Top Workplaces: Lower.com culture guides growth
Dan Snyder believes a great culture is more than just office perks. While an onsite gym is certainly fun and useful, Snyder says to attract the best talent—and keep that talent happy— it’s critical for companies to look into investing in people at a deeper level.
“It’s about each of our team members being encouraged to share their ideas and understanding they’re truly valued,” the CEO of mortgage lender Lower.com says. “Some companies look to invest purely in surface perks like a personal chef or gym or masseuse, but we invest in our people at a deeper level first. Then, we have fun.”
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That employer philosophy has helped Lower.com experience significant growth in just two years. Headquartered in New Albany, Lower.com opened in December 2018 and now has nearly 200 employees. The idea behind Lower.com was inspired by another business of Snyder’s. In 2014, Snyder started a company in Columbus called Homeside Financial that has grown from seven employees in a small temporary space at Easton to more than 500 employees across 40 locations nationwide. The company continues to thrive as a top 50 national mortgage bank, serving more of the traditional retail footprint.
“The big dream I had beyond Homeside was to create a financial technology company that focused on digital banking, building an ecosystem to enhance a customer’s journey to homeownership, and leverage AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) to help not only qualify the customer, but recommend to the customer if they should buy or not,” Snyder says.
Lower.com began with a handful of employees who worked at Homeside and has expanded quickly as more customers have begun taking advantage of a digital one-stop shop to buy a house or expand their current home. “Homeownership is the single greatest wealth creator for the majority of consumers across the country, and our goal is to simply make more homeowners,” Snyder says.
Later this year, the company will begin offering high-yield, FDIC-insured savings accounts to help individuals save money. It also will offer real estate brokerage services at a deep discount to customers buying or selling homes.
What Robinhood did to stock trading and SoFi did to student loans, Snyder says he hopes Lower can do for housing. “Clean, simple, thoughtful and with a purpose,” he says. “If we can do that, well, we will be really big.” To do so, however, Snyder knows the importance of having a staff that’s all in—and being all in for his staff. “I am bullish that we can, as long as we continue to keep a great culture and find smart people (who have) bought into our mission,” he says.
Once in a generation
This year, jobs site Glassdoor.com ranked Lower.com as the 21st best place to work in North America.
“A big deal for sure as a new company, but what you get out of that is simply reinforcement that we are on the right path to providing a place to work where people don’t hate their lives,” Snyder says. “The last thing I want is to win an award or be recognized and then have the majority of our team roll their eyes.”
That’s especially important at a time when COVID-19 and how workplaces are adapting is the top concern for many employees. “Give me a real, authentic culture that can survive even a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and I’ll take that over a trophy,” he says.
Out of the gates, Snyder says the company strived to make transparent, caring and quick decisions for its employees. “It isn’t like you go through how to do this type of stuff in business school, so we all were coming from the standpoint of long term versus short term,” Snyder says. “So we immediately sent as many people as we could home to work remotely.”
The company pushed out communication to its customers and was available to answer questions day or night. “We have a great leadership and management team that worked overtime to make common sense decisions with the interest of the team at the center,” Snyder says. “We definitely remained as open for business as we could, because we had customers across the country relying on us to come through on their purchase or refinance of their home.”
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As it does with many companies across the country, the situation remains fluid, he says.
Instead of hiring leaders from the outside, Snyder says he looks for them from within.
“As the business grows naturally, you will have gaps in your organization chart,” he says. “When you launch a business, you don’t need a head of sales, human resources or operations. You have a small team that wears a lot of hats.”
Through his multiple businesses, Snyder has learned that a great culture that develops future leaders is much easier to achieve with more continuity. “I personally love watching people grow their careers beyond what they thought possible,” he says. “For example, I had a college intern work for me named Lauren Randall. She did some sales and some admin work, and I ultimately hired her after she graduated as a recruiting coordinator.” Fast-forward to today, and Randall serves as the director of human resources for the company. “We have so many examples like Lauren across our company,” Snyder says. “It is our secret sauce.”
In addition to investing in its own employees, Lower.com offers several other leadership opportunities that make the company a top workplace. “We bring in talented speakers once per month to talk about their leadership journey and hopefully provide perspective to our growing team,” Snyder says.
The company’s Emerging Leaders development program provides leadership training to employees, while an employee-led philanthropy committee gets employees involved in the community, with endeavors including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Junior Achievement and the New Albany Foundation.
“We invest heavily to support our team members as they come up with ideas to engage their co-workers or help the community,” Snyder says.
Christine Bryant is a freelance writer.