• Keith Kemph

The Importance of Making the Right Call

Recently, I had the honor of providing a keynote address to the members of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA) at their annual convention in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic organization and I highly recommend it to any credit union executive interested in providing home financing to their members.


I wanted to make sure that my address gave attendees a clear direction as they embarked on their 2022 planning. I recalled some of the more interesting lessons I’d picked up over the course of my career and shared those with my audience.


The power that comes from asking the right questions

While I’m very proud that my team has already become widely recognized for our commitment to our clients and vendor partners’ success, I’m not personally famous for anything. If I’m known for anything in this industry, it’s for my relentless pursuit of information and my proclivity for asking a lot of questions.


It doesn’t matter where I am -- in the elevator, on the escalator, while in the buffet line -- I’m going to ask a complete stranger a question. I never know what I’ll learn and I find it personally very exciting. As a result of this, I have met some great people and had some very interesting life experiences.


One question I asked of a stranger resulted in a valuable friendship with a veteran trader at the New York Stock Exchange. As a result, I ended up standing on the floor after being given a tour that had us running from garage to garage, post to post, and making trades.


When we finally had a moment of pause, I asked my friend Mitch, “What’s the hardest part of your job.”


He quickly answered, “Making the right call at the right time. If I make the wrong call, I will cost my firm millions. If I make the right call, I can make my firm millions.”


Fast forward a few years and you’ll find me at Angels Stadium, Anaheim, CA., in the Major League Baseball Umpires locker room. While grazing on the deli buffet, the umpires are engaged in their pre-game ritual of sitting around a card table, playing cards in their underwear.


I asked them the same question: What’s the hardest part of your job?


Without hesitation one of the umpires replied, “Making the right call.”


I challenged the comment by pointing out that we have instant replay now, but the crew chief explained, “You don’t understand. We are trained to be right 95 to 98% of the time. And we HAVE to be right at least 93% of the time.”


How often do we hold ourselves to a standard that high? How would we manage our businesses if we had to be right on 9 out of 10 decisions we made?


I’ve taken that question to heart and in my next post, I’ll give you my three-step plan for raising the bar at BlackFin Group in 2022.

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