As a leader, it is essential that you are honest and have integrity. You must do all you can to be upfront and honest in your conduct, especially when dealing with your customers. Part of being honest means that when you make great claims, you must have the details and documentation to back them up. Whether or not your claims are true, if you don’t have details and documentation, people will be skeptical and may not believe you. You can’t just make great claims with nothing to back them up. Details and documentation are extremely important.
Recently, I had a very interesting and potentially scary experience. Over the past several months my wife and I have been trying to refinance our home in Carson City, NV. We went to several different lenders and one after another denied us for one reason or another. All cases, however, were tied to the fact that we have excellent credit and a perfect payment history.
About a month ago we received a phone call from a loan modification company, Direct Mortgage Counseling, directmortgagecounseling.org. They said that they could modify our loan and give us a new great loan (30 year fixed, 2% interest, reduced principal). We were somewhat skeptical because the loan modification seemed too good to be true. We did some research and found that they had the proper business licenses to do this type of work. That gave us enough confidence that we gave them a few of our documents, so they could give us additional information.
Once they received our few documents, they put together the loan modification paperwork. From there, they requested quite a bit more information (basically every financial document we had) so they could finalize our loan modification. Since I have experience writing legally binding contracts, I made sure I read through their contract completely before I signed it. I was especially careful because I was skeptical of them from the start.
When I read through the contract, there were a multitude of spelling and typographical errors. In addition, the verbiage was very unclear on who was responsible for what and what I was agreeing to by signing it. They had also written the contract like it was an advertisement and not like a professional contract. It looked tacky. On top of all those errors, there were two things to top it all. The contract had two contradictory parts. On one sheet, the top half set out specific conditions while the bottom half had different conditions that weren’t even remotely the same and even contradicted each other. The biggest error, however, was that the property address and value were completely wrong on all sheets. I was appalled by the documents I had received because they were very sloppy.
Another factor that contributed to my skepticism was that they wanted me to pay for the modification in full before I received it. I concluded that I must do additional extensive research online. I found a few fraud alert websites that had complaints about the company and a Better Business Bureau (BBB) gave them an F rating. These factors along with the sloppy documents made me decide to drop the loan modification with Direct Mortgage Counseling. I had lost my trust in them.
Their salesman called me back to discuss where we were on the paperwork. I said that we were not going to continue our business relationship with them because of the above mentioned factors. He had a number of excuses as to why those things had happened, and apologized for the sloppy document. I questioned whether or not his company was legitimate. He said that the loan had already been approved and now we were just in a waiting period for everything to be verified, so I asked him for documentation that he had contacted our mortgage company and that it was going through. He said that he couldn’t give me anything. I contacted our lender to see if they had been in communication with a third party to have our loan modified. Our lender said no such communication had been taking place. I then asked him for contact information on who he was working with at my mortgage company. He said that he couldn’t give me any. He requested that we pay him $3,500 for a loan modification, and I told him that I had no proof he was modifying my loan, and it was illegal to receive payment before the transaction was complete. He said that Direct Mortgage Counseling had a special agreement with the government to provide these types of loans, so I asked him for proof and he had none and said he couldn’t give me any. From there he said, “Brandon, you just need to trust me that I am going to help you get this great loan modification.”
I decided to end the business relationship with him because, bottom line, his paperwork looked very unprofessional and he gave me many reasons to doubt his trustworthiness. He also couldn’t give me any proof or documentation to verify that he was telling me the truth. I did not pay him any money, and I was not defrauded, but I saw many signs that led me to believe that he was very sketchy and untrustworthy.
Because I was not completely defrauded, I can’t say with 100% certainty that it is a fraudulent company or that they are completely dishonest, but they did not maintain transparency or give me any reason to believe or trust them. He did not maintain an appearance of honesty or openness. Every time I talked to their salesman, I felt like I was going to be cheated out of my money if I continued the business relationship. That’s not a good sign!
As a leader, you must help people to trust you by being honest and giving documentation for your great claims. When you come up with a great product that seems too good to be true, you better have good documentation as to why it is true. If you don’t, people will think you are a fraud and won’t give you any of their trust. If you are the customer, I would recommend that you learn from my experience and do as much research as possible before you enter into a contract or spend significant amounts of money on a big purchase.
Have you ever had an experience like this? What leadership lessons did you learn? How are you better as a result of that experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!