The brightly colored office space is a flurry of activity and voices as a phone rings and a Quicken Loans’ Client Care Specialist pushes the button on her headset, says, “Thanks for calling Quicken Loans.” She provides her name and contact information to the caller and asks, “How can I help you today?”

The caller says he needs some help with his new mortgage that is currently in process with the company.

“No problem,” the team member says. “I’m happy to help.”

Notice anything? It begins with some semantics – the caller is not a customer, they’re a client and the team member answering the call is a Client Care Specialist. These subtle differences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why Quicken Loans’ culture makes it one of the best companies to work for in the country and the winner of the J.D. Power Award for Mortgage Loan Origination the last six years running.

What’s an ISM?

The story of Quicken Loans’ 30-year ascent to the top of the mortgage industry is deeply rooted in its culture. Widely known for festive offices and cutting-edge technology, Quicken Loans is continually among the best places to work in the country. The foundation for their culture is built on a set of 19 principles called ISMs (pronounced iz-mmmmms). The ISMs come disguised as colloquial verses, but they pack a punch in the daily dialogue of team members. For example, the ISM “Simplicity is genius,” conveys an easy to understand concept, but when introduced into a training room environment during a discussion of federal mortgage law the ISM serves as a catalyst for translating the law into basic language that anyone can understand.

While the ISMs continue to evolve and adapt, they still serve as the sturdy footing of the company’s belief system. Dating back to the early years of the company, the ISMs were an informal, yet closely followed set of values shared by the team members at Quicken Loans. As the company grew, Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert recognized the need to formalize the list. By the mid-2000s the ISMs became the official foundation of Quicken Loans’ culture. To further enhance the ISMs’ visibility, specifically drawn characters were created to augment the ISMs’ usage. As part of the onboarding process for new team members, the company regularly holds an ISMs in Action Day at its Detroit headquarters, where Gilbert and CEO Bill Emerson dedicate an entire day to explaining the company’s culture and philosophies. Additionally, the company annually publishes its “ISMs in Action” book. Every new edition is distributed to all new team members and shared with any vendor, client or interested party who requests a copy.

“I believe culture is an absolute differentiator for our company. The ISMs and our team-oriented culture align the organization,” says Tony Nuckolls, Quicken Loans’ Vice President of Training and Development.

As a 21-year veteran of the company, Nuckolls understands the importance of having sturdy values adding, “A strong culture creates a common language and purpose, fostering an environment in which we can bring out the best in our people and provide the ultimate client experience.”

Obsessed with finding a better way.

To create the best workplace and ensure all processes are functioning properly, it is vital to thoughtfully compile feedback from team members by asking one important question: How can we make this better? Quicken Loans’ answer is found in the ISM “Obsessed with finding a better way,” which speaks to the company’s commitment to constant improvement.

As Quicken Loans grew, operations became more advanced. In an effort to find ways to streamline processes and create a better approach, the company created the Mousetrap team. This group of team members is focused on collecting and assessing cheeses (ideas) submitted to the Cheese Factory (the company’s digital portal for ideas) by team members for new ways to improve practices.

“The Cheese Factory empowers team members to make our business better,” says Heather Lovier, the creator and former leader of the Mousetrap, now Senior Vice President of Client Experience. With ideas ranging from the kind of information provided to mortgage bankers through their workflow computer dashboards to offering microwave popcorn and slushies in the office kitchens, the Mousetrap takes ideas and suggestions provided by team members, researches their necessity and viability, and then aids in the idea’s actualization.

We’ll figure it out.

The ever-changing financial marketplace presents constant upheaval to the regulatory and compliance requirements imposed upon mortgage lenders. The Quicken Loans’ ISM “We’ll figure it out” squarely focuses on overcoming those challenges. As a team member with over a decade of tenure at Quicken Loans, Jaret Budd and his teammates have experienced their fair share of industry changes. In his current role as Director of Operations Training, Budd’s team is often presented with the need to teach new skills and processes that must be implemented quickly.

“Things are constantly changing,” says Budd. “We focus on the problem and keep working until we find the solution. We don’t have the luxury to wait.”

Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.

One of the reasons for Quicken Loans’ success is due in large part to the organization’s willingness to do new things. Tim Birkmeier leads Quicken Loans’ mortgage banker team and says his favorite ISM is “Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.”

“As a leader, you have an obligation to those that call your organization home to stay ahead of the curve. If you get left behind in the way of innovation, you’re putting their job security at risk,” says Birkmeier. “Everybody has ideas, but the reason we succeed is our commitment to put those ideas into action.”

It’s not about who is right. It’s about what is right.

As companies grow, it’s not unusual for those in leadership roles to become protective of their turf. Power may be attached to headcounts and ideas and feedback can be frowned upon because they disturb the stability of the status quo. The culture at Quicken Loans actively resists this approach with the ISM “It’s not about who is right. It’s about what is right.”

“I realize that my perspective may be a little stale. You can’t be so arrogant to think that you have all of the ideas,” says Scott Holden, Regional Vice President of Mortgage Banking. Holden, a 10-year veteran at the company holds weekly roundtable conversations with new team members to get their input. “Some of our best ideas come from them,” he adds.

Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.

Let’s revisit the scenario introduced at the beginning of the article with the Client Care Specialist finishing up her conversation with the client.

“I just want to make sure I have the correct dates,” the Specialist says. “You’re traveling to your nephew John’s graduation on the Third and you’ll return on the Fifth.”

She listens to the response and types some additional notes into her computer.

“Great,” she says. “I’ve noted on your account that you’ll be unavailable that weekend and while we were on the phone I was able to message our Closing Team. I can get them on the phone with us now so we can reschedule.”

The client’s appreciation is audible through the headset.

The Specialist smiles, “Not a problem at all. Congratulations on having a doctor in the family!”