Get Started

About Karen Deis

When she began in the mortgage business, she never imagined that she would become a pioneer and an advocate for women in the mortgage business. In her small town, she was the first woman closing agent, the first woman loan officer, the first woman branch manager, and ultimately the first women-owned mortgage company with an all-female staff.

Then something happened: her sister, co-owner of our company, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She couldn’t go on in the business without her, so they sold the company at a profit because of their huge client database and consumer-direct marketing strategies, which are still relevant today.

Rather than going back to working as a loan originator, she realized her desire was to share and mentor other loan officers on how to increase THEIR mortgage business. She knew that she could help them be successful and make more money than they ever could have imagined.

So she built and created online and live events for loan officers and she has been doing them for the last 22 years.

Karen was the first woman contributing editor for Mortgage Originator Magazine. She also built and created Loan Officer Magazine in 2002, online seminars in 2004, Mortgage Girlfriends membership group in 2007, Mortgage Currency in 2008, and Mortgage Women Speakers Bureau in 2020. She has also written several books for mortgage loan officers, which include Little Book of Mortgage Scripts, Little Book of Mortgage Seminars, No Shiny Objects – 29 Timeless Mortgage Marketing Strategies, Dear Younger Me: 68 Women Share their Mortgage Business Advice, and more.

Today, she considers herself semi-retired as she is still involved in speaking and coaching clients.

She is a Junior Achievement instructor and Volunteer for Dress for Success, South Dakota. Her husband and children are all engineers and she has 3 beautiful grandchildren.


In this episode Steve and Karen discuss

  • Putting your mind in a toward state
  • It’s still important to have personal connections
  • Connection rather than competition
  • Engaging people in social media


Key Takeaways 

  • When our mind is in a “toward state,” meaning we are moving toward something, we become more creative, more thoughtful, and even smarter. Our prefrontal cortex works and we reduce cortisol and stress.
  • Many things have changed over the years, but what hasn’t changed is that it’s still important to have personal connections with people. Technology has made it possible to converse with people a lot easier but it’s better to go beyond that and engage people personally on a deeper level.
  • People you do business with should become friends. Instill a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration with people. Encourage connection and not competition.
  • In social media, ask questions that generate conversations. Reply back to those who comment individually. If it gets a little more involved, tell them you're going to send them a private message.


“Take care of your people. You have the ability to read how your people are feeling and what they’re thinking - you react to that as well.” - Karen Deis



Connect with Karen Deis


Connect with Steve and Jason




Listen to the podcast here


Building Connections In The Digital Age With Karen Deis

Welcome back to the show where the insights that we create are for our betterment and our life. I tell people I look forward to this guest. I think someone like Karen has the experience that you're going to get to read. There's no way that we don't have some insights. This is Karen Deis.

I’m glad to be here, Steve, and thanks for asking me to be part of your show.

I am looking forward to having you. I do look at your last name and I'm curious with Deis. Percentage-wise, all the people that you first meet that see your name and have to pronounce it, what percentage of the people get it right on their first try?

Twenty percent. Most people say, Deese.

We got to dive into the show, I am looking forward to drawing out some insights from you with all of your vast experiences and what you're even doing now and what you're excited about. How long you've been in and around this industry? It’s going to be fun to draw out some cool things. Before we dive into that, I have a crazy question for you. What is your favorite holiday and why?

I would say my favorite holiday, to begin with, is the 4th of July, and the second one would be Christmas. the reason for the 4th of July is that it the Independence Day. My sister Becky was born on the 4th of July. It's a great time to celebrate our veterans and our independence in the United States of America.

When it starts to come around, do you start looking forward to it? I'm curious how long in advance you plan for that and some of the things you do in and around it.

I would say a couple of weeks ahead of time, I'm planning the party, the food, and the fireworks. I live in South Dakota. Fireworks are banned. I'm in the Black Hills, and there are a lot of forest fires that happen here. I have gone to Mount Rushmore on the 4th of July when they allowed fireworks. It's spectacular. I've planned that as well. My sister-in-law has a boat on the St. Croix River near Minneapolis, and we've also got on the boat for the 4th of July. I've done many different things to celebrate the 4th of July and I plan a couple of weeks ahead of time.

We like to make sure that our guests emulate what we call a toward the state that we're moving towards something. As a side note in the show, not only is that good for us heading into an interview, it's good to do what we can in life to stay in a toward the state. When our mind is in a toward the state, as I'm sure you're aware, we're more creative, more thoughtful and even smarter because our prefrontal cortex works. We reduce cortisol and stress. That's a behind-the-scenes. That's why I would ask you that question. It's funny you got me thinking about that day and how much fun that is. Thank you for that.

You're welcome.

I could go off and read some of your bio and your curriculum vitae. You've had a long and illustrious career. Tell us the highlights, even from a vocational perspective, who is Karen Deis? If you wouldn't mind, share with our readers your bio and why we are here. Give us the highlights.

First of all, I'm going to start by telling you that I'm the oldest of nine children. I’ve been a bossy type of person and a leader type of person. I remember I was on a plane when I was seventeen years old. I was bumped up to first class I was sitting next to a businessman and he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I'd graduated from high school. I was going to visit some friends who had moved to New York City. He asked me what I wanted to do after I got out of college.

I told him I wanted to be a president of a company. He stared at me. Here's a seventeen-year-old with the ambition of being a president of a company, which I did so in my career. I started in the mortgage business. I was a purchasing agent before and was hired in the mortgage business on April Fool’s Day, 1972. I was not only originating loans and owning my own mortgage company but also coaching and having online subscriptions for coaching mortgage loan officers for many years.

I started in the mortgage industry as a receptionist and was kicked up to a closing agent. Steve, imagine 1975, ‘78, I wanted to become a loan officer. I was told that women aren't loan officers. There weren't any loan officers in my little town in South Bend, Indiana. I was told that women need to have a salaried or hourly job to support their husbands. That did not sit well with me.

I quit. I went to a bank, which I was okay, but then when I started to originate loans, and the company that I quit came back to me and told me, “We would love to have you back as a loan officer.” One other thing I wanted to mention there is they also told me that women don't work on commission. I said, “It's my deal and my income and I'm going to work on commission.” When I did go back, I worked from 1975 on, I worked strictly on commission and never got paid a salary or anything like that.

Fast forward, went through, and was transferred as a branch manager to Houston, Texas, to turn around a branch that was failing down there. When I went down to Houston, Texas, according to the recording record, the company I worked for was 107 out of 200 loan officers. When I left, we were number eight. We brought it up to a decent standard originating loan. My specialty in the mortgage industry was new construction.

I looked at that and I said, “The money is made in the specialization. I don't care what career you're in, or what you're doing. If you can specialize in something, you're going to make more money and you're going to have a better following.” Specialization, I looked at it saying, “If I specialize in new construction, is that all the business that I'm going to get?” It was a majority of my business. However, not everybody was going to build a home. The residual was that I was also making loans on existing homes as well. When I left Houston, I was recruited by the company for their new construction division back in Indiana and did very well there.


No matter what your career is, you will make more money and have a better following if you specialize in a particular work.

I went back to Indiana and started my own mortgage company in South Bend, moving back home. I had my mortgage company with my sister for ten years. It was a mortgage brokerage company specializing in new construction. I was the salesperson. My sister was the operations person. She worked for a CPA firm and she was the person that did IT and operations, making sure we had the system set up correctly.

Four years into us forming the mortgage company, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away. Before she passed away, we sold the mortgage company. That’s when I went into online subscriptions for loan officers, online coaching, online seminars, an online magazine that I had, that type of thing. That’s a brief history. There’s so much more in between that.

The subscription websites that I had, I sold them to other people. One of them was Mortgage Currency, Mortgage Girlfriends, Loan Officer Magazine, and Loan Officer Training. I set that up when I did decide I was going to semi-retire, I had systems set up where I could sell these websites, which worked out well financially for me.

I have Mortgage Women Speakers Bureau, which features mortgage women who are speakers for events, meetings, sales rallies, association meetings, and that type of thing. We're doing quite well now that COVID is over. I started it two months before COVID hit. It was cool, Steve, because what happened then is that people transitioned and says, “We'll hire the speakers online instead of live.” Now it's transitioning back to hiring women's speakers for live events.

You win a prize, as one of our guests. I don't think we've had a guest that has the longevity that you have in this industry. You win that prize. That's remarkable to have been in and around this for that long. That's so cool. I don't think I've ever hosted anyone from South Dakota or at least lives there. Let’s check that out. Thank you. I'm sure you synthesize that and there are a million things in between. Most people that have been in it that long talk about what interest rates were in 1981. I always hear that.

We complained now and people are always referencing 1980 and ‘81 when rates got to 19.3%, if I'm not mistaken. Interestingly, people still bought homes. This is interesting. With that much longevity, I just sort of feel like we get to be in our little interview, I will be at the feet of someone who has seen much and you've been through much.

I want to learn from some of the lessons that you've learned. One of the questions that I had coming into this, Karen, what have you seen over time, whether it's leadership, the mortgage business, that you would say has not changed? I'm sure tons of stuff has computers. You were taking stuff by typewriters and writing stuff out by hand. Technology has changed a lot. What hasn't changed?

What hasn’t changed, I believe, is the person is going deep with clients, real estate agents, builders, title people, and all the support people that you have within the industry. It's still important to have those personal connections. With social media, I believe that we're losing it a little bit. To give you an example, somebody commented on social media and I thanked them on social media. I can't even remember what it was, Steve, but I thanked them on social media. That’s okay.

TII Karen Deis | Building Connections

Building Connections: Go deep with clients, real estate agents, builders, and everyone else in the industry. Building and nurturing those personal connections is important, especially with social media today.


However, I went to the next step and sent a handwritten thank you note to them. What happened next was that they posted a picture of my thank you note on social media. Even though the thank you on social media maybe have gotten 15 or 20 likes, this got almost 300 likes. It's the personalization of anything. With thank you notes, if you don't mind, I’ll mention something about that that is important in the personalization thing.

In addition to the thank you for past clients and real estate agents, I ask people to consider also sending thank you notes to their staff if they've done something extraordinary or they show up for work every day, or they pitch in or they bring in a cake, whatever it might be. A handwritten thank you note to an employee makes a huge difference. In addition to that, I used to write thank you notes to title reps, appraisers, and to a loan officer who was referred a loan to me. I would write thank you notes. Even though it wasn't the era of RESPA when I was in the business, I rarely sent gifts. The thank you notes were the most important thing to me.

This is a relational game. That's not changed since 1972. Social media, technology and everything else, it's still a relational game. If I heard you right, maybe even some of the technology, though, it's wonderful we get to use it all, has it hindered our ability to create the kind of relationships that ultimately lead us to fulfill business practices and personal things? I think that's what you were saying.

I do believe that the people that you do business with and the people that you do business with should become friends. For example, I celebrated a birthday and invited some friends that I had back in South Bend. I had my birthday party in Michigan and invited some friends from South Bend. A handful of them real estate agents that I did business with many years ago. Some of them were good friends. One of them was an appraiser that attended. I'm still friends with a lot of the people that I did business with back in the South Bend. As opposed to doing business, we were friends and we hung out together. We would go on trips together, that type of thing.

That's the other thing that I try to instill when I had mortgage girlfriends, that this is not a competition between loan officers. It's a collaboration between women loan officers, get to know each other, visit each other's offices, and find out how they're doing their business and how they can just become friends and not adversaries in the mortgage business.

This is why I don't bring a lot of questions to the table. I got questions upon my questions and we end up in cul-de-sacs. It's counter-cultural. People think business is business and personal is personal and you're going, “No.” If I'm hearing you right, these people that you do business with, you said, “I think they should become your friends.” I'm wondering, did you do that intentionally, or do you suppose who you are, you just woke up one day and realized, based on who you are, you got a bunch of friends, or were you intentional about that?

I was intentional about it. I'm trying to think of an example. I do have to say I was intentional about it when I met somebody that I thought would be my friend, and not everybody was my friend, but believe me, I had my adversaries as well. When I felt that I had a connection with somebody, I went through an interview process of just taking them out for dinner or taking them out for a drink and saying, “Tell me about yourself. How did you get into the business? What do you like about the business? Tell me a little bit about your family.” I got to know them intentionally on a personal level first before I got a lot of business from them. I made a huge difference. I shared my story with them as well. I believe that, again, the personalization and the connection thing were important.


Get to know people at a personal level before you do business with them.

I don't know that we think like that. Talking about the fact that the business is relational, that's not some huge revelation. There's still a gap between the relationships we're creating in business, personally, and with you. I loved the synthesis of that. There's an integration of both, which I think is unique.

If people agree that it's relational, what do you think holds? You've coached, you're working with people, you've helped so many people. I don't know that people disagree with that, but I still don't see people who are good at creating what holds people back over time. Why do you think more people, maybe in any business, but in this business, get the relational aspect of this?

I have to tell you that, again, the intentional part of it was setting up what I would call a system for that. I set up systems for a lot of things in both businesses that I had, my internet business and my mortgage business. What people tend to do is they'll take somebody out, they'll learn about them and that type of thing, and then they'll move on to the next thing as opposed to continuing to develop that relationship.

I swear by a database. I have a database for everything. Steve, let's say that I met you and we hit it off and we had a good time. I would send you a note or something like, “I had a good time,” and it would be a personalized note. I would set it in the calendar that says, “I'm going to call Steve in two weeks and see how he's doing.”

It would be a system. I would call you in two weeks to see how you were doing. Maybe two months later I would say, “Do you want to go out for a drink again?” I will continue to develop that relationship. I look at it more like dating until you get to the point where you're friends with that person. I don't mean just friends. I mean close friends with that person that you know their children's names and who's getting married, who passed away, all those types of things.

I don't know what you think about this and I'm listening to that and going, “There's a bit of a paradox in that,” I think, and you tell me what you think about this. Relationships become good in part because they're organic like you and I like to connect and I like some of the things that you like, and there's commonality, etc. It's this thing, and yet you are also talking about a system to it.

I wrote down the word intentionality. If you didn't have a system and you weren't intentional, it’s just liking people. Maybe it wouldn't happen like you wouldn't have as many friends and you wouldn't have as much business, but if you were overly systemized about it and crazy and intentional, could it become mechanical? Would that hinder the relationship? Where is the balance of that?

What I feel happens there is that as your relationship progresses, there are going to be some people that, let's say you're halfway through the relationship and say, “I don't like this person,” or “I don't like where they're coming from,” or whatever it might be, I would end that relationship. I would tell you that it's both. It's both organic and systemized. You've got that personal human element in it that I can decide who I want to be friends with and who I don't want to be friends with.

TII Karen Deis | Building Connections

Building Connections: Relationships can be both organic and systematized. You decide on who you want to be friends with and who you don't want to be friends with.


When I think about the human element and the organic piece and then the systematized piece, it's an integration of the right side and left side of our minds. When we're right-mode dominant and left-mode dominant, bringing those together is probably healthy for this.

That’s tough to do.

I know a lot of people, and I got to be honest, the one that I see in the mirror, I'm more right-mode dominant. I probably struggle more with the systems aspect and the structural aspect than I do with the relational aspect. I know some other people that are good at the systems aspect, but maybe not as natural at the organic thing. What you're helping me have an insight is the integration. It's not one or the other. That's why I think of it as a paradox. It's both.

One thing I want to mention about systems, Steve, especially with what I did, it wasn't me creating the system. I had a group of people who also contributed to how the system was going to work and the contribution from the ensured that they would follow the system because they contributed to it.

TII Karen Deis | Building Connections

Building Connections: When you create a system, do it with a group of people. Their contribution will ensure that they follow it because they helped build it.


As I told you, this goes fast. We're almost done. Isn't that crazy? I did want to ask you again about your longevity and how much you've seen in this world and all the various aspects and things you've done. It's now 2022. We've been through, arguably, a rough year. I wouldn't even say that too many people would argue with that. We've been through good and bad in the past. It is what it is now. I'm going to ask you two questions. One gears it towards leaders in the business.

If you're a leader in a business, let’s say you're the CEO, you're in C-suite, you're the head of operations, we have a lot of people reading there. From your chair, what are just 1 or 2 crucial things that you would coach people to? I might not be unique, but what are some of the things that you're seeing in this modern day after what we've been through? How would you coach them? What would you say to make sure you're doing this well?

I would start by saying take care of your people. I would relate it more to emotional intelligence, that you can read how your people are feeling and what they're thinking and how you react to that as well. For example, in the mortgage company that I had for ten years with my sister, we had two people leave. One I fired and the other one I had to fire because of fraud. Everybody else stayed with me and my sister for ten years. When we did sell the company, we took the next step of placing them in with different mortgage companies or title companies. We not only closed the company, but we also helped them get jobs.

The other thing would be, I'm going back to the systems part of it and saying that as a leader, the systems sometimes tend to go astray. The people are off the systems and if things don't go well, is to revisit those systems on a regular basis. We did that twice a year to see if it was working, what was not working, and what we needed to change.


As a leader, revisit the systems you have in place on a regular basis. Find what is working, what isn't, and what needs to change.

By systems, I mean we had systems for everything. We had a system for client follow-up, for onboarding people, and for what information would go into the database, those types of things. Also, keeping up to date with the systems, which helped because, as you mentioned, the times change, so the systems have to change with the economy and with the times.

You did it a couple of times a year. I have noticed as a coach, it takes courage to evaluate things that you put in place. There's a great Hebrew proverb that says, “Al a person's ways seem right to them.” I've worked with some people who, from time to time, it's very difficult for them to even step back and evaluate it because they created it, so of course, it's good. I love the courage in taking the time to evaluate systems.

Those are two good ones. We're running out of time. The same question, but now you're originating loans. What if someone is maybe new to the business? I wonder if we don't have more people who have been in the business a long time who are going, How do I do this now?” You're speaking to people in sales. You're a coach yourself. You're listening to speakers, you've done it yourself. If you're in sales now, what would you care and what is crucial for you to do nowadays for you to have longevity and continued success?

I'm going to go back to meet people on a personal level and create those connections. There are several ways to do that on social media. There are the phone calls and the stopping by the office. That simply don't work anymore. Going through the social media aspect of it works well. One of the systems that I've coached on is when you're on social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever it is, I see people saying, “I close this loan and these people are happy,” or whatever it is, that's fine. It can happen.

They can post things on there on a periodic basis where I feel that you get most of the engagement on social media. For loan officers, for new loan officers and loan officers who have been in the business for a long time that didn't feel that they had to prospect anymore, they have to go back and do that. For example, in social media, I recommend that they ask questions to generate conversations, things like, “What's your biggest hurdle in the real estate business?” Ask that question.

To give you an example, I was coaching a woman about that and she posted. She goes, “Nobody’s going to answer me.” I said, “We're going to sit down and I'm going to stay on the phone while you post it,” because she was not going to post that question. By the time our coaching session was over, she had 105 comments.

I have to tell you that you have to have those many followers to have those types of comments to come through. That's another part of the system. It’s getting people to get into your social media groups. With those 105 comments, she said, ”Now what do I do with it?” I said, “You comment back to them individually.” You just don't say, ‘Thank you, everybody, for commenting.’” No, comment individually.

If it gets more involved, tell them you're going to send them a private message and private message them if it's something that needs to be not on a Facebook or a LinkedIn basis. When posting and trying to meet people and get business, ask questions, get the engagement, follow up, and then personalize it with meeting them and going through that interview process about why did you get in the business? I hate to harp on this, but it is a system.

Here comes an irony. We move from a paradox to an irony. We don't have the time now for me to flesh out what I seem to hear when you say those things and I'm taking notes. It's great. I'm going to have to have you back. We're going to have to sign off here. Do you know what I hear, Karen, is an objection to what you said? “I don't have the time for this.” You're talking about getting back to 105 people and there is a perception out there that people don't have the time. This stuff about relationships and reaching out and sending notes, what I hear a lot is, “That all sounds good. I don't have the time.”

That goes back to the database that you scheduled the time for it. I've scheduled times for posting. I've scheduled times for follow-up, that type of thing. Just schedule an appointment with yourself. It's that simple.

I'm going to have you back and we're going to do a whole show called Just Schedule It. There are some cool objections about that and it sounds like you could help us overcome those. For now, what I wanted to say is thank you. This has been all that I thought it could be and would be. I'm grateful for the people that you, who have gone before us, and grateful for the heart and passion that you have for women in the business. When you talk about people coming to you and talking about you can't earn commissions or you're simply there to earn an hourly wage to support your husband, I hear things like that and go, “That must have been around the Civil War,” and we're talking about the ‘70s.

We’re talking about now, Steve. I got stories about nowadays that you would not believe.

I want to have you back for that because I think it's in part about what we need to do to open up the eyes of the world. I wanted to say thank you because I think you're in the midst of doing this. Thank you for opening our eyes and continuing to open our eyes. I walk away with many insights about the heartbeat that you have for all of this. I love the specialization piece. I wanted to ask my readers, “What are you specialized in?”

There were so many insights that I had. Karen, here's how we end this. It doesn't matter what insights I have. It doesn't matter what insights you have. What matters is the people reading. What insights do they have? That's what matters most. I hope that you're able to go back and re-read some of what Karen said. There are many nuggets in there. Karen, thank you for your time. We will do it again. I'm grateful to you.

You're welcome. I'm thrilled that you asked me to be part of your show.

We're going to do it again. We'll get to come back. Thank you for everything. Good luck there in South Dakota and we'll talk soon. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you next time.


Important Links

Lead Magnet

  • First cool thing
  • Second cool thing
  • Third cool thing