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Cover Story


It Takes a Village

Two amazing women grace the cover of this issue of the Women With Vision Magazine. They happen to be colleagues, C-suite executives at EPM, whose leadership and concepts of teamwork embody the growing power of women’s voices in boardrooms across the mortgage field.


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The Spotlight Shines Brightly


Let’s face it, failing at something you worked really hard at and put your whole heart into sucks. The level of suck varies, of course, but the feeling is the same. Loss, confusion, pain, fear: these feelings are the trademarks of failure, and how deeply you feel them can set you on a course that ends with regret and guilt.

Coaches ConnXion


If you knew you could reach out, touch a door handle, grasp it firmly, turn it, open the door, and walk into fresh, renewed, and dramatically improved relationships (even with difficult people), both at work and at home, would you take the risk to go where you have never gone before?


Celebrating Women Leaders


A Laura Brandao Interview with Margarita Randell 

Keep asking questions and never be satisfied!


Coming Full Circle: Amerifund

Do what you love! Most of us spend more hours working than we do with our families. As the saying goes, make sure you love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Lifestyle! Home, Fashion, Food, and Fun


The nesting instinct is a burst of energy women often develop in the last few weeks of pregnancy, inspiring them to clean and organize the house in preparation. It’s not necessary to be an expectant mother to experience and value the nesting instinct. Perpetual nesting is a concept I believe anyone can embrace.

The V-Factor Column

Vision, Vitality, and Velocity: The V-Factor

Velocity is Found in Gaining Confidence and Trust

Being a consistent and trusted brand to your targeted audiences is the name of the game when it comes to marketing and branding success.


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Where will you be in 2021?

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IN THIS ISSUE from the Editor in Chief

In this issue of the Women With Vision Magazine, our Senior Editor, Colleen Wietmarschen and I are welcoming a new member to our editorial staff! We are pleased to officially recognize Leora Ruzin who is joining us as managing editor and director of sales. Leora will be busy behind the scenes writing and working with the team to ensure we have great content for every issue of both the WWV Mag and The Vision.

In this issue, you will see we’ve already put her to work! She’s penned two features for your enjoyment. In our Spotlight Shines Brightly feature, Leora explores the concept of Reset and Renew. And in our Meet the Pros feature, Leora profiles Amerifund and founder Jamie Cavanaugh. Oh, and check out the great book review she wrote, too! Welcome, Leora! I am truly pleased and grateful to have you join our staff.

I will close with this welcome from Christine Beckwith, who has a long-time coaching relationship with Leora. I could not possibly have said it any better.

“Over the years I have known Leora Ruzin I have learned much about the resilience of the human spirit, humility, and strife. Leora is unassuming until she speaks. And then you realize her true self shining through. Leora has a heart of gold, she is giving, dedicated, and talented. I have my money on her success and I truly enjoy having Leora here at 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching. Her placement today in our magazine staffing is a natural fit for her skill set. She brings us experience and power and purpose. She is fully vested in our vision having gained as a successful coaching student on a personal level. I can’t think of anyone better qualified to help us unearth the stories of success all around us.  Leora is still telling her story. We are grateful to have her here in the midst of our own story as it unfolds. I am grateful.”

Please do subscribe and read. We remain committed to developing new writers and new features and keeping these digital pages fresh and compelling.

Happy reading, all!

IN THIS ISSUE from the Publisher

Christine Beckwith

Once again, I am proud of this incredible edition of the WWV Magazine. As we continue to grow and bring valuable, relative, pertinent, and timely content, I cannot think of a greater coincidence than the one I am sharing with you today. It seems the gods have aligned again to allow us to bring valuable, relative information that is both pertinent and timely in a way we did not expect. Last month, in The Vision magazine, a similar alignment took place when a previously planned cover featuring Christopher Griffith suddenly morphed into a journalistic piece driven by a current event—shaving his famous beard for over $180K in charitable donations.

This past week as the finishing touches were being placed on a cover several months in planning featuring executive leaders Suha Zehl and Kerry Cole from EPM Mortgage, a current event again became pertinent. And as the cover article’s title was being determined by our Chief Editor, Candy Zulkosky, the very essence of “Voices on Fire” came to light in the most timely fashion.

A long-time industry blogger and esteemed columnist, Rob Chrisman has a practice of ending his daily communications with a joke. Recently, Suha used her voice to bring to light a repeated offense to women, shining a spotlight on a cowardly practice long overdue to be unearthed. She wrote to Chrisman after reading a sexually violent narrative in a joke (now removed from the blog). Suha received a personal apology (of sorts), which Chrisman followed with a report to her CEO of her objection to his joke.

Weak as it was, Suha might have accepted his apology and moved on. But Chrisman “reported her” to her CEO, a stance we have come to recognize as a baton passing with a message of “keep your girl in line.” His apology to Suha was more of a defense, saying “others find these jokes funny.” This is a narrative women have lived with for decades. Not this time. Suha lifted her voice to a dozen executive leaders in our industry, including Chairman of the WWV Board of Directors, Laura Brandao. These dozen or so women took action and through personal conversations brought this to the attention of mPower founder, Marcia Davies.

Fast forward to a public written apology from Rob we call a victory. Suha’s burning voice has given us hope. What she did was incredibly hard to do. To stand up in a situation like this, to put yourself personally and professionally on the line takes courage and belief. It is in accepting the status quo, which women have been doing for years, that we fail as an industry and as people. Accepting or ignoring the daily offensive jokes simply serves to prove that, as is often true, some battles need to be fought more than once. Interestingly enough, I uncovered an article published by HousingWire in 2018 written about Rob Chrisman’s offensive daily jokes. Read it here: Sadly, here we are years later still fighting the same battle.

I hope you enjoy the wonderful stories and articles in this month’s edition. They were carefully constructed to help the reader feel inspired, to take action with best practices and to strengthen our voice and community. We believe we are hitting the mark.

Here is the apology reprinted here from Chrisman’s Daily Chrisman Commentary, April 27:

I’ve been writing this daily commentary for many years, and I’ve always ended it with a joke or something humorous or interesting. I figure it has added up to several thousand jokes over the years, most of which have come from readers. If I think the joke is a bit racy, I always put a warning there, but people apparently ignore the warning and read it anyway, which I find troubling. One of the jokes last week may have offended some people who read it despite the warning. My goal is to offer a little lightness, not to offend, so apologies are due to anyone who found the joke offensive. Over the years, I’ve received hundreds, if not thousands, of positive email comments about my jokes, and barely a handful from those who read past a warning and found any offensive. Once again, I apologize if you found it offensive. And if you have an issue, contact me directly.

20/20 Vision for Success Coaching

VOICES ON FIRE: It Takes a Village

Written by: CaZ

Two amazing women grace the cover of this issue of the Women With Vision Magazine. They happen to be colleagues, C-suite executives at EPM, whose leadership and concepts of teamwork embody the growing power of women’s voices in boardrooms across the mortgage field. Their work is being recognized. Their words are being heard. Their networks are growing, and their voices truly are on fire. It Takes a Village is a commonly used catchphrase defined as many people’s involvement to achieve a goal. While the idiom’s source is credited to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”, in our day many are reminded first of a book written by Hillary Clinton. Suha Zehl and Kerry Cole personify this concept and bring their unique twists to the villages under their purview. In these pages we are pleased to present a brief profile of each. – Editor

Suha Zehl

When it comes down to talking about the reality of who Suha Zehl is, the concept of both thinking and living outside the box comes to mind. There are few, if any, stereotypes one could pigeonhole Suha into. Suha is the very picture of an all-together person, living life on her terms, flourishing in a fulfilling career, and finding happiness and success despite overcoming dangers most of us have never faced.

Suha was born in Lebanon and spent most of her formative years there. She is fortunate to be dual citizenship and traveled often between the countries while growing up. Today she values her heritage and visits Lebanon when she can. At the age of 15, a time when the worst strife of her life should have been how to get the cute boy in civics class to smile, Suha fled a civil war in Lebanon and was sent to take shelter in the US leaving behind her parents, most of her family, and her friends.

“Being on my own to start college at such a young age would be difficult in any world,” Suha shares. “To enter a male-dominated field doubled the challenge. Back then, computer science was not woman-friendly. But that’s not what I took away from the experience. I learned to rely on myself and, most importantly, that failure is just a step in the right direction.”

After graduating Cum Laude and entering the work world, she found herself living abroad for about 10 years before returning to the US not long after the 9/11 attacks. Returning home was important to her, and yet she found during the troubling post-9/11 years, her heritage created surprising challenges, professionally.

“I never considered myself a minority until after I returned to the US. If you look at the census of Lebanon, my heritage is considered white. I don’t feel discrimination as strongly now as it was right after 9/11. There was a huge backlash then. I believe my difference gives me perspective. I’m able to bridge multiple cultures. I’m able to bridge multiple viewpoints and present them in a way others may not be able to present or even to see.”

As is true with many in the mortgage world, Suha backed into a career in mortgage. Unable to find work in her field, she registered with a temp agency and was sent on assignment to work at a startup mortgage company doing data entry.

“Analytics is my passion. I remember looking at their data and putting together reports. Next thing I knew, they hired me full time and eventually, I became their CIO and moved on from there.

The numbers and facts don’t lie. We can tell ourselves any story we like, but when we dig into the numbers and analyze them, the story they tell is the truth based on fact. I love that. Understanding this and getting the simple truth from the numbers can be the lifeblood of a company and differentiates you from others who do not understand the facts.”

Exceeding expectations, exceeding her own expectations, is a characteristic of Suha’s work ethic. She believes in setting the right expectation and then delivering more than promised. In fact, she credits this mindset as a secret to success.

“I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves. I never say it’s not my job when something needs to be done. I am one of the first to step up and do it. This is how companies succeed. Teamwork.”

As the Chief Analytics Officer for EPM, Suha is responsible for business intelligence and analytics and creates a dashboard of reports critical to the senior leadership. Her team provides the backup information needed to support the road map and strategy EPM has developed and makes it possible for leadership to gain key insights for decision making and to create plans for growth going out five and ten years into the future.

Collaboration and teamwork are important to Suha. While her analytical skills are valued in any kind of business, the opportunity to help people achieve homeownership is what keeps her involved in the mortgage business saying, “From the sales side all the way to the end, it doesn’t happen by one person’s effort. You can be from any background and succeed in the mortgage business; it doesn’t have to be just sales. I love our industry. It works because of collaboration. We are finally accepting disruption and wanting to do things differently, rejecting the status quo. It used to be more about the need to make a loan and everybody was in a rush to close to make money. Now it’s shifting. It’s about how we can make it better for the customer. How can we make it better and help them achieve their dream?”

Suha is a natural leader, someone who others look to for guidance. She believes in paving the way and helping the next generation of mortgage leaders by mentoring and appreciating them and their successes. She could never have imagined when she graduated college she would find such satisfaction in a career strongly based on helping people. Although when one hears her speak of her parents and the values they taught, a career finding value in service is not as far afield as she might think.

“My parents both worked. My mom was a pioneer in her field. She was one of the first females of her generation in Lebanon to earn a master’s degree and was one of the principals in a successful educational consulting company. She instilled in me from a young age the importance of hard work, living up to your word, and being authentic and true. My dad was just as much of a pioneer. Women did not really work in Lebanon in those days. If they did, it was mostly as teachers. My dad was a CFO (or its equivalent in those days) and was supportive of the family in every way he could. But more than that, he was proud of my mother’s accomplishments and supported her passion to be an entrepreneur.  He was considered Avant Garde in his thinking and not in any way typical of a Lebanese man of his day. I am proud of how my parents brought me up and in the strength of their relationship.”

The teaching of both parents was effective. Suha embraces her heritage and her femininity and considers both to be strengths and the source of her uniqueness. As a leader, Suha brings to every interaction a strong sense of empathy, a willing ear and open mind, and the desire to help and find solutions. These qualities, coupled with the passion she imbues in her work, are the leadership traits she delivers. This woman who loves numbers also loves people and puts the human factor into every equation. And the response of the people she works with validates how well she leads them.

“Being a woman in leadership has two sides to the coin. Yes, I am a leader. Yes, I am a female. And as a leader, I have a gentler way of seeing things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not about being able to make the hard decisions. I can be as determined as any male leader. But I choose to be less abrupt and in your face about it. I believe I am welcomed as a woman leader. But I have also had to overcome it because there are still people who think a woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about, especially when it comes to numbers and tech. I still have to prove myself. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I think we all have to constantly give more to be able to grow professionally and personally.”

Family is also an important part of Suha’s life. She introduced her husband, Steve, to Lebanon 10 years ago. They are both passionate about traveling and have taken many trips to places all around the world. As avid scuba divers, they also enjoy trips to dive in places like Thailand, Hawaii, Australia, and the Caribbean. They have two sons, Philip who is in hospitality management and Nick who is graduating and will be entering the technology field in game design.

Suha and Steve visit Paris, their dream city, as often as they are able. When asked what draws her to Paris, she cites the juxtaposition of old and new. Art and Culture, museums, and architecture. Young and vibrant and at the same time old and solid. Since she speaks French, the language is not a barrier and she finds the people welcoming.

A surprising fact about Suha is the depth of her love for cooking. She admits to being a foodie and actually served as a guest chef at a hotel when she lived overseas. There was a time in her life when she might have chosen a career as a chef. Today, she admits to a different interest:

“Ten years ago, if you asked me what I would do if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I would have said become a chef. Now, though, I see how hard hospitality is and I’m not sure it would provide the fulfillment I hope for. I would write and coach and mentor if I was not doing what I’m doing now. And since I do some of all that with EPM, I have the best of both worlds right now.”

Suha’s Tips for Success

  1. Embrace failure because failure gets a bad rap, but it’s not bad. It’s a growth strategy. Learn from failure to become better and evolve.
  2. Ask for help when you need it. It’s OK to say you don’t know something and to ask for help.
  3. Live in the Moment. Work will always be there. It’s important to be focused on work and do it well and to be passionate about it. But there’s more to living than working. Don’t make the mistake of saying you wish you had spent more time with family; make the opportunity and take the time to live in the moment.

“Being an immigrant and coming to the US was one of my biggest challenges. And it’s one of my biggest wins, too. The contrast of how something can be a challenge and a win has turned out to be one of my greatest strengths. What I experienced personally, the challenges I’ve faced and overcome, make up my core strength. Did I understand this at the time I was going through hard times? No. But I know it now. Hindsight, as they say, is 2020. Embrace the path you are on because there’s a reason for it. What you do now sets you up for success.”

Editor’s note: This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Suha’s name has appeared in the pages of a 20/20 Vision magazine. In the February issue of The Vision, Suha penned an outstanding profile of her company, EPM, under the Meet the Pros feature. If you missed it, please take a look. Also, check out what our publisher has to say, in this issue, about the power of Suha’s voice, and indeed any voice raised appropriately at the right time. Find Christine Beckwith’s comments in the Letter from the Publisher in this issue.

VOICES ON FIRE: It Takes a Village

Written by: CaZ

Here is our snapshot of Kerry Cole, also a C-suite executive at EPM, whose entirely different personality, skill set, and experience place her in an entirely different managerial role. Her passion and unique point of view are eminently worthy of reporting and emulating.

Kerry Cole

Kerry Cole, like many in the industry, backed into a career in the mortgage industry. After college where she graduated with a communications major having every intention to become a journalist, her life took a left turn when she attended a job fair and was hired on the spot by Champion Mortgage, a subprime lender at the time.

Today, as the Chief Wholesale Officer for EPM, Kerry intimately understands how many individuals in the village it takes to make people’s dreams of homeownership come true. Her charge includes the third-party origination division, meaning all correspondent non-delegated wholesale channels, both on the sales and operations side, report through her. Kerry loves juggling the moving parts and the quick-change nature of the work. She quotes a study where it was reported mortgage people share the same characteristics as those who work in emergency rooms: they like the urgency, have the gumption to finish the job, and feel rewarded by knowing they’ve helped people.

“It’s not like there’s a four-year degree in mortgage. We all kind of fall into it. I didn’t have finance or business administration in my background. I think the woman who hired me saw I was young, excited, a strong communicator, and eager to find my place, and I have. Once you’re in this world, you are hooked. There’s something rewarding on every level in this business. Today, when I receive a clear to close, I’m just as excited about it as I was back then. There’s an adrenaline rush when everything comes together especially since there are so many people along the way who have to collaborate. It’s fulfilling when a loan makes it to the finish line.”

For Kerry, it’s the stories behind the sale keeping her coming back for more. She grew up in a family of seven children. Her parents were not able to afford a lot of extras, but they had a home. Even though they were bursting at the seams, it was their home. There were eight in the three-bedroom house. The kids shared the three bedrooms. Her parents slept on a pull-out couch in the living room, and during this time, her mother was pregnant with child number seven.

Kerry remembers well the excitement and the feeling of safety they gained by having their own home. Many of her family’s friends rented and were continually stressed by having to move. These early memories help her to appreciate and value the service she is able to provide a family when her team saves a family $500 or $600 a month on their mortgage and, in essence, provides them the ability to continue to feed their family.

“When I hear stories from families having to leave their house and who are living in a hotel with two dogs and the kids, I get it. I remember what that looks like. I just like helping people.”

In many ways, being raised in a large family had, naturally enough, a significant impact on Kerry. Early on, she learned the power even for a number three child, to be found in determination. Her grandmother told a story of a time she had taken Kerry, all six of her siblings, plus her five cousins to a playground. The cousins wanted to ride the merry-go-round but it was occupied. It was Kerry who stood up to the other kids, telling them to get off so she and her cousins could ride. She counts this as one of the first memories she has of showing determination and taking the lead.

“I think women in leadership bring strengths. We can be more intuitive and empathetic than many of our counterparts. It’s both a skill and a gift to truly listen and to hear the need. It doesn’t matter if it’s the client or your employee talking.”

Kerry believes now is a great time to be a woman in the C-suite in the mortgage industry. Her path from entry-level sales leading to executive-level management has often been a lonely journey. There was little in the way of support, few female role models, and no woman’s network to turn to for a hand up or to simply lend an ear at a difficult intersection. Early on, she felt the need to compete, especially as she moved through the sales roles, so even women who were colleagues did not serve as a supportive network.

Where she saw her most success came when she changed her mindset from competing with her colleagues to competing with herself. This allowed her to stop looking over her shoulder, figuratively speaking, to see who was doing what. She found her strength and success in competing against her own achievements by doing better each month, doing better than the previous year.

“Every opportunity I’ve been given has involved a door being opened for me by a man. Because that’s who was in leadership. There were few women to offer a hand. I’ve taken advantage of every one of those open doors, even if only a nudge to open wider than a crack, to grab on, and to work my butt off and not let the opportunity slip away. For women coming up now, there are amazing leaders with hands open reaching back to raise up others. I did not have a Laura Brandao or a Christine Beckwith in my path. If we had connected earlier, I’m sure we would have supported each other, and I am delighted now there are groups like Women With Vision and that there are woman role models in the C-suite who want to help. It’s up to us to spread the awareness, to find women who, like I used to do, are sitting at their desk with their head down working hard and wondering what their next step could be.

And it’s not just about mortgage. I have a son, Tyler, and a daughter, Kassidy. I want both of them to grow up to be confident individuals. In particular, I want to be sure Kassidy has confidence. Doubt can creep in at an early age and hold her back as it did with me. She dances competitively. I don’t know where that comes from. She’s able to get up on stage and own it. Me? Back in March, I was having doubts about being on a Zoom call which is bizarre, right? I was a top performer funding over $100 million a month in production. Now, of course, I feel totally confident on Zoom, but it shows how easily doubt can take hold.”

When she talks about her family, Kerry’s face lights up. It’s clear how important being a parent is to her. Finding a balance between career and family is a challenge many women face. To Kerry, it’s not about balance as much as it is about harmony and give and take. There are times in a family dynamic where more time is needed. When her children were very young, she spent more time with them and less time focused on her career. Now, with her children older and her husband able to take a larger role in raising them, she is able to focus more time on her career. This she counts as a blessing since her husband, Jason, stepping into a more focused parenting role meant they were able to find harmony between what her family needed and what her career needed during the past year.

“Finding harmony is my vision for success. Jason and I have come to an awareness: we’re in a phase of life right now. It may change again. That’s OK. At some point, I may retire and he may go back to work. Who knows? What we do know is it’s important to be happy with the phase we are in and recognize it will change and morph and know we will be OK with that, too.”

Kerry grew up as a city girl, living for much of her childhood in sight of skyscrapers and surrounded by pavement. When she is not working, what she loves most is to walk in the woods. Spending time with nature nourishes her, allows her to clear her mind, and find peace. She relates a story of her first experience as a child with nature when the family went camping.

“It was amazing and I was amazed by the world around me, by nature. I had not experienced this living all my life 15 miles outside of New York City. When I finally had a taste of truly being in nature, I fell in love with it all. From camping and campfires to gardening and walks in the woods, I turned into a country girl.”

Kerry lives in upstate New York now, in a community with large stretches of woods and fields to walk in, lakes and waterfalls to appreciate, and state parks many people don’t even know exist. At the end of a busy work day, she reaches for harmony by walking in the woods to clear her mind and refresh for the next day’s rush.

Kerry’s Tips for Success:

  1. Know your mindset. Approach life and work with optimism.
  2. Appreciate living with a sense of urgency.
  3. Be enthusiastic.
  4. Be determined.
  5. And the secret to the formula? Have confidence.

“I would love one day for our industry to reach a point where we don’t talk about women leadership. I look forward to the day when we are leaders because there are more of us at the table and it does not take as long to get there. Did you know Susan B. Anthony wasn’t present when the first convention met to demand the right to vote for women? She did not join the movement until two years later. It’s pretty amazing when you think about those women and what they did. I think there will be a day where we don’t talk about women in leadership because it’s just there.”

About the Author: Candy Zulkosky aka CaZ

CaZ, the Writer Success Coach, wears many professional hats all earned through experience as a professional writer, editor, coach, marketer, educator, and entrepreneur. Aside from her nom de plume when writing, she’s known as Candy Zulkosky and is the editor-in-chief of this publication. As the Writer Success Coach, CaZ specializes in supporting writers. She finds joy in helping others to write and experience the joys of being published. CaZ coaches writers whose skills and experience range from the novice to the multi-published author. She tailors the coaching experience to best fit the needs of each writer and business professional she works with. On the publishing side, CaZ is a multi-book published author and has edited or assisted in bringing dozens of authors to both print and to the bestseller lists!Caz is pronounced KayZee in case you were wondering.


Written by: Leora Ruzin, CMB, AMP

Let’s face it, failing at something you worked really hard at and put your whole heart into sucks. The level of suck varies, of course, but the feeling is the same. Loss, confusion, pain, fear: these feelings are the trademarks of failure, and how deeply you feel them can set you on a course that ends with regret and guilt.

When I didn’t receive first place in the Mesa County spelling bee when I was in 8th grade, I cried all the way home and made the proclamation I would never eat a tortilla again. Tortilla, the darn word, is the one I failed to spell correctly, even though I remember thinking, Dude, I’ve got this! It was such an easy word to spell, and I was so confident in my position to belt out the letters I failed to slow down enough to rattle off the second letter T in the word. I felt like an idiot in front of my friends, my father, and my teacher. I never participated in another spelling bee again.

Fast forward to now, as I walk through my 43rd year on this planet, and I can recall so many times where I failed miserably at something and how long it took me to recover from the failure. Even as I write this article, I am working through events where I am, once again, facing another job change and a big move for my family. You would think by now, I would have this leadership thing figured out, but if I have learned anything over the last two years, it is I still have much to learn. Of the lessons bestowed upon me, perhaps the most valuable have been the concepts of Reset and Renewal, and how mastering these are critical to overcoming failure and moving forward with gratitude and grace.


The definition of reset, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is “to set again or renew.” So simple and innocuous in practice, but I have often connected this word with failure in such a negative light and every time I heard it, it would put me on edge. Whenever this word came up during a performance review or coaching session, I would immediately go on the defensive and close myself off for the remainder of the conversation. Why do we need to reset? What have I done wrong? How have I failed this time? These thoughts would swim around in my head, and during the moment, I might as well have been one foot out the door. I stopped listening, already accepting the fact I messed something up and recovery was hopeless.

Sounds overdramatic, right? That is because it is!

A reset is a second chance to make something right, and it’s an opportunity to regroup with a fresh perspective. It doesn’t mean anything was done wrong or done right. Rather, it is a chance to do things differently to garner a more efficient and equitable result. I can think back to situations in which a reset would have been a far better angle in handling a situation, such as when I have been in an argument with my spouse, struggled with a workout routine, or felt inadequate while working on a project. A reset is a chance to pause, breathe, and start again, but with a more open mind.

Can you think back on a time where a reset would have helped you? Have you ever approached a reset as a kind of failure and taken umbrage at the concept? I can speak from personal experience; when I changed my mindset on reset, I see how there is nothing negative about it, so long as I understand WHY a reset is needed and how to ensure the second chance will render a successful outcome. All I need to do is open my mind to new ways of doing things and to take notice of why a different perspective is an important facet of growing from failure.

Which leads us to RENEWAL

While reset and renewal are often considered to be interchangeable, they are quite different in their purpose and intent. While a reset seeks to set again (a reboot, if you will), a renewal seeks to revive something that is ending or has ended. For me, I think of renewal as a means to ignite a spark into something I had once taken joy in and have since fallen out of favor with.

As an example, I used to love running and was training to be in a marathon back in 2013 when I suffered a series of setbacks that sidelined me for several years. I moved, had marital troubles, and was also going through a three-year cancer battle where I was eating my feelings and not working out. To make it worse, I suffered from an injury to my right knee and my injury made walking difficult for a few months. Instead of trying to overcome these setbacks I just gave up. I used my cancer diagnosis as an excuse. I saw my passion for running die and believed I would never be able to run again.

In the summer of 2020, after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I found myself looking in the mirror and down the barrel of a shotgun. I was the heaviest I have ever been, and visions of my mother dying from a heart attack brought on by unchecked diabetes filled my head. Only this time, instead of accepting my eventual fate, I decided to do something about it.

I started researching Type 2 diabetes and how I could manage it with diet and exercise. I was determined to put it in remission and did not want to have to take medication for yet another ailment. I went on a keto diet and started walking every day. The pounds started to come off and my blood sugars were slowly recovering. Every day, I walked a little further, a little longer, until one day I noticed I was actually jogging. Without even realizing it, I was repairing my body and renewing my love of running.

Will I train for a marathon again? Probably not, but what I can tell you is I am grateful for the journey that set me on the path I am on today where I can run three or four miles without stopping and without pain.


Recently, as part of a mental toughness journey I completed called 75 Hard, I read the book Failing Forward by John Maxwell and was blown away by how he presented failure as a good thing. I have known failure is an opportunity for growth personified, but always resisted the notion that I, myself, am not a failure. It has not helped since I have had my share of career missteps over the last few years and have struggled to find my footing in leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a great leader and one who constantly strives for excellence in anything I do. My issue is I am entirely too hard on myself and take failures as a weakness in my character and self-worth.

This particular passage in the book really stood out to me and helped me realize failure is all a part of the process and without it, there would not be periods of reset and renewal:

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.”

Failing at something does not make YOU a failure, but rather shows you where you need to pivot and open your mind. During those periods, true growth can really occur, and the opportunity to find new and exciting ways to live your life are boundless.

I am not sure if I will ever fully embrace the concepts of reset and renewal, but what I can say is I am definitely more open to take the road when needed. Even now, as I move past a particularly devastating setback in my career, I am learning to grant myself some grace. I am taking the time to pause, assess what went wrong, what went right, and what I can learn from the experience. I am choosing to reset and focus on what truly gives me purpose in my life and career. My heart yearns to help others, whether it is through my efforts in lending or through my role as a mother, wife, and friend. My desire to leave this world a better place continues to be a driver in everything I do, and even through my failures, my purpose shines through.

About the Author: Leora Ruzin CMP, AMP

Leora Ruzin, CMB is the senior vice president of lending at Coloramo Federal Credit Union. Leora is also the managing editor of two magazines, The Vision and the Women with Vision Magazine and is currently serving on industry boards including Folds of Honor. A 14-year veteran in the mortgage industry, Leora is passionate about spreading awareness on helping everyone achieve the American Dream of homeownership. She is a fierce advocate for housing finance reform and common-sense credit policy. Leora is the winner of prestigious industry awards, including HousingWire’s 2020 Women of Influence, National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s 2020 Women of Inspiration, and is a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award, given by 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching.

As a veteran of the United States Army, she understands the importance of ensuring no one is left behind and truly feels anything can be achieved through perseverance and teamwork. Her experience with trauma, both as a cancer survivor and a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, has given her the drive and passion to help other women find hope and strength during similar circumstances. When Leora is not spending her time advocating for homeownership and spreading the word about the importance of investing in personal goals, she continues to expand her own knowledge through reading and attending industry workshops.

Leora holds degrees in Associate of Accounting and Bachelor of Business Management. She currently resides in Palisade, Colorado with her husband and daughter.


Written by: Executive Coach, Ray Befus

If you knew you could reach out, touch a door handle, grasp it firmly, turn it, open the door, and walk into fresh, renewed, and dramatically improved relationships (even with difficult people), both at work and at home, would you take the risk to go where you have never gone before?
You’d need courage, of course, and emotional intelligence. A critical third element cannot be overlooked. It may surprise you to learn the doorway to renewed and dramatically improved relationships with everyone in your world is conflict.

Yes, conflict. Think about a conflict you’ve had with a spouse, a partner, or a close friend. It may have started with an odd remark, a snarky comment, or a repeated slight. Tensions began to arise. Suspicion took root, resentment began to grow, and defensiveness began to erupt.
Then you both may have started to slide toward passive aggression; avoiding each other, eliminating small kindnesses, or gossiping to others about your complaint.

Eventually, one of you had enough and said, “We need to talk!” So, you prepared yourself for a fight. You went for it. You didn’t hold back. You finally said what should have been said three days ago. Only your voice and facial expressions were now on fire. The conversation escalated. Then it happened.
In the midst of the battle, you noticed sincerity and pain emerging. You heard comments that made sense and showed you the perspective of what the other person actually intended or experienced.

Fear and anger began to dissipate, the fight began to die down, and the energy drained away. You both felt a little embarrassed and sorry. You now knew facts about the other person and discovered they were important to you both.

Surprisingly, you felt closer to him or her than you had before the breakdown. You may even have thought to yourself, “I really treasure this relationship.” And then if this battle was with a spouse or partner, you might do what young lovers often do after a fight. Your conflict became the doorway to deeper intimacy.
In our common human experience, almost any conflict can become a doorway to intimacy, not sex but deep understanding, respect, trust, and love. It takes emotional intelligence to see the possibilities and to find ways to step into conflicts and resolve them before we tear into each other and damage our relationships by saying and doing things that can’t be forgotten or undone.

In work settings, there are few skills as valuable to team engagement, alignment, and retention as the ability to initiate difficult conversations. If you’re a manager or a supervisor who is receiving less than the best from the people on your team at work, part of the reason may be you’re avoiding the difficult conversations that have the power to open the door to unprecedented respect, trust, and authentic love.

So, if you lead and manage others, even if it’s only one part-time assistant, I want you to start developing skills you can take to the bank. But first, let me confess I am not an original thinker. I’m a student of the brightest and the best. Almost everything I suggest in this article is rooted in a wonderful book called, wait for it, Difficult Conversations written 20 years ago by a team from the Harvard Negotiation Project, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. Before you step into your next difficult conversation, consider these foundational tips from the authors which can save us significant pain.

Distinguish Intent from Impact

It’s vital to distinguish intent from impact. Something said or done to me might hit me with significant negative impact. But before I launch into a sermon or a tirade, it’s worth taking a deep breath and asking myself, “Did the other person actually intend to threaten me, frustrate me, or hurt me? “Did the other person actually intend to create the impact I experienced?”

In the moment of any negative impact, we may fall into a trap called human attribution error or human attribution bias. Here’s how it works: if you do something to frustrate or hurt me, I may well attribute your motive to bad character. Maybe you’re lazy or careless, short-sighted, or narrow-minded. But, bottom-line: I may convince myself you intended to create this issue. You’re the problem!

However, if I do something to frustrate or hurt you, I am likely to attribute the breakdown to circumstances beyond my control. I’ll be tempted to tell you I didn’t intend to create this problem. “Yes, I was late, but it was because of traffic,” or “I might have seemed to be this way to you, but you just haven’t taken time to get to know me,” or “I’m under tremendous pressure right now; this isn’t how I really am.”

Because of our common human tilt toward this self-serving bias, human attribution error, if we lack emotional intelligence, we’ll attribute other people’s weaknesses and breakdowns to the worst of motives and character flaws. AND we’ll attribute to ourselves the best of intentions which were overcome by uncontrollable circumstances. All this is to say before you think the worst of anyone in a conflict, make sure you make room for the possibility where the other person didn’t intend to create the impact you experienced.

Extend some grace by asking a few questions before you launch into your judgments.

Understand the Complexities of Conversation

Here’s a second foundational tip to maximize your success when you initiate a difficult conversation. Every difficult conversation is a complex conversation meaning, it is made up of three conversations. First, there is a facts conversation: what should have happened, could have happened, and did happen and, who is responsible? The second conversation is a feelings conversation: how this made me feel. The third conversation is an inner conversation about what this breakdown says about me.

Let me quickly tease out these three conversations. Believe it or not, the key conversation is rarely about the facts. Unfortunately, we often create a bigger mess by focusing immediately on the facts. The facts matter but, they are not the core of the conflict. What is at the heart of the breakdown? Feelings. This is often true for men as well as women, though both tough men and strong women may be slow to admit it. When we pause to look within, the truth often turns out to be that performance breakdowns are always personal.

They stir up painful feelings for us. We might feel overlooked, undervalued, disrespected, attacked, taken for granted, unappreciated, or unloved. These are painful feelings for everyone.

There is much to be gained by exploring our different feelings. Invite the other person to go first in describing his or her feelings but, make sure you take time to clearly express your own feelings. Then you can work together to declare the feelings you want to experience with the other person as you move forward together.

Be aware of the way to resolving any conflict, you’ll need to talk about feelings as well as facts. It is the third conversation with the most potential to trip us up. In the third conversation, we’re having an internal dialogue with ourselves. We wonder, “What does this breakdown or criticism or conflict say about me?” If our anxiety leads us in this direction, we can quickly lose our balance, wondering whether this issue has arisen because we’re stupid, or because we don’t have what it takes to succeed, or because we don’t deserve better treatment, or because we’re too, whatever. When this third conversation begins to push us off balance, most of us become defensive. Maybe we start dominating the conversation or blaming the other person or lashing out in a counterattack.

Defensiveness takes many forms, but all of them are triggered by losing our way in this third conversation. The truth is your partner cannot answer your identity questions for you. Are you incompetent, an imposter, a loser, a person who doesn’t deserve respect or appreciation? You’ll have to take up these identity questions with your counselor or with your coach. The person sitting across from you in conversation can’t speak to your soul.

You Don’t Have All the Answers

If you’ve prepared yourself to avoid the temptation and assume you know the other person’s intent; you’ve settled your own identity issues, because you’re just human like everyone else, with both strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to embrace a third foundational distinction; you don’t know it all. So, don’t take a know-it-all approach when having a difficult conversation! In this third step, remind yourself whatever your perspective may be, it’s not the whole truth. You have one perspective; your partner has another perspective. And, as is often the case, the whole truth may be bigger than whatever you both can see when you combine your perspectives. If you’re willing to admit you might have some things to learn from your partner in any difficult conversation, you’re ready to initiate a not-so-difficult life-giving conversation.

Instead of engaging in a painful, boxing match in which you’re both going to leave the ring bruised, if not bleeding, you can initiate a positive, constructive learning conversation. What’s left is to explore each other’s stories, map your different contributions, and make a plan to move forward. There’s no need to outsmart an antagonist, blame a villain, or punish an enemy.

I fell into all of these three traps at a point in my career twenty-five years ago and there is still a source of pain and regret for me. Some of my team leaders cornered me and, because of my reaction, lost trust in me and quit. I fell into the human attribution error and excused my own behavior while convincing myself they were losers. I missed the emotional component in the breakdown and tried to beat them into submission with the facts as I saw them. And I was convinced I had nothing of value to learn from them. Everyone lost because I didn’t have the skill to navigate a difficult conversation.

With the three foundational commitments in hand, you can now assume the role of a guide who is leading your partner to solve a problem or overcome a challenge together instead of staking your difficult claims as adversaries.

You can begin by saying something like, “I would like to avoid this kind of breakdown in the future. I’m guessing you would too, and I’m pretty sure we have difficult perspectives of what happened or didn’t happen or should have happened. So, why don’t you go first and tell me how you see this breakdown. I’m sure I have something to learn from you. When you’re done, I’ll tell you how I see this. Let’s do our best to find some common ground.”

You’ll be showing humility as well as respect by inviting your partner to go first. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you have time to share your perspective as well. Your perspective matters.

As you listen to your partner’s story and then you share your own, you’ll be able to see how you both may have contributed to the breakdown or conflict. In every organization, most people’s-problems or relational conflicts turn out to be breakdowns in the management process. That is, we haven’t instituted the kind of regular communication patterns to keep us clear and in sync with each other. Perhaps, as a leader or manager, you have been so busy, busyness has become part of your team culture and, as a result, vital communication, decision-making, and planning just aren’t taking place. If you’re a leader or a manager, you can bet there are some minor or even major ways you are contributing to the conflicts taking place around you. Mapping out shared contributions rather than shifting blame shows maturity, humility, and a forward-looking, problem-solving approach to work. Even better, if you go first to own your part in a breakdown, you’re providing your partner with a compelling example to follow. Of course, if they don’t see their contribution to the breakdown, you can point it out and call them to own it.

The last step, once you’ve identified the breakdown, have spoken to the hurt feelings, and have mapped out your various contributions, is to make a plan to move forward together. What can you both do differently, as you move forward, to avoid getting into this spot again? There may be some things that need to stop. There may be other new things you both can begin implementing. But, by now you are both on the same page and moving forward with self-respect and a fresh commitment to succeed together as partners. You might even set a date, a month out, to check in with each other to see if your plan is working to your mutual satisfaction.

Of course, there are other nuances in this process, but you’ll learn as you go. A coach can help you plan out these conversations and role-play beforehand, as well as debrief afterward. But here’s a fact: there are so few people in our world who can skillfully initiate difficult conversations if you commit yourself to learn the steps and practice the scripts, you will impress everyone around you. Your value to the team and the larger organization will manifest to everyone, especially to leaders and managers above you.

I myself first read the book Difficult Conversations twenty years ago, after a friend saw me struggle through the consequences of the dramatic relational breakdown I confessed above. I was deeply embarrassed by my lack of skill and the devastating consequences to my entire team. So, I owned my weakness and started taking baby steps to implement the very plan I’ve outlined for you. There is no end to the difficult conversations in a leader or manager’s life. We get to practice every week! Within a year of launching into my remedial work on these skills, other leaders and managers began to invite me in to work with their teams around complex relational breakdowns. In a relatively short period of time, my ability to wade into conflict resolution and mediate difficult conversations without anxiety became a skill others sought out. Money and promotion followed.

I tell you this to underscore the reality: if you learn to initiate difficult conversations while others are working hard to avoid them, the door you open for yourself and others will do more than refresh your relationships. The door you open will put you on a path to greater success, recognition, and promotion throughout your career.

Oh, and it can transform your marriage and friendships as well.

About the Author: Ray Befus

Ray Befus has spent his entire career in leadership development. He has folded this lifetime of experience into his coaching enterprise, HIGHPOINT Training and Coaching. He is a member of the International Coaching Federation and now serves as one of 20/20 Vision for Success’s adjunct coaches. In his own work, he continues to provide executive coaching for professionals, business leaders, and their teams both nationally and internationally, helping clients overcome self-doubt, reclaim their best selves, and rise to their next level. Ray lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he enjoys life with his wife Carol, four married children, and thirteen grandchildren. When he’s not coaching and training, he enjoys motorcycling, playing guitar, and camping.



A Laura Brandao interview with Margarita Randell

Written by: Laura Brandao

Be the first to raise your hand, keep asking questions, and never be satisfied!

Laura: How did you come into the mortgage business? 

I was attending San Diego State University in 2005 and I had to pay for school; I started working for Town & County Credit, a mortgage lender. After working there for a while, I found myself getting burnt out with exclusively selling, so I went to work at another broker shop. At that same time, Cornell Hough started Global Equity Finance, Inc. in Orange County, CA, and he mentioned there was an opening for an entry-level program analyst position. The rest is history.

2020 was my 14th Year Global-versary, I was given an opportunity to work for a great company and I worked my way up from the bottom. The best part of the mortgage industry is there are so many opportunities for growth. As Global Equity Finance evolved, Cornell, the CEO, would place me in different departments and positions because I was always eager to learn.

We were rolling along nicely until the mortgage crisis happened, and at the time Cornell said to me, “How would you like to be a processor?”

I am always up for a challenge, so I worked with one of our escrow agents who taught me the necessary steps that would lead to a smooth closing. She was instrumental in the growth and ultimate perfection of my flow, guiding me through every step of the process.

I love asking questions and I love learning. Ultimately, the more I expand my knowledge, the better I can make the experience for the families I am helping. I am very motivated when presented with a problem; finding a solution opens my eyes to novel ways to improve process flow.

Laura: Ok so you discovered that you love a challenge. Where did this take you in the organization?

We started to expand so it was time for me to develop processes. We made the leap from broker to lender which required us to create a closing department. This was when I handed over my processing team and was brought into a role managing closing and post-closing. This coincided during a time when regulations started changing rapidly, so it was time to jump into compliance.

I knew the inner details of all the processes, so I felt best suited to build a quality control department and be the liaison for auditors. Global Equity Finance began growing and it came time for us to bring on an operations manager who understood the workings of every department. Luckily, I fit the description to a tee.

Laura: Margarita, what area of the process do you enjoy the most? 

I think my heart will always be in processing because you can play a role as the problem solver, and I love analyzing complicated situations and developing a solution. I think there is always room for improvement in every process; I enjoy in looking for these improvements, even if it is just saving four minutes on a certain step in a process. Any improvement in streamlining productivity is a win!

Laura: Margarita, tell me what you are thinking during all of this? You are a Jack-of-all-Trades; wherever there is a need you jump in with an open mind and no preconceived notions. You go in with the mindset of I’m here to figure this out, I’m going to make it better than when I arrived, and I’m going to be able to move forward leaving behind an efficient and effective team doing a great job. Right?

We all want to know how do you move into that mindset? How do you keep it when you are always leaving a piece of yourself behind? But overseeing it, how do you stay in the mindset and how do you recommend others do the same?

I view my team as I view my kids. I want to encourage, support, and teach them everything I know so I can see them succeed. I focus my time on where I am needed most, allowing each member to develop strengths and acknowledge and improve weaknesses. I make sure each team member has the tools they need and feels empowered to excel on their own, but also has the knowledge I am there if they fall. I ultimately want each of my team to see what I see in them; the ability to succeed.

Laura: You mentioned your work family. How has building your team tied into being a mom?

When I think back on when I first started managing over 10 years ago, I was a bit cutthroat, and I had very little patience. Once I became a mom, I started viewing the world differently and it has softened me. I gained a lot of patience and became eager to encourage progress. Progress is progress at any rate and anytime someone progresses forward, you win.  I genuinely enjoy showing people they can stand on their own feet. I feel very grateful and fortunate because I started from the bottom and was encouraged and empowered along the way. I want everyone to have the same feeling.

Laura: You mentioned you like to identify with the little problems you can perfect. Please share with us how your problem-solving skills have helped you at Global Equity?

It is extremely important for me to identify and solve problems because I know every issue, big or small, that comes up has a huge impact on our company. I will analyze every problem to get to the root of the issue and solve it. While I am trying to solve the problem at hand, I always try to think through the steps before it and anticipate and solve potential complications in those phases of the process to prevent problems in the future. Prevention is key!

Sometimes if problems affect other departments I will talk with certain processors or managers. I strive to be collaborative and want to make sure I am not missing something. I like to train while I am troubleshooting so everyone knows how to think next time they come up against this problem. Every problem is an opportunity to improve and create effective methods starting from the application process through closing. I would say my superpower is creating efficiencies.

Laura: Margarita I can feel the love you have for your team. How many team members do you currently have at this time?

I have five departments, and I oversee about fifty people in all.

Laura: You have a great company culture. What do you recommend people do to ensure they have a great and positive culture?

I really believe in hiring the right people. I don’t worry about specific skills; you can teach anyone anything. I look for a great work ethic and when you find the right people to put on the bus you then need to put them in the right seat. I highly recommend hiring people who have a similar work ethic and a positive work attitude. If you do hire someone who ends up displaying a negative or toxic attitude, you need to act quickly to remove them from the team.

It is important the entire team is cohesive; otherwise, one department may resent another and cause the teams to be unbalanced. It is also vital we connect with our teams on a personal level. This is where empathy and true connections are built. We are big about having monthly teambuilding events. “Hey, we’re meeting at a bowling alley. We all have to go and don’t talk to me about work.” I’ll make it very clear so people don’t talk to me about work; it’s about them and what they’ve been up to.

Celebrating the team’s personal wins is just as important as their professional advancements. A few months ago, one of our team members got engaged and I announced it to the entire company. He came to Global Equity when he was really young and he moved here from the East Coast. I was able to see him build a really successful, stable career. I’m so happy he came here and I’m so proud of him.

Laura: Margarita this has been awesome. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I am very proud of myself! I came to Global Equity starting my journey in an entry-level position. I did not make any excuses or listen to the naysayers. I just wanted to work hard to be successful and I believe we can all create our own success; whatever success looks like to you.

I honestly believe I am not the victim of anything, this is my life. I came from a third-world country, and I will never lose sight of the opportunity I have been given in the United States. You can create your own destiny, create your own path, fight for it, and if you want it, you can go get it!

About the Author: Laura Brandao

Laura is the driving force that has catapulted AFR Wholesale to the top of Manufactured Home and Renovation lending in the USA. She has seamlessly rolled out new products based on market demand, including VA renovation, USDA repair escrow, and One-Time Close Construction to Permanent Loans for the FHA, VA, and USDA. Laura’s hands-on approach also propels AFR to remain on the cutting edge of technology with mobile-friendly applications that cohesively integrate the borrower, realtor, broker, and AFR.

This year, Laura has already been featured as one of The 10 Most Influential Businesswomen to Follow in 2020 and among The 20 Most Successful Businesswomen to Watch, 2020 by Insights Success magazine. Laura was among the 50 Best Women in Business named by NJBIZ in 2019, has been recognized as a HousingWire Women of Influence for the last three years, and named one of Mortgage Banking’s Most Powerful Women by National Mortgage Professional. Laura has also been one of Mortgage Professional America’s Hot 100 Mortgage Professionals in 2017, and an Elite Women of Mortgage in 2014, 2016 and again in 2017.

Laura is also actively engaged with several organizations and initiatives including the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts and is one of the founders of AIME’s Women’s Mortgage Network (WMN).


Will We See You at Summit?

At the time this issue is published, we will be 32 days away from the Vision Summit! Our speakers, sponsors, and vendors and the 20/20 Vision Team are getting ready to deliver a spectacular show! And yes, a show is what it will be. Packed full of great speakers sharing valuable information, fun and interesting opportunities to network with industry movers and shakers, great food in a magnificent ballroom that’s entirely ours and two great parties opening and closing the event.

For details, check out the summit website at  And if you have not registered, better not delay! Our room block discount is released on May 8 and you don’t want to miss staying at the conference hotel, the Marriott, Riverfront in Tampa.

Meanwhile, check out this awesome video featuring Vision Summit speakers and sponsors dancing! It’s a sample of the kind of fun we’re planning to make your Modern Marketing experience more than just a conference!


Coming Full Circle: Amerifund

Written by: Leora Ruzin CMB, AMP

Jamie Cavanaugh is truly a rare bird; a loan officer with an operations background. Most of the time, sales stay on the sales side, and it is very uncommon for someone with a pure operations background to walk across the line to sales. Yet, Jamie has done it, with resounding success. She, along with her partner, Brad Rice, have owned and operated Amerifund since 2014, and they have gone through all the growing pains one would expect over the last seven years. Their story, however, began several years before Amerifund came into existence, and the foundation for the company’s success rests on their story.

Brad Rice and Jamie Cavanaugh met in 1999 when a loan officer recommended Jamie for a processing position at Brad’s small broker shop, Mortgage Corporation of America. Brad (who started in the mortgage industry in 1993) and Jamie (who started in 1996) quickly recognized the similarities in their thinking and the synergy between them. The dynamic started with Brad as the visionary and Jamie as the executor of his ideas. Learning as they went, over the course of eight years the company scaled, added a wholesale division called Zone Funding, and expanded into a 43-state operation with the only hard money warehouse line in the state of California.

Like so many companies, MCA fell victim to the mortgage meltdown and closed its doors in early 2008. But, after such an amazing ride Brad and Jamie built a strong friendship and never lost touch.

In 2014, Brad reached out and asked Jamie to join him in his new endeavor. It was a small broker shop, just himself and another loan officer/partner, one processor, and an assistant. Jamie took the leap of faith and left her executive position at Prospect Mortgage to come back to the broker world.  Once they started working together again, the momentum was unstoppable. In 2016, the company was the top producing broker in the nation with one of the top wholesale lenders in the industry. They were small but mighty which is exactly what has kept Amerifund nimble and resilient through market fluctuations.

In 2019, Brad had a vision to create a tech startup in the real estate space and shared the idea with Jamie.  Together they wireframed a design and engaged a firm to begin development. When it became apparent the startup was also gaining momentum, the two decided Jamie would take over the reins of the day to day of Amerifund while Brad focused on the startup and brought her on as a partner, which was the perfect, natural progression of their business relationship which has spanned over two decades.

Over the course of their 20+ years of working together, Brad and Jamie’s roles often reverse with Jamie bringing new ideas and Brad helping design their execution. They strike an exceptional balance of yin and yang. They finish each other’s thoughts and naturally bridge the gap in whatever the other is lacking on any given day. It’s an amazing relationship built on immense trust and mutual respect and it works!

Amerifund’s motto is Mortgage Made Simple. They believe in making the customer’s experience the best it can be by de-mystifying the loan process. The average employee tenure is 13 years, and the office is warm and welcoming to customers and staff.  Whether it is the infamous Ugly Sweater Contest at the holidays, the Halloween costume party, or their summer BBQs, the team at Amerifund genuinely cares for one another and loves to have fun.

When asked about what the culture is like at Amerifund, Cavanaugh stated, “We work hard, we celebrate our wins, and we genuinely care for one another. As leaders, Brad and I have an expectation of excellence when it comes to service to our customers. We never ask more of our team than we know they are capable of, but often push them outside of their comfort zone to help them reach goals they may not have thought possible.”

As the broker movement continues to forge ahead at full steam, it would seem like companies such as Amerifund would be able to easily expand to capture more market share, but that is not what drives Jamie and Brad.

According to Jamie, “We’re not the biggest broker, but we are the broker with the biggest heart. Our clients always come first, and our team believes in this as much as Brad and I do. We’re far from perfect, but we endeavor every day to provide the highest level of service.  I would like to believe we lead by example because we’ve shown how consistency in lead and database management is a key ingredient to long-term success and sustainability. On a personal level, I’m committed to helping anyone in the broker space who is looking for support and guidance.”

It is clear when talking to Jamie or Brad their mission is to help others, even if it means they are helping a competitor or another broker shop.

As Jamie explains, “Success for a lot of people is about production. Their goals revolve around volume and units. Those things certainly sustain a company and help it to grow, but that isn’t all there is to it. When you’ve invested more than two decades of your life in something you see it through a different lens. The lens I am looking through is one of impacting others in a positive way. This can be something as simple as a phone call to help another loan officer with a question or sitting on an advisory board to be a part of effecting more widespread change. Whether large or small, the goal is to be of service to others.”

The mindset of serving others is what drives Brad and Jamie every day, and the results are clear. Amerifund is not only growing and thriving, but their employees truly love coming to work every day and give their absolute best for the company and their borrowers.

One final thought from Jamie really drives this point home, “Do what you love! Most of us spend more hours working than we do with our families. As the saying goes, make sure you love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

About the Author: Leora Ruzin CMB, AMP

Leora Ruzin, CMB is the senior vice president of lending at Coloramo Federal Credit Union. Leora is also the managing editor of two magazines, The Vision and the Women with Vision Magazine and is currently serving on industry boards including Folds of Honor. A 14-year veteran in the mortgage industry, Leora is passionate about spreading awareness on helping everyone achieve the American Dream of homeownership. She is a fierce advocate for housing finance reform and common-sense credit policy. Leora is the winner of prestigious industry awards, including HousingWire’s 2020 Women of Influence, National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s 2020 Women of Inspiration, and is a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award, given by 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching.

As a veteran of the United States Army, she understands the importance of ensuring no one is left behind and truly feels anything can be achieved through perseverance and teamwork. Her experience with trauma, both as a cancer survivor and a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, has given her the drive and passion to help other women find hope and strength during similar circumstances. When Leora is not spending her time advocating for homeownership and spreading the word about the importance of investing in personal goals, she continues to expand her own knowledge through reading and attending industry workshops.

Leora holds degrees in Associate of Accounting and Bachelor of Business Management. She currently resides in Palisade, Colorado with her husband and daughter.


You may have heard the term nesting as it refers to late pregnancy mothers-to-be.

The nesting instinct is a burst of energy women often develop in the last few weeks of pregnancy, inspiring them to clean and organize the house in preparation. It’s not necessary to be an expectant mother to experience and value the nesting instinct. Perpetual nesting is a concept I believe anyone can embrace. Consider perpetual nesting as a method to enhance your lifestyle and immerse yourself in comfort, convenience, and class. Even as I type the words “immerse yourself in comfort, convenience, and class,” I am inspired. I love the idea of perpetual nesting. I know in my heart of hearts perpetual nesting has made my house a home.
In this Lifestyle column, we will take a look at perpetual nesting and how you can use small bursts of energy to make your house a home.

Everything Has its Place

As Empty Nester’s, Russ and I enjoy the freedom to travel from time to time. Comfort, convenience, and class are core values we aspire to whenever we travel. So, whether at home or on the road, we need to know where necessary toiletries, medicines, and electronics are at all times. Something as simple as a telephone charger or a laptop power cable can derail a sense of positive professional control we seek in all business and personal dealings.

Entertaining is another example of how everything in its place helps to make you comfortable. Misplaced cutlery, spices, wine, cutting boards, or serving dishes can derail a well-intended evening and add stress to entertaining.

Failure to take proper care and storage of medicines, thermometers, heating pads, ice packs, and bandages can make a minor bump or bruise much more stressful. Every time we take something out in our house, we put it away, making our house feel like a home.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Think about how you feel when you enter a dirty, cluttered bathroom or kitchen. If you are like me, it makes you uneasy from the start. Your spider senses might start to tingle when you do your makeup in a dirty mirror. I, for one, mistrust any restaurant showing signs of grease, grime, dust, or dirt. If you want to benefit from perpetual nesting and live a lifestyle defined by comfort, convenience, and class, the only option is clean, tidy, and clutter-free.

These basic premises of cleanliness and order will contribute to an overall sense of empowerment and lead to a calm, confident demeanor. The discipline(s) required to assert cleanliness are the most basic building blocks of character and self-esteem.

“It seems as if an age of genius must be succeeded by an age of endeavor; riot and extravagance by cleanliness and hard work.” ~Virginia Woolf

Organization is Not Necessarily O.C.D.

The joke on cleanliness and order has morphed into some deficiency, some disease, or (negative) mental condition, but as I grow and learn more about people and culture and success, I find organization is the magical elixir of personal behavior and management. There once was a RISMEDIA Study of the highest producing real estate professionals globally; one question was why did the top agent choose the brokerage they work for? Would you believe that for the top real estate agents in the world cleanliness and order were listed as the #3 most frequent answer and it came in ABOVE commission split?

Try and think of a Chick-fil-A restaurant running at breakneck speed without a scientific approach to organization. Maybe your family doesn’t have to prepare 650 meals in two hours, but the fast-food organization ideology can be applied just the same. Take time to organize meal planning, responsibilities, and needed supplies. Use checklists to ensure your family and household needs are considered. Involve the team. Your children will learn by doing and watching you.

Lifestyle with Kerry Fitzpatrick

  • Forethought is the act of considering.
  • Considering is the park of preparing.
  • Preparation creates organizational opportunity.
  • Taking time to consider it, is considerate.
  • unning your lifestyle in the absence of all the above is inconsiderate.
About the Author: Kerry Fitzpatrick

Everything Kerry touches turns to gold! She has traveled extensively through Europe and the Caribbean. Kerry currently splits her time between residences in Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and The Smokey Mountain region of North Carolina. Kerry is passionate about entertaining, fashion, and managing an incredible quality of life.

Kerry Fitzpatrick holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a Master of Administration degree from Nova Southeastern University. She worked as a first-grade teacher in a low-income school, spending her time and resources, giving back to her students, and making a significant impact on their lives. Wanting to make a bigger difference in the education of her students, Kerry advanced her career to administrator.

Kerry had a desire to start a family. To fulfill this dream, Kerry resigned from the school board. She was soon recruited to work in the residential real estate industry and found a position where she could express her unique vision for making a difference. She quickly became intoxicated by the struggling masses in the industry, noticing a void in pass-me-down wisdom. She recognized a palpable, if not desperate, need for education in residential real estate. Her real estate brokerage quickly became known as South Florida’s Premier Teaching, Training, and Coaching Organization, offering live in-office coursework multiple times per week.

Kerry was instrumental in creating an education system inside of Exit Team Realty. The formula Kerry developed helped the brokerage grow to over 500 associates. By 2004, Exit Team Realty, rooted in Kerry’s vision for education first, had quickly become a RISMedia Power Brokerage (Top 300 brokerages in the U.S.) and was twice featured as a national company to watch in residential real estate.

In 2009, Kerry launched a broader, subscription-based online education center known as Associate Worx. The fee-based broadcast followed Kerry’s agent education formula and immediately went viral among real estate brokerages and the agents they served. Mortgage bankers began to seek Kerry out to sponsor and be featured in the Realtor Broadcast phenomenon. One bank offered a statewide exclusive relationship white-labeled as AEM WORX in Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina; Academy Home Mortgage Worx in Utah and Colorado; Southeast Mortgage Worx in Georgia; AmeriFirst Worx in Texas and Oklahoma; and finally AnnieMac Worx in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

AnnieMac Home Mortgage built a realtor centric culture in the mortgage industry, and they made it around Kerry Fitzpatrick’s AnnieMac Worx Productivity Platform. AnnieMac negotiated an exclusive white label that dramatically affected recruitment and productivity for their mortgage professionals in 32 states.

Today, Kerry runs AnnieMac Worx, The My Worx Suite Technology Solution for Realtors centered in education and pass-me-down best practices in residential real estate.

VELICITY is Found in gaining Confidence and Trust

Written by Ana Maria Sanin

The Brand velocity isthe ability to engage your audience and share information they are genuinely interested in knowing, right now and ongoing into the future. Being a consistent and trusted brand to your targeted audiences is the name of the game when it comes to marketing and branding success, so be the business you want to follow, and think like your consumers. Brand velocity. Write it down. It’s a must!

There are people who doubt building a personal brand for themselves is beneficial for the growth of their business, as they fear they won’t see any results. This misconception arises when social media activity is coming from third-party cookie-cutter social post companies, or from marketing agencies hired, perhaps for way too much or too little money, hired perhaps for their name rather than proven ability to produce results. These kinds of branding efforts create bland, generic, non-emotional, or authentically limited social posts for your business, and they present a brand that is poorly characterized and managed.

Building relationships and growing your brand on social media and digital platforms is really no different than doing it in person, but is actually more beneficial if you think about it. We have a huge advantage today; rather than building one relationship at a time as we would in person, we can cast out our social and business nets to thousands (or even millions) of people instantly by simply showcasing who we are and what we care about, and with just one click of a mouse.

Here are three principles to keep in mind to sustain brand velocity:

  1. Create Content or Messages for Fragmented Audiences

We’ve all heard the saying, “When speaking to everybody, you are speaking to nobody.” This also applies when identifying your target audiences and micro-niching your brand, which is extremely important to the success of growing your brand online and organically growing your business. Think about it, when searching online or looking for interesting subjects for you personally, unless the image, video, or content is speaking directly to your needs and wants, you quickly lose interest and move to the next post. As the person behind the post, the only way to be authentic is to be real about who the audiences are and what they care about. This is how you organically connect with them and catch their attention.

If you have more than one audience, it’s a good idea to identify the similarities between your audiences and create content they can both identify with.

Generic, salesy content is everywhere, avoid being an annoying account wanting to sell people with cheesy graphics. Be authentic in your content and messages. Put in the work to allow others to know you and to truly identify with you and your brand.

People care about connection and trust. And you should too. It’s what keeps a business loved, trusted, and soaring. People love brands that know them and care about them.

  1. Respond and Adapt to Topics Trending Today and Gone Tomorrow

Creating and sharing relevant content to your audience is crucial to maintain their interest and create engagement. What interests are common between you and your audience? Focus on sharing information obviously relevant to what you do and be sure to also share interesting and engaging content to your targeted audiences which speaks directly to them authentically.

To accomplish this, it’s especially important to identify how your target audience thinks, and what type of relevant information they want and which you could provide. Through solid, consistent, high-quality and targeted content combined with brand strategizing, your audiences will quickly get to know you and relate to you, which eventually leads to their trust in your brand and success for your business.

  1. Stay On Brand Across All Social Media Channels

Most of us have heard the saying, a confused mind cannot make a decision. The same goes for when we are not consistent with all branding, content, and digital storytelling across the board. The confusing frustration it leaves behind for your audiences can turn into missed opportunities and business as well as loss of brand trust. Always stay on brand and be consistent. A full-scope brand strategy from beginning to end, catered to meet your needs and your audience’s needs is a must for branding success and organic growth for your business.

There are many factors involved in creating, building, and maintaining a solid brand. These three principles when combined with a solid strategy and implementation lead to a brand velocity that can be unstoppable.

About the Author: Ana Maria Sanin

Ana Maria Sanin is a Personal Brand Strategist for whom Faith is at the foundation of all she does. Her passion is to impact the community and to assist women professionals and businesses build a personal brand and establish an Influence their communities.

Her journey as a young single mother taught courage goes where confidence dares not. That path has brought her to this point in life. As the Confident Executive Officer at Confident Closers, her goal is to assist Women to build a Personal Brand to establish Influence and attract more opportunities to their life and business. She believes in building solid, long-term relationships and the power of team-work. There’s an individual fulfillment that comes with serving others. She considers this to be the pathway to real significance. Her mission is to lower the number of women who reach the end of their lives, regretting the things they never did because of fear and lack of courage.

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Mortgage X Podcast

On this episode Elite Executive Coach Ruth Lee joins Christine Beckwith to talk about Thinking Big, Being Authentic, Challenging Your Own Assumptions, and Unlocking the Super Me inside yourself.

About Mortgage X

Christine Beckwith of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching and Jason Frazier of Mortgage X Creative bring you the Mortgage X Podcast. Guests range from visionaries working hard to evolve our industry to meet the needs of the modern consumer to the industry’s biggest producers, advocates, legends, thought leaders, partners, and lenders.

Coaching is about building a foundation for results and knowing how to step into action based on that foundation. Turning vision into reality requires trust that the bedrock beneath the vision is sound. Coaching with 20/20 Vision begins by building and strengthening your foundation and ensures you remain focused on the vision for success.


Vonk Digital, an industry leader in website and marketing tools for mortgage originators across America, is a proud sponsor and hosting partner of Women With Vision Magazine.

To learn how Vonk Digital can help you leverage the “New Way” to build your brand, authority & credibility with our website platform and tools visit us at

An MBS Highway membership offers access to a wide range of tools, including their Bid Over Asking Price, Buy vs. Rent Comparison, Loan Comparison tool, daily coaching videos and lock alerts. Try the MBS tools for free with a 14-day trial and see the kind of difference they make in your business!

This trending news tip comes from the team at MBS Highway.

Even though mortgage rates have ticked higher than their all-time lows, it may still be very favorable for your clients to refinance. In many cases, you can help them significantly reduce their monthly payment and reduce costly mortgage insurance.

Your clients might be tempted to play the market and see if interest rates come back down to their all-time lows. But, even if they do so eventually, your clients could be banking significant savings by refinancing today. In fact, it could take several years before a potentially lower rate in the future would catch up to the savings they could start seeing right away.

If you were hoping for a simple way to clearly illustrate the benefits of refinancing to your clients, I have some great news. With MBS Highway’s Refinance Comparison tool, you can easily compare refinance options with your clients’ current loans so they can see the benefits of refinancing for themselves. You can even show clients a Cost of Waiting analysis so they can see how much they could lose by delaying their refinance – all in easy-to-understand charts and graphics visually demonstrating why your clients could benefit by acting now.

The Gifts of Imperfection  

A motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living. Brené Brown, Ph.D., bolsters the self-esteem and personal development process through her characteristic heartfelt, honest storytelling. With original research and plenty of encouragement, she explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of an imperfect life and embracing living authentically. Brown’s ten guideposts are benchmarks for authenticity and can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty—a perfectly imperfect life.

Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves. In a world where insults, criticisms, and fears are spread too generously alongside messages of unrealistic beauty, attainment, and expectation, we look for ways to “dig deep” and find truth and gratitude in our lives. A new way forward means we can’t hold on too tightly to our own self-defeating thoughts or the displaced pain in our world. Instead, we can embrace imperfection.

I read this book while going through a tumultuous time in my life and career, and during a time where my purpose in life was being tested. The words in this book came at a time I was struggling with accepting I was not on the correct path and needed course-correcting. The following passage stuck with me through this time:

“May we find the courage to let go of who we think we’re supposed to be so that we can fully embrace our authentic selves—the imperfect, the creative, the vulnerable, the powerful, the broken, and the beautiful.

May we create a just and equitable world where privilege isn’t a prerequisite for self-expression and authenticity, where everyone feels invited and safe to express their power and their vulnerability.

And last, may we experience the strength of connection, the love of belonging, and the grace of pure joy.”

Such wise words from one of my favorite writers. Our imperfections make us the unique, beautiful people we are. As long as we are open to viewing our imperfections in a positive light, we can find our true purpose and calling in life. – Leora Ruzin

For virtual registration and additional information about the Vision Summit, please visit or contact us at




8 AM Wednesday, June 9 – BREAKFAST

9 AM Wednesday, June 9 – SUMMIT BEGINS

5:30 PM Wednesday, June 9- Summit Close

9 PM Wednesday, June 9 AFTER EVENT: Dance Party! 

Planning to attend Summit? This is happening on June 8,  BEFORE Vision Summit

For information on these and other events contact us at

Tell Your Story with Us

Our Tell Your Story Marketing option provides the story-based advertising our readers report they prefer. To be seen and remembered and receive the best bang for your buck, experts say to make your marketing personal. Telling your story is about as personal as it gets. Please reach out to us at for our rate card and additional details.

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