By Don Parsons
Don’s a Registered Mortgage Advisor out of our Newport Beach, CA office. At least that’s what it says on his business cards. As you’re about to find out, he does a lot more than his title implies.
We spent a little time with Don and discovered how Commerce Home Mortgage has helped him succeed by being himself, and how he might be the world’s most unexpected assassin.
CHM: What does your position at CHM entail? I have over 30 years in the mortgage business. I’m also a Certified Mortgage Planner, Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist and Certified Liability Advisor. I help people with every aspect of the home buying process, from beginning to end. But I do so much more than that. I do a lot of planning for my clients. I work with first-time buyers; move up buyers, and people buying vacation homes as well as rental properties.
I build long-term relationships with my clients. We work on plans for their life. We talk about how when you purchase a house, you need to plan for other life events – kids, college, everything that you’re building your life around. We talk about saving money and staying out of debt. We discuss how their mortgage fits with their retirement plans. I also suggest that they talk to a C.P.A. as well as a financial planner for sound financial planning.
A good CPA is especially critical to self-employed people, who are trying to minimize their net income by maximizing expenses. This can often make it difficult when qualifying for a mortgage. So every year about tax time I invest extra planning time with self-employed clients, reviewing their year-end performance and then working with their CPA to evaluate the benefits of restructuring their income and expenses for one year to help them achieve their purchase or refinance.
Also I work with a lot of people who have life challenges. People who are transitioning in their lives from exiting a marriage or beginning a marriage, as well as one of the largest classes of people now, the baby boomers. All these folks need extra care and planning as they are often downsizing, relocating, and with baby boomers, frequently in greater need of planning around retirement. These groups have many tough decisions to make and often it is a very emotional time, requiring and deserving special care.
What I really do is help clients succeed. For most people, a mortgage is the biggest liability they’ll ever have. By properly integrating their mortgage with their financial and tax planning they can get an extra boost with their retirement planning. Also, folks who have had numerous credit challenges generally don’t get good counsel and I get satisfaction from helping them get on the right path.
CHM: How long have you been with CHM? Just over two years. The previous company I was with closed its doors as a result of the 2007 downturn. I tend to work places for a long time. I was at my previous company for seven or eight years, fifteen to seventeen years at a company before that. I have owned both small real estate and mortgage brokerage companies prior to that. Joining Commerce was a great move for me.
CHM: Why has it been great? It’s a much larger entity. When you work at a place like Commerce, you have considerably more resources at your disposal. When I joined Commerce, I brought my assistant of 15 years, Vanessa Weiss with me. We were already a team and I wanted to continue that success. I was promised full support for a model that was already working, not interference trying to make me fit a certain mold.
On top of that they have people on the backend with the skills to help loan officers succeed. They’re very well organized. They stay competitive by investing in current technology, cross train employees so they can pinch-hit for each other, and they know compliance. This means that I don’t have to worry about ending up in the headlines.
CHM: What drew you to CHM? I was introduced to Mario De Tomasi by an originating team from my former company. After my first interview with Commerce, I needed time to contemplate all my options. I was talking to other companies as well. I almost pulled the trigger twice with other companies but at the last minute pulled the plug. When I decided to interview with Mario a second time, I simply laid out what I felt I and my assistant of 15 years needed to “to be successful at Commerce”. Without hesitation they stated they felt they could support me and my team, enabling both of us to succeed. Jeff Simonich, the President of Commerce Home Mortgage, was also a former loan originator I was told, and therefor understood the origination side of things, not just the back-end admin side. Two years later, the honeymoon is still not over!
At Commerce all of the cylinders are firing. They’re receptive to change, new marketing approaches, new technology and systems for enabling growth as well.
CHM: How did you get interested in the mortgage business? I’ve always been in sales of some kind – even when I was a kid. I sold Rainbow Vacuums in college. When I was younger, I bought salve out of the back of a comic book and resold it for a profit. About 2-3 years out of college I started my own real estate company in the greater St. Louis Missouri area.
A few years later, I came out to California to visit college buddies who were in real estate. Shortly after that, I got married and moved to join them. Unfortunately the Feds were on the warpath and prime rate had just hit 20%. I was supported for a while by my industrious wife, and was feeling very “unsuccessful”. I had to learn to embrace some of my failures as learning experiences and navigate in new and different ways. Lending instead of real estate became my new passion. A growing faith and a hard working wife saw me through those first few years, while I transitioned.
CHM: What gets you stoked about coming into the office? I’m fairly competitive and driven to meet my personal goals. But my passion is helping my clients at whatever level they are, succeed at their next level. I even get compensated for what I love and that creates a grateful life for me and my family.
At Commerce, as an originator I have many mentors. There is not just one or two top dogs, there are numerous ones and they are incredibly different from each other in their approaches to the business. I am not forced to become something I am not. Also people here honor and respect hard work. When people are hard workers, they get recognized.
CHM: What do you do for fun? When I lived in the St. Louis area, I studied Chinese Kenpo Karate. I worked for three and a half years to earn a brown belt. When I moved to California, I put martial arts on pause for 30 to 35 years. About 4 years ago when I was getting the itch to play ice hockey again, my wife suggested I finish getting my black belt, since it had been a life-long goal of mine and “I was too aggressive in ice hockey”. Right! Through various circumstances and recommendations of several people, including my son, I went to meet Bob White in Costa Mesa, who owned Bob White’s Karate Studio. I did not know him or anything about his credentials at the time. But he was well known nationally and internationally, as a former top fighter, fighting with Chuck Norris, having roles in the Karate Kid movie as well as having trained some of the LA Rams.
I was told that if we worked together as a team, that hard work, discipline, sacrifice and focus on the goal of obtaining my black belt in Kenpo could be a reality. My fourth year of training, I added additional outside training with a personal endurance coach. Between the outside training and studio training 8-10 times a week, I prepared for my test on November 21st, 2015. It was very physical and lasted a little over two hours. It was posted on Facebook that evening that Don Parsons had joined the ranks of Kenpo Black Belts and had obtained it the old fashioned way. He “earned it”, via “blood, sweat and tears”. At 65 I was the oldest person from the studio to test under those conditions.
It was like getting a double PHD in karate. I had to learn over 110 self-defense techniques as well as numerous katas or forms, including creating my own form. My own form consisted of approximately18 attacks with 3 attackers. We had to practice numerous hours for weeks to keep it safe without hurting each other while at the same time making it real. Obtaining my Black Belt in Kenpo was mentally and physically the most difficult thing ever sought in my life, to say nothing of numerous injuries. I was told by several that earning a black belt, in the Kenpo style, at my age was truly a model for others to be encouraged by.
CHM: How does martial arts influence your work at Commerce? I’ve always been in sports. Playing at a high level requires commitment, discipline, practice, focus, and stamina. With Bob White, I needed all of those things. You learn to do the things you don’t want to do. You learn mental discipline. Though hidden, tears streamed down my face when attending and viewing my first black belt test. I thought there was no way I could do that and I have done a lot of tough athletic stuff in my younger years. Bob took me aside and assured me again, that we could get there as a team, but that it would take both of us making a solid commitment to each other. I did not want to let him down.
I think I’d like to apply these concepts and principles to family and business. Why can’t I be the best father, husband, family man, and businessman possible? I don’t see a way to be less than outstanding if I use these same principles of success. I’ve gained new reserves of stamina, patience, and an increased ability to listen. When I’m working with people in tough or challenging situations I just go back to my training and apply the skills I have learned over the years. Now I have a new coach and partner, Commerce Home Mortgage.
CHM: We’re starting to think that there’s nothing that Don can’t achieve, for himself and his clients. Having earned a Black Belt just a couple months before his 66th birthday, we know he’s capable of being a stealth assassin. We’re glad he’s using his powers for good.