As it happened, Thompson had just been passed over for the vacated manager’s job at a Whitehall Jewellers store at the Arbor Place shopping mall in Douglasville, Ga., even though he had served as assistant manager. “At the time, I was young and very driven,” Hayes said. “I had a problem that I had been overlooked for the opportunity.”
This would turn out to be a pattern in Hayes’ life: people or seemingly random events pivoting to the mortgage industry as a career. Initially resisting, he eventually would find himself unwittingly being interviewed for a job in the very industry he had avoided.
Prepping for the real estate license
So he enrolled at the Barney Fletcher Schools in Atlanta – a pre-licensing educational institution – toward the goal of securing his real estate license. He passed the class, but before taking the state test was perusing the help wanted ads. He came across one for Centex Home Equity, and would meet with the branch manager for an interview. Unwittingly, he had set up to be interviewed for the mortgage originator position rather than the real estate one. “It sounded intriguing to me because it was the financial side,” Hayes recalled. At the end of the interview, the branch manager offered to train him but felt compelled to tell Hayes the job was 100% commission-based on a draw. This meant he would get money even if he didn’t close on transactions – between $2,000 and $2,500 – but would have to repay it once he closed on a home.
“It’s a way that you can still get a paycheck even if you don’t close loans,” Hayes explained. “This was on a Friday, so I asked him to let me think about it over the weekend. He considered his $50,000 annual salary at the jewelry store – steady, reliable income even if he had been passed over for the coveted manager’s post. Come Monday, he had an answer: “I appreciate the opportunity, but at this time I don’t believe that I want to explore 100% commission,” he recalls telling the branch manager. The response from the branch manager? “He said ‘I understand if you don’t believe in yourself.’ And he hung up. It was enough to nudge me. It was almost like a dare and you know the younger you are the more you’re are open to taking a dare. So I picked up the phone and called him back and said I’ll be there. And that’s how I got into the business.”
The road to the presidency
In the intervening years, he would have several stints – at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Ashton Woods Home, Center Financial Group, Ascent Home Loans, First Community Mortgage, CrossCountry Mortgage Inc. and others. By 2020, he fulfilled his dream of running his own shop – launching Superior Mortgage Lending in Smyrna, Ga., for which he serves as president. His autonomy has enabled him to build his own team, curating it to his liking.