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Directing his dreams

by: Vern Uyetake, STAFF PHOTO / VERN UYETAKE
Mark Hanna, 31, President and CEO of Lake Oswego’s Directors Mortgage said his customers come first, and his employees are greatly appreciated. The company has an in-house bank which makes transactions easy. And community involvement is something the whole company can smile about as Director’s benefits about 50 charities.

If there's anyone who knows a thing or two about turning a dream into reality, it's Mark Hanna.

President and CEO of Lake Oswego's Directors Mortgage, Hanna has worked hard his entire professional life to become one of the leaders in the mortgage industry and the number one loan officer in Oregon, according to Mortgage Originator magazine.

Even when he was a child, Hanna remembers always having an entrepreneurial spirit. At 10 years old he started The Best Cookie Company and sold cookies for a dollar at all the Hallmark stores in the area, as well as in offices of friends' parents. Hanna even has pictures of himself as a child at work with his dad, a tax and estate lawyer - wanting to help however he could.

An Oregon native, Hanna, 31, originally went to LaSalle High School and then later graduated from Jesuit. He liked the private, Catholic school because it allowed him the freedom to play tennis while he went to school.

In high school Hanna mowed lawns in his neighborhood for money. A friend drove Hanna in a pickup truck until he'd saved up enough to buy his own. Hanna then created the MACKS Landscaping company, which he eventually changed the name to First Light. Even as a teenager Hanna was working hard to improve his business, taking irrigation classes to learn more about installation.

Hanna attended the University of San Diego and sold First Light after his freshman year. While playing Division I soccer, Hanna majored in business finance and management, and got involved in the stock market. He remembers trading real stocks in business classes while everyone else was trading fake ones.

In college Hanna worked for CTX Mortgage under one of the top brokers in the country for nearly three years, learning as much as he could about the mortgage industry. Hanna had always known that he wanted to start a mortgage company in Oregon because his family was here.

Hanna remembers calling and interviewing several CEOs and top officials of mortgage companies all over the West Coast to learn more about the industry. He said he was writing a paper on it, and through his interviews was able to learn what companies felt like they were lacking.

The most common item he found when talking to processors and loan officers, was that many employees never felt like they received much recognition, as most mortgage companies were solely client-based.

Another thing he found was that the name Directors Mortgage kept coming up. The company had been sold out to another business years earlier but was still remembered among industry leaders as a good model of business.

Hanna contacted his father and asked if the name was still available. It was. Hanna put the name on reserve and moved back into Portland to look for Directors Mortgage's home location.

Three months later he selected Lake Oswego to be the first of what is now four offices on the west coast. That was 10 years ago.

'Everyone kept saying downtown Portland,' Hanna said. 'I felt like Lake Oswego was a powerful enough area in terms of real estate and accessibility that it was ultimately the better choice.'

Since then, Hanna has helped Directors Mortgage grow into one of the most successful mortgage companies to date.

Hanna says there are four items that set his company apart from the competition. The first is to focus everything around the customer by making sure they have the best service and processors.

This is done by only hiring loan officers and processors with a minimum of five years experience that have integrity, professionalism and knowledge. He said the average length of experience for an employee at Directors Mortgage is around 14 years.

Directors Mortgage has four physical offices, said Hanna, and one more are set to open within the week. The company also has satellite offices and licences in several other states in the Northwest, he said.

Hanna also said community involvement is crucial. Directors Mortgage is involved with more than 50 charitable and community events that range from education to hospitals to helping minorities and people with challenged credit be able to make owning a home a reality.

The third item, Hanna said, is having their own in-house bank. Having their own lending department gives Directors Mortgage greater control over the transaction, which not only speeds up the process but is also a rarity as they are one of the few privately owned direct lenders in Oregon, Hanna said.

The fourth thing, Hanna says, is taking care of employees through compensation and appreciation. Hanna works hard to reward and recognize his employees with trips and awards, as well as paying 20 percent more than the industry average.

'Since the beginning we've had nine receptionists, and all are still with the company,' Hanna said. 'We want to keep employees and let them grow internally. This kind of appreciation breeds loyalty, which in turn works out better for everyone.'

When asked what drives him personally, Hanna answers with conviction, 'To continually be able to improve and simplify the loan process and to help my employees succeed.'

Continues Hanna, 'I get a lot of enjoyment out of promoting, motivating and encouraging my employees and seeing their success. I've always wanted to be able to help people in the community, watching something grow and making it better. We call it the 'Wow factor' with my employees. There is a strong connection with people for everything.'

The recently married entrepreneur is also a strong family man, with four other siblings who live nearly next door to each other and have big family dinners every Sunday night.

'People are going to think I'm weird, but whatever,' Hanna said. 'For my honeymoon, my wife and I spent the first week alone together and the second week we flew out my whole family. We just wanted everyone to be there to celebrate with us.'

It's clear that however unconventional he may be, Hanna's methods seem to be working both in his professional and personal life.