5 Ways CEOs Can Change Their Behaviors To Lead More Efficiently

In business, the adage “it starts at the top” can prompt an uncomfortable question: “Can the boss finish what he or she started?”

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Many CEOs and entrepreneurs wrestle with this challenge, with both short- and long-term implications. Meanwhile, a disconnect develops between the CEO’s initial big-picture vision for the company and its seemingly sporadic execution toward those goals.

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The Global Leadersgip Forecast 2018 highlights issues of greatest concern to CEOs; among them is a lack of alignment among senior leaders. The last problem any CEO wants is an inability to get everyone on the same page, aligned and executing their strategy. 

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I’ve witnessed CEOs struggle with this question: Why is it so difficult to execute what I already know I should be doing? They and their teams generally know what to do and how to get it done. But they avoid the decisions and actions they know could advance their success.

All roads lead back to obstacles within your mind. New behaviors leading to execution require new ways of thinking.

Here are five ways for CEOs to change behaviors that obstruct them from leading their company efficiently and effectively:

If/when, then. Astudy on influencing behavior by German researchers, who found that formulating an “if/when, then” plan – stating a specific time to accomplish a task – provided a cue to provoke the desired response. I’ve worked with many CEOs who were not classically trained in accounting and finance and are overwhelmed by numbers. Such fears drove them to avoid financial information and reports. Making an if/when, then statement compels them to change the behavior.

Relate and repeat. To change, one needs to believe that change is possible. Cultivate relationships with those who can help you see that the change you desire is attainable. Then repeat by testing out the new behavior or thought pattern and seeking feedback.

Know when to say no. As the company leader, being a giver is important – but not to the point where sacrifice damages your own performance. Credible research shows that high-performing givers knew when to say no. Track your yes-to-no ratio. It’s the only way to protect your time, energy, and focus as a leader.

Forget perfectionism. Perfectionism is a waste of time and energy for a CEO. He references the 80/20 Rule – also known as the Pareto principle, first articulated by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto – which holds that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. The 80/20 Rule also applies to perfectionism – the majority of the value in any endeavor comes from a small amount of the overall effort. Perfectionism frequently limits our progress and fuels our fears. If you can keep the 80/20 Rule in mind, you can reduce your fears and accomplish more.

Hold yourself accountable.One way CEOs and entrepreneurs can judge their performance is by asking themselves self-assessment questions daily. You need accountability strategies that require you to evaluate your progress and focus on the importance of your goals.

Often, the best way to modify a behavior is just to jump in. Seek out examples of the behaviors you want to employ, embrace some discomfort, and emulate them until they begin to feel natural.

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Improve Vendor Management With Data Consolidation And Tracking Software

Lenders are constantly reviewing important pieces of data, typically from multiple vendor sources, in order to make critical lending decisions regarding borrowers or their pieces of property. This often results in miscommunication, lost files and the use of inappropriate vendors for unique scenarios.

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Luckily, there have been major advancements in the world of reporting, including the perfection of software tools that allow third-party companies to collect vendor data and display it in ways that are easy for employees to consume. Those employees are then better able to effectively guide their lender customers to the best course of action regarding the vendors they use.

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For instance, one of the biggest complaints that borrowers often have with their lender is that the appraisal process takes far too long. Especially in today’s world of instant gratification, no one is happy about waiting weeks to hear if their loan has been approved.

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So, if an appraisal from a certain vendor took an unusually long amount of time, a third-party employee can use this reporting software to determine if this is a one-off scenario that occurred due to unexpected factors, or if it is actually part of a larger trend with that particular vendor. If the vendor is performing positively the majority of the time, no changes need to be made. However, if the data indicates a larger trend of poor performance, the employee must then alert the lender and help him make an appropriate decision about using better vendors in the future.

Because of this, it is important for third-party companies to first focus on internal reporting so that they can ensure they are doing the best possible job for their lender customers. When evaluating these reports, employees may note things like a vendor consistently slacking on turn times or a lender that is lending in an increasingly wide footprint. Upon seeing things like this, the company can provide its guidance on what alternative vendor options they may have.

And, just because a vendor is flagged for one customer does not mean it is flagged for all customers. Not all vendors are great performers in all areas; one may be a top performer in California but fail miserably on the East Coast. It is up to the third-party company to ensure that each of its customers’ unique requirements are met at all times.  

Of course, a reporting solution from a third-party provider is of no use if the provider is not adamant about staying up to date on compliance expectations. As lenders know better than anyone, the home equity and refinance industry is no stranger to ever-changing rules and requirements. By partnering with a company that can easily update its software as soon as laws or industry standards change, lenders save a lot of time and greatly reduce the risk of costly mistakes.

Reporting and analyzing data is truly the best method of vendor management. If a third-party provider has a lender customer that wants to change vendors, that provider should be able to effectively and efficiently collect data on the vendor and present it to the lender to either enforce or dispute their concern. It is vital to avoid making a vendor change based on an isolated incident that could actually make the problem worse.

An all-in-one solution to consolidate settlement services and aggregate vendor management, as opposed to the traditional model of ordering title, valuation and flood reports from different vendors, is critical for lenders to be flexible, successful, and to maintain positive relationships with their borrowers.

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Mortgage Servicers Need To Better Prepare For Natural Disasters

In my experience, all the recent storms, wildfires and winter weather we’ve been seeing suggest servicers need to better prepare for insurance claims and increased risk of collateral losses. However, stories abound of disaster-damaged properties going through disorganized insurance claims processes, causing delayed repairs, angry borrowers, and increased expense and reputational damage for servicers. Everybody loses in these cases.

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The loss draft process—the management of funds from borrower-filed hazard insurance claims—is generally viewed today as frustrating and expensive due to inefficient communications, inflexible business rules, and an outdated, paper-intensive environment. This frustration, which compounds an already emotionally-charged situation for the storm victim, can poison the lender-borrower relationship and increase the risk of default.  

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A loss draft is a multi-party check issued by an insurance company to both the borrower and the lienholder when a collateral property is damaged. The intention is for the funds to be used by the borrower to make repairs on the property, as opposed to being absconded or diverted to other purposes. To make sure these funds are used correctly, lenders or servicers will require inspections and make progress payments during each step of the process. 

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Ideally, the loss draft process should end with the claim paid in full, the house repaired, and peace between the borrower and the lender. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many cases where this is handled today through a very paper-intensive process of mailing among the borrower, inspection companies, repair companies, and other parties involved in the process. Multiple documents and verification forms are required to protect both the lender and borrower, and most companies don’t have a technology solution with the ability to process these documents and to communicate the status of repairs and collateral condition electronically. 

The biggest concern with the loss drafts process is the delay in resolution stemming from the back and forth communications via phone or letter between the lender and borrower. Since most borrowers generally don’t understand or appreciate the need for the inspection, repair, and loss draft negotiation processes, they may not know what needs to happen next, causing delays and leaving them with feelings of anger and frustration.  

In the meantime, the servicer bears considerable risk when it comes to a damaged property. Asset protection is always important, but particularly in the case of a borrower who may be delinquent or who may become delinquent if they decide that repairing the property will require too much effort or additional out-of-pocket expenses.   Servicers should therefore do all they can to ensure the process is swift, intuitive, and easy for the borrower to navigate. 

Unfortunately, most loan servicing systems do not have robust tracking options for following the status of a loss draft request. Additionally, because natural disasters are unpredictable and the skills needed to deal with insurance-related issues may be concentrated in relatively few seasoned employees, servicers often find themselves shorthanded in storm seasons. In the meantime, traditional outsourced loss draft management models are priced on a monthly basis for the life of the claim, adding to expense and making it impossible to accurately predict costs of servicing due to the unpredictable timeframe to resolution.

Finally, due to the specificity in the requirements, banks and other investors have often adopted the Fannie Mae loss draft guidelines for use on their portfolios.  However, those guidelines may not be what is best for all circumstances, such as higher-value properties, low balance loans, and high wealth customers, as the levels of scrutiny can add further aggravation to a process no one volunteered to go through. 

We responded to these challenged by building an online Loss Draft portal that allows borrowers to register claims, upload documents, and request inspections in real time. 

Lenders can use the Loss Draft portal to review claim reports and configure risk models to allow for heightened flexibility, ease of processing disbursements, and full visibility into the status of the claim action. The automated system also has the potential to significantly reduce call volumes.

In the meantime, after we review the loss draft request and all documentation associated with the claim, our claims administrator will either endorse and release the funds back to the borrower or deposit them with the lender into a designated restricted escrow account to be released in progress disbursements. We can then manage the process through the portal, including ordering and inspections releasing draws until the repairs are completed and all funds have been disbursed.  Our claims management solution is priced on a flat fee per claim, which better aligns with the incentive to resolve cases quickly and doesn’t penalize the lender for delays outside of their control.  

The purpose of the loss draft process should be to provide a secure funding method that expedites the remediation of the property. Loss draft systems that leave little guesswork involved increase collaboration and transparency between borrowers and servicers while ensuring the efficient application of available insurance claim proceeds to the repair efforts. The end result should be a fully-restored property and an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship between the borrower and the servicer.

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How Phones And Social Media Are Setting Expectations For Mortgage Technology

Increasingly, cell phones, online shopping sites and social media apps are setting the standards by which financial institution technology or fintech, is judged.  Just a few years ago, the device you have in your hand was called a smart phone.  At the time it seemed revolutionary.  Today, everyone has one.They are ordinary and necessary, and they are known simply as “phones.”  

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Phones conditioned all of us to expect real time, easy to use, meaningful technology that is at your fingertips constantly.   When I look at the features and capabilities offered by the phone in my hand, I can’t help but realize these same features and capabilities can work just as well when applied to mortgage technology. Financial institutions should take a look at key benefits of our current technological tools, such as the phone or tablet, when developing their criteria for judging new technologies for their branches. This will give them better perspective to select and more effectively use the modern technology offered by the marketplace. 

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One of the most popular features of modern technology is the ability to deliver information faster, usually in real-time. People have come to expect it. I have seen cases where this has carried over into the mortgage industry when branch managers have said they need to be able to see loan officer production totals in real time.  Ten years ago this was a rare thing but now it’s almost the standard.

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Popular social media platforms and online retail websites are designed to attract and retain consumers. Much of the design effort has gone into enhancing the user experience.  When you shop on Amazon, or when you see pictures of your nephew on Instagram, you get used to seeing and using the content you want quickly, getting results in real time.  A manager operating a mortgage branch wants and expects the same sort of experience when using mortgage technology. This means higher demand for things like dashboards that are easy for bankers to use.

Most social media platforms allow you to fine tune the information you see.  You, the user, prioritize the people you want to see more and minimize feeds from others.  I see mortgage technology vendors now offering similar settings pages within their own solutions that were clearly inspired by those used in social media platforms. These settings pages in the fintech application are just as easy to use as those on social media and have a similar look and feel.  Fintech dashboards should allow the individual user to determine which KPIs are most important and at the top of the page, as well as which branches or loan officers they want to track more carefully.  

Feedback in the world of social media is instant, sometimes scathing, but often constructive. Thankfully, in the fintech world, feedback is generally constructive!  Fintech providers should, and often do, respond very quickly to customer feedback.  This focus on constantly updating and making the solution even more usable and friendly based on detailed feedback is key to the ongoing success of most mortgage technology providers.  It is not uncommon for mortgage bankers to reach out directly to a vendor and request a particular feature that should be implemented immediately.  I’ve even seen situations where customer attending a vendor’s user conference request specific changes and assume it will be done within days. Thankfully, most quality fintech vendors are able to accommodate these types of requests.  This type of open feedback to the technology vendor becomes a type of “customer voting system,” where the best and most frequently heard comments lead the next development initiative.  

Cell phones and social media’s wide use and acceptance causes its users to compare their experience on these platforms with every other technology solution they use. Regional and branch managers who make decisions regarding their technology solutions should take a moment to think about their user experience every time they use an app on their phone, tweet their latest news or buy something on Amazon, because those everyday events influence what they want in the fintech software they buy.

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Refinances Drop 21% In Q3 2018

ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q3 2018 U.S. Residential Property Mortgage Origination Report, which shows that 681,455 refinance mortgages secured by residential property (1 to 4 units) were originated in the third quarter, down 15 percent from the previous quarter and down 21 percent from a year ago to the lowest level as far back as data is available — Q1 2000.

The refinance mortgages originated in Q3 2018 represented an estimated $175.1 billion in total dollar volume, down 14 percent from the previous quarter and down 21 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since Q1 2014 — a 4.5-year low.

“Rising mortgage rates continued to dampen demand for mortgages in the third quarter, particularly refinance mortgages,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “There were some notable exceptions to that trend, primarily in markets affected by the hurricanes in the third quarter of 2017.”

Refinance originations increase in Houston, Miami, Tampa

Residential refinance mortgage originations decreased from a year ago in 197 of the 225 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (88 percent), including Los Angeles (down 31 percent); New York (down 11 percent); Dallas-Fort Worth (down 5 percent); Phoenix (down 14 percent); and Atlanta (down 33 percent).

Counter to the national trend, residential refinance mortgage originations increased from a year ago in 28 of the 225 metro areas analyzed in the report (12 percent), including Houston (up 69 percent); Miami (up 29 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg (up 33 percent); San Antonio (up 3 percent); and Orlando (up 30 percent).

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Purchase mortgage originations down 2 percent from year ago

Lenders originated 892,760 residential purchase mortgages in Q3 2018, down 5 percent from the previous quarter and down 2 percent from a year ago.

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Residential purchase mortgage originations decreased from a year ago in 121 of the 225 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (54 percent), including New York (down 6 percent); Dallas-Fort Worth (down 5 percent); Chicago (down 14 percent); Phoenix (down 2 percent); and Los Angeles (down 14 percent).

Counter to the national trend, residential purchase mortgage originations increased from a year ago in 104 of the 225 metro areas analyzed in the report (46 percent), including Atlanta (up 12 percent); Houston (up 3 percent); Miami (up 2 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg (up 3 percent); and Nashville (up 1 percent).

HELOC originations down 11 percent from year ago

A total of 313,744 Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) were originated on residential properties in Q3 2018, down 14 percent from the previous quarter and down 11 percent from a year ago.

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Residential HELOC mortgage originations decreased from a year ago in 150 of the 225 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (67 percent), including New York (down 14 percent); Los Angeles (down 18 percent); Seattle (down 3 percent); Chicago (down 27 percent); and Philadelphia (down 16 percent).

Counter to the national trend, residential HELOC mortgage originations increased from a year ago in 73 of the 225 metro areas analyzed in the report (32 percent), including Miami (up 4 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg (up 22 percent); Kansas City (up 20 percent); Orlando (up 3 percent); and Omaha (up 11 percent).

Median down payment percentage at nearly 15-year high

The median down payment on single family homes and condos purchased with financing in Q3 2018 was $20,250, up 7 percent from the previous quarter and up 16 percent from a year ago to a record high as far back as data is available, Q1 2000.

The median down payment as a percentage of the median home sales price in Q3 2018 was 7.6 percent, up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter and up from 6.8 percent in Q3 2017 to the highest since Q4 2003 — a nearly 15-year high.

Among 96 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report for down payments, those with the highest median down payment as a percentage of median home sales price in Q3 2018 were San Jose, California (24.7 percent); San Francisco, California (23.3 percent); Los Angeles, California (20.6 percent); Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California (19.0 percent); and Fort Collins, Colorado (18.6 percent).

FHA loan share increases from more than 10-year low in previous quarter

Residential loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) accounted for 10.5 percent of all residential property loans originated in Q3 2018, up from a more than 10-year low of 10.2 percent in the previous quarter but still down from 12.5 percent a year ago.

Residential loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accounted for 5.5 percent of all residential property loans originated in Q3 2018, up from 5.4 percent in the previous quarter but still down from 6.6 percent a year ago.

The Importance Of Technology

After experiencing an unprecedented growth of over 213% in the last three years, Fathom Realty knows technology is critical to sustain their momentum and more importantly, for the success of their agents. Fathom’s CEO and Founder, Josh Harley, is continuing to put emphasis on smart growth. “We are adamant about keeping up with technology and providing our agents with only the best,” said Harley. “We felt that kvCORE was by far superior to anything else that we vetted to fit our company.” 

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Shortly after launching Inside Real Estate’s kvCORE Platform, Fathom began experiencing bottom line benefits far faster than in the past when they’ve launched new technology. They’ve seen an increase in closings for many agents who have taken full advantage of the platform. Harley is excited for what the future holds with kvCORE as their technology backbone, and adds, “I expect our ROI on kvCORE to be significant in a short period of time.”

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Fathom Realty identified Inside Real Estate’s kvCORE Platform as the best technology to help drive their future growth, but they got even more benefits in ways they did not expect. “Not only does kvCORE provide our agents with the best technology platform for managing their website leads and conversion, it has provided a strong recruiting proposition and has helped Fathom grow our agent base,” explained Harley. kvCORE has been instrumental as a tool to both attract and retain agents. 

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“Powering top brokerages in the country like Fathom Realty and setting them up for rapid and sustainable growth is our mission,” says Inside Real Estate’s Founder and CRO, Joe Skousen. “Fathom is a highly successful brokerage that continues to display technology leadership, and we are thrilled to be their technology partner as they head into another strong year.” 

Technology is, and continues to be, a strong area of focus for the nationwide brokerage. Harley went on to say, “The two main ways a brokerage increases revenue is by adding agents and improving the productivity of the agents they have. kvCORE helps with both. It is an incredible asset to any brokerage looking to grow and improve their agent productivity.

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Don’t Forget About SEO

In the article “15 Tips To Improve Your SEO” written by Laura King Edwards, she says thatSearch engine optimization (SEO) has the greatest influence on organic traffic, generated when users type a search term in Google and click on your organic listing in the search results (SERPs). Most people never scroll past the first or second page of results, which is why marketers covet top spots.

Here are her 15 SEO tips to increase organic traffic to your website:

1.Write for your audience.

Identify your audience’s problem or need and deliver content that helps lead them to a solution or answers common questions. Also, remember that your audience may not refer to products or subjects in the same way as your organization.

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For example, if you reference smart homes as “connected homes,” but your audience is more likely to search for “smart home technology” versus “connected home technology,” you will have more success incorporating smart home language into your content.

Keyword research is essential to determine how people phrase their searches, and you should always write content to respond to those searches.

2.Create an editorial calendar—but be flexible.

Depending on how often you publish, you may want to plan topics for an entire quarter or more. However, leave room in your plan to shuffle article order as needed or add topics to capitalize on industry trends or user searches.

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3. Jump on industry trends and timely topics.

Think about industry or seasonal trends that may incite your audience to seek out relevant information online and create content to support those searches.

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4. Develop evergreen content.

Content that can drive traffic to your site over an extended time is the bedrock of a successful SEO strategy. However, this doesn’t equal a one-and-done approach. Freshness is key, particularly if you’re in a competitive industry, so make sure to balance evergreen content with more timely topics.

5. Be unique.

Don’t simply regurgitate content that already exists elsewhere. If you want to grow organic traffic to your site, you have to offer a unique or different solution to a question or problem.

6. Be better.

If people are looking for information on a particular subject, you likely aren’t the first company to publish relevant content. Peruse any sites that have already published and consider what they do well and where they have room to improve. What can you offer that they don’t already provide? What can you add to the conversation?

7. Conduct advanced keyword research—and have realistic expectations.

Choose keywords you can rank for, not just those with the highest volume. Is your audience interested in niche topics that are underserved or lightly covered?

8. Include keywords in your title, headlines, subheads and bold copy.

Google scans content much the same way humans scan content. Make it easy for search engines to determine what your content is about by including relevant keywords in places that are easy to spot. If it makes sense, you may also want to consider putting keywords at beginning of your headlines.

9. Build relationships with subject matter experts and industry influencers.

When you invest the time to partner with true subject matter experts, your content will be higher quality and more useful to your audience.

You may want to rely on a mix of experts within and outside your organization. The former can help further your organization’s profile as an authority, while the latter can cast a wider net and help get your content to people you may not already reach.

10. Have a link building strategy.

This is a two-way street. Selectively linking to other trustworthy sites can encourage links back to your site.

Internal link building gets less attention but is also an important step. Lots of orphaned blog posts don’t receive traffic as they age, because the site has no links guiding visitors from one evergreen content post to the next. Your mission is to keep people engaged and on your website by feeding them more relevant content instead of dead ends.

11. Use back-end features such as title tags and meta descriptions.

Your content should always include title tags (which appear on SERPs as the clickable headline) and meta descriptions (which summarize the content on a page).

12. Don’t forget image file names and alt tags.

Search engines can’t see images, but many people still forget to assign image file names and alt tags—which are crucial for helping search engines understand what the images—and the pages where those images live—are about.

13. Avoid careless technical errors.

Never move your website or delete a blog post without doing your due diligence on the back end. A few simple and necessary steps, such as creating 301 redirects, can help you avoid a damaging rash of broken links.

14. Provide a great user experience.

Search engines are amazing, but they still can’t consume and understand content the same way humans can. Instead, they monitor the way humans interact with websites to infer the quality of those sites — and reward the sites that perform better on these metrics with higher search rankings. If your site provides a poor user experience or doesn’t have a mobile-friendly design, its potential for organic growth will suffer.

15. Remember that there are no shortcuts or secret formulas.Content marketing can pay huge dividends, but it won’t happen overnight. Proceed with the understanding that you’re unlikely to close the sale the first time a person lands on your site—and treat SEO and organic traffic growth as an open-ended goal.

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Realtor Makes A Difference

As we enter the holiday season, I want to talk about real estate professionals that are giving back. For example, Prystupa will be collecting funds through January 31, 2019, for Operation Warm as part of the NALA’s collective cause marketing program, which encourages businesses across the country to collect at the same time to make a bigger impact. The mission of Operation Warm is to provide brand new winter coats to children in need.

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To donate to Operation Warm through Sarah Prystupa, visit https://give.operationwarm.org/campaign/sarah-prystupa-re-max-alliance-for-operation-warm-2018-19/c216329.

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“Coming from difficult beginnings, I know how special it is to have something brand new that would be my own. This helps build self-esteem and well-being. Let’s give as many children as we can the opportunity to have a new coat of their own this winter,” said Prystupa.

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Operation Warm works year-round to create colorful winter coats made just for kids. Every $20 provides a high-quality, brand new winter coat to a child who needs it most. Since 1998, Operation Warm has inspired hope by manufacturing and distributing winter coats to nearly 3 million children in need throughout the U.S. By actually manufacturing the coats it distributes, Operation Warm is able to efficiently control logistics, costs and inventory.

Prystupa is a native of Colorado who lives in Arvada with her family. She graduated from high school in Arvada and went on to study at Metro State University, then abroad in Costa Rica and New Zealand. She is passionate about being involved and making contributions to her community.

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