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This Entrepreneur Left the NFL With a Super Bowl Ring–and Built a $610 Million Business. Here’s How

Casey Crawford became a great leader by building a company he wanted to work for.

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BY John Eades - 21 Aug 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In 2003, as Casey Crawford put on his Super Bowl championship ring, deep down he knew he had suited up for the last time. During his three-year NFL stint, he'd been hard at work during his offseasons learning everything he could about real estate. So the decision to 'retire' from the NFL wasn't a hard one.

Fast forward to 2017, Crawford is now the CEO of Movement Mortgage, which ranks at No. 1295 on this year's Inc. 5000 list.

I sat down with Crawford for an interview on the Follow My Lead podcast and the first thought that came to my mind when Crawford walked out of the room was: "That's the best CEO in America that no one has heard of."

The reason is simple, and it's something that every single entrepreneur can learn from: He lives the change he wants to make in the world, and his business is a vehicle to do it

Take, for example, the Movement Mortgage mission statement: "We exist to love and value people by leading a movement of change in our industry, corporate cultures and communities"

Crawford says it's not just a mission statement on a sign--it's something he and his team try to live out every day.

Focusing on an Industry in Turmoil

Anyone would call you crazy to think about building a mortgage business in 2008. The mortgage industry was nothing short of a mess as banks were failing, families were losing their homes, and greed had torn apart the bedrock of the U.S. economy, homeownership.

Crawford had gotten a major taste of the industry by starting another mortgage company in 2006 called Greenbrier Mortgage but just hadn't found the right business combination in such a tough and trying market. Even though Greenbrier wasn't an enormous success, Crawford and Movement Mortgage co-founder Toby Harris saw an opportunity not only from a business perspective but also to make an impact on the world.

Crawford had an eye-opening moment in the early days when his younger sister was trying to get her first loan. He told the mortgage loan officer to "take care of her, she is my sister"--and realized that he'd only really succeed if he and his team started treating customers and employees as if they were family.

Of course, you can't build a company purely around customer service. Movement's hook is a better mortgage process centered around technology. Most mortgages take a month or more from start to finish. Movement Mortgage uses a "6-7-1 process" (six hours in underwriting, seven days in processing, and one day in closing).

Interestingly, while over 70 percent of their loans meet this 6-7-1 process, rarely do people actually buy a house in eight days. It's more about the idea that Movement Mortgage--which processed $12 billion in loans last year--does things differently.

Corporate Culture Filled with Love

Crawford told me during our interview that he thinks consciously about culture every day:

"You spend more time and energy with the people you work with than your families, so it's extremely important to be a part of a culture that is fun, uplifting, helping you stay healthy and grow as a person. All we did was try to architect a company culture around the premise that people are worthy of love and value and we want to lift that up to help people be their best selves."

One way the company lives this out is through a program called, "Love Works." It's an optional program that has given over $1 million back to employees by inviting employees to give portions of their paychecks to a fund run by the Movement Foundation. The program is confidential and allows for any Movement employee to apply for financial assistance if unexpected need arises.

Not everyone participates--but the stories and impacts this program has delivered are culture-building. It provides a sense of community within the business.

The Community Needs to be Impacted as Well

Making an impact on the community is also at the core of Crawford's Christian faith. He says it's part of Movement's responsibility to change what corporations are known for, and one way to do that is to "serve those who are underserved."

After reading a study from Harvard University and Cal-Berkeley that Charlotte, North Carolina was ranked last for people born into poverty to move up the economic ladder, Crawford knew he and his team had to do something. They founded the Movement School: a charter school in Charlotte which opened its doors earlier this month. The Movement Foundation contributed $12 million.

One thing I know for sure: No matter what business you're in, Crawford's example of making the change he wants to see in the world through business is one to take seriously.

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