have that from day 1. Everyone in my company can tell you, I’ve got a 20-year old son, an 18-year old daughter, and a 7-year old daughter, and from day 1, I just won’t miss their things. You know, life goes by too fast. They grow up too quickly and, you know, I’m the first one to say, “Hey, the meeting’s got to wrap up because my son’s got a game, my daughter’s got a game, etc.” So I think that that culture has, you know, allowed us to continue to thrive and we feel that same way for all of our team.
So prior to the pandemic, we probably had about a third of our team working remotely so we were prepared, probably more than most, to kind of flip a switch and turn every one to that remote work situation. And it was able to make us, you know, pretty quickly efficient and productive, you know, from that standpoint. So it’s been part of our, you know, last 10 years or so. We found that specifically in certain positions such as underwriting and there’s such a thing that it was hard to find the talent that we wanted in one central location, so if we were able to open up the entire country and have people all over the country, it just increased the talent pool significantly to do that.
So since the pandemic and what that looks like, we’ve just kind of pivoted on a number of different things that will allow us to still have the connection, you know, with our team. And so, we’ve worked really hard on that, so a number of things from… We started Atlantic Bay, AB life channel, where we have fitness coaches. We’ve had psychologists, you know, helping people deal with the pandemic and all the emotional things that go with that. My executive coaches have done sessions so we just kind of brought everything to the remote life from that aspect. And then from a kind of a fun standpoint, we’ve done a lot of cool things for the team, happy half-hours. You know, we’ve done everything from Family Feud to virtual horseracing, scavenger hunts, bingo, trivia contests, and that’s kind of really engaged our team so that they don’t feel alone as they’re spread out throughout the country.
Alcynna Lloyd: And it sounds like a really fun team. I really like that you mentioned you call it work-life integration. To continue on our last question, how can work-life integration contribute to the success of a mortgage company?
Brian Holland: Well, I think it’s huge because if our people aren’t happy in their lives, they’re not gonna be as productive, you know. And one of the things that I feel make us different is that, you know, no matter how many loans are closing, we really instill it in our team that, and I think most people that listen to this will agree with me, moving sucks. I mean, moving is just not fun. You’re packing up your U-Haul truck. It’s 100 degrees when you move. The dogs are barking, the kids are crying, and the last thing you want to hear is that “Sorry, you know, you’re gonna have to sleep in a hotel this weekend because your loan’s not ready to close.” So we really talk a lot with our team about envisioning that place they were when they were moving, when they were packing up their truck, when they were hot and sweaty, and that, you know, we want them to make sure that that borrower can get into that new home on their expected closing date. And I think all of those things happen. You know, our three core values are pretty simple. Number one, we genuinely care, two, we inspire growth, and three, we have fun. And that first, genuinely care core value is difficult to achieve if you don’t have that happiness in your life and you don’t have that, you know work-life integration as we talked about so that’s why I think it’s so important. And it’s helped us succeed in getting these homeowners into that home when they’re supposed to close.
Alcynna Lloyd: That’s great. I’m sure your customers really do appreciate that. As I mentioned previously, while many companies have returned to the in-office business model, there’s still many companies that are enforcing work from home. As these companies continue to allow remote work in 2021 and beyond, how can they best support and encourage balance for their team members? You mentioned some of the initiatives that your team has launched but what else can these companies be doing?
Brian Holland: Well, I think that there are a few things that we’re doing that would have really been successful. So prior to the pandemic, we have something called “Breakfast with Brian” where we have random people from different departments come in, some from sales, some from ops, some from corporate, and we have breakfast once a month, and just let people meet each other and understand, you know, what they do and what their role is so they can help support each other and understand about their families and, you know, the unique things about them. So we kind of expanded that now during the pandemic to, we call it “Coffee and Conversations.” So we send out a Starbucks gift card and I have meetings with people from all over the company and all over the country, just get to know them better and allow them to get to know each other and find, you know, common likes that they can associate together, so that’s been really fun. You know, we also, something that we’ve done for a long time, is just personal recognition and doing little things: thank you notes, you know, congratulations on your best month ever, anniversary. I sign an anniversary card and a birthday card for every single person on our team and put notes in there as well. So we’ve just always felt that these personal touches go a long way and especially in this world where, you know, last year, 15, 18 months, people have been in a bit of solitude, so those personal touches are even more important now than they were in the past.
Alcynna Lloyd: Well, I’m sure your employees really do appreciate that extra display of care. And now, I’d like to dive even deeper on your company. Atlantic Bay was recently named the number one Best Large Mortgage Company to Work for in the nation. So I need to know what’s the secret to your success and how does your work-life balance fit into this?
Brian Holland: I think it’s all tied together. I think that the most important thing is when every person starts at Atlantic Bay, I meet them. So I do new-hire orientation every single week and I go over what’s important to us and our core values that we mentioned earlier in the interview, and the number one, again, is we genuinely care and that’s just so important and, I think, people get a real feel about from day 1 when they come on board with us. And I also kind of put it on them to say, “Hey, we’ve had this amazing culture that we’ve built for the last 25 years. Now, you have a responsibility to carry on that culture and make certain that, you know, we are, you know, still the company we were when we had 10 people, you know, as we will be when we have 1,000. So I think that that’s really critical and just, again, understanding that, you know, the entire team cares. We’ve got a number of people who’ve been with us for over 20 years and we’ve just been really fortunate. No matter what your company is within the mortgage business, or in the restaurant business, or whatever company you’re in, you know, it’s all about people and getting the right people that are a good fit, that really bind your culture and your core values, and believe and want to live them and not just be something that’s written on the wall.
Alcynna Lloyd: And you’re completely right. If there’s one thing this business is about, it’s about its people. And today, before we wrap, I have one more question for you. And my last question is do you have any advice to offer to company leaders who want to improve their own culture and employee work-life balance?
Brian Holland: Make sure that you hire the right people. Get the right people in your team that believe in your mission and your core values. Don’t be afraid to not hire the people or let the people go, release them to the competition that don’t fit these core values. That’s so important that everyone buys in, that they believe that they’re not only here to help the borrower, but they’re also here to help the communities they live in and really serve those communities, so it’s all about people, getting the right people, treating them how they want to be treated, and making sure that they have that, you know, work-life integration that we say so that they’re happy and they want to stay with you where they are.
Alcynna Lloyd: Well, Brian, I’d like to say thank you for joining “HousingWire Daily.”
Brian Holland: All right. Thanks so much. Have a great day.
Alcynna Lloyd: Listeners, we’ll see you back here tomorrow. Thank you.