Opinion: Women possess an exceptional ability to lead the title industry

When it comes to building a title business, women naturally bring unique advantages to the table

Over the last 20+ years, I’ve had the honor of building three businesses in the title and settlement services industry. Like so many in this space, I started humbly — in my case, as a billing secretary for a Georgia law firm while continuing my education.

From there, I began my role as a paralegal for a corporate law firm, and a few years later, I took a role as a law firm administrator to spearhead a drive to modernize and organize the firm’s billing system and other internal procedures, which brought a higher profit to the law firm. 

This experience inspired me to start my own business, Positively Balanced, in 2000 — and I have since founded two more, Positively Closed and Real Estate Closing Path. Starting and running these businesses has required a high level of organization, communication, and multitasking, and while this demands some expert-level juggling skills at times, I feel uniquely capable as a woman.

In truth, my story is not all that different from most men who have built successful title businesses. Not many children grow up dreaming about a career in the title industry. A good number of us find our way into the industry because of an unexpected opportunity, or we stumble into it from positions with law firms or banks or insurance companies.

Some of us get our introduction purely by accident, fate, or chance. Several of us have worked our way up from entry level roles to becoming executives or even business owners.

Women in business ownership are not better than men, but we’re not inherently worse, either. Each gender is unique in its own way. As women, our differences can serve us and help us build our brands and businesses.

This isn’t a piece about equality, or lack thereof. Instead, it’s a call for women who aspire to build title-related businesses to tap into some of the qualities they already have. The title industry delivers opportunities and rewards for those who are willing to work for them.

Women as organizers and administrators

In my experience, women, many of whom remain the primary homemaker or administrative partner, spouse, parent or some combination of these roles in their own households, are natural organizers and administrators, whether they’re juggling careers or not. We don’t want to throw a stray part or unmatched item into a junk drawer. We want to organize those junk drawers!

If we find it’s difficult to reach something in the pantry — say, the peanut butter — then it’s time to re-do the pantry. When it doesn’t work well, we don’t live with it. We improve it. We reorganize it. 

Similarly, women who manage their family lives often do so via administration. Sometimes that equates to delegation. Sometimes it’s providing incentives. Sometimes it means delivering consequences. But there’s always an overview. Not many can afford to manage busy family lives by simply winging it.

Building a business is, in some ways, a little like building a family. It takes not only a keen attention to detail, but the ability to delegate effectively and build processes that encourage efficiency.

Ours is a business of deadlines. Whether our businesses are title agencies or support title agencies, they tend to revolve around the day of the month and the point of “clear-to-close.” We don’t have time for inefficiencies. We can’t do it all ourselves. We have to be administrators and organizers.

Many women in ownership or leadership have looked at inherited, traditional processes, and rather than accepting them as necessary evils, have instead sought to build a better workflow. It’s something that our industry could use a bit more of. If you look at the most successful title businesses — whether owned by men or women — you’re likely to find that they’re efficient and well-organized, which is a crucial part of business success.

Women as two-way communicators and nurturers

You may or may not believe in maternal instinct, but I’m confident that most women feel compelled to nurture. While some believe it is better to stifle those instincts in workplace situations, I’ve found that it’s helped me to put my business into perspective. Without these human elements, you’re more likely to find high turnover and low morale. As a business owner, I believe it’s my duty to nurture my business and its employees.

As a caution, “nurturing” is a complex concept. It’s not just support or unconditional permissiveness — in fact, it’s far from it. A good businesses mentors and develops its employees. Good business owners make resources and incentives available for employees to grow. After all, they’ll be the ones an owner needs to delegate to and rely upon later.

I spend a lot of time and attention on training, updating, and mentoring my employees. And, from time to time, I’ll jump in and attend to an entry level task as needed. After all, a business won’t go far without seamlessly performing its most basic functions, and I endeavor to lead by example.

Another quality found in most “nurturing” owners is a robust set of communication skills.  Communication is at the core of a well-run business, especially in the title industry.  A single transaction depends on dozens of professionals and separate businesses, and their ability to share information accurately and quickly — whether that’s what needs to be brought to the closing or where the payment needs to be wired. It’s often poor communication that leads to delays and potentially costly errors. 

It’s also essential to remember that communication is a two-way street. My businesses would never have benefitted from the innovations and improvements created by my employees if I was too busy to listen.

The ability to listen doesn’t just lead to a better office culture and a more productive operation, though. It can also improve recruiting, increase retention, and encourage innovation.

The staff needs assurance that their input also matters. While there are plenty of men who make listening a priority in their businesses, it’s an innate skill for most women that prospective owners should tap into and weave into their own operations.

Women as multi-taskers

Women tend to be more natural organizers. We often have to be multitaskers, especially women who are balancing families and careers.

While not every action item should be multitasked, there are more than enough routine but necessary tasks in a title-related business that can be automated with technology. I’m excited to see digitalization slowly but surely relieve my staff of some of those burdens.

However, there will always be circumstances that demand talented multitaskers. Business ownership is one extended choreography of multi-tasking, and the best CEOs do it flawlessly.

Of course, the title industry is a niche segment of the larger American economy. We’re often confined by extensive, and occasionally unclear, regulations. What we rarely do is fully understood by consumers, or even our clients and partners. And how we do things varies from region to region, state to state, and even county to county.

The challenges facing title business owners are an equal opportunity, yet women are well-equipped to address them and find sustainable solutions.

The vast majority of top businesses have leadership that is hard-working, experienced, or wise enough to lean on experience where needed and, above all, is able to read a situation and react effectively.

Women have inherent skills that assist them in the workplace. For women in ownership, the most successful tap into their nurturing and administrative instincts. They’re naturally able to communicate effectively. And while juggling a plethora of important tasks may be required, women possess an exceptional ability to lead and succeed in the title industry.

Mary Anne Harris has served the legal and title industries for over 30 years. She founded Positively Balanced in 2000 to help law firms and title companies with escrow reconciliation services, including transaction monitoring, fraud detection, and audit readiness. She also founded Positively Closed, a virtual, back-office closing solutions business for real estate firms. Additionally, she is the founder of Real Estate Closing Path, which offers training for realtors and settlement professionals. For more information, visit postivelybalanced.com, positivelyclosed.com, or realestateclosingpath.org. You can contact Mary Anne at [email protected].

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