At first glance, the real estate title insurance industry seems like an unlikely one for ambitious new players. The multi-billion dollar industry has been around in this country for more than 150 years and four large companies control the lion’s share of the national market.
But industry veteran David Tandy, with the help of dozens of others, created Texas National Title this spring and the business has gotten off to a fast start.
Within 60 days of its start in April the company had 100 employees, all of them industry veterans. The company now counts itself as the second-busiest title insurance underwriter in Austin’s rapidly growing real estate market.
Texas National Title ranks No. 3 among small employers in the American-Statesman’s 2017 Top Workplaces of Greater Austin project.
Tandy said the company’s secret for success is pretty simple: Get experienced, high-caliber employees and managers, then treat people well and make them happy to come to work.
If that happens, Tandy said, customers will then be taken care of properly.
Texas National Title’s employees say they were willing to make the jump to a new company because of their trust in Tandy as a smart and caring boss. They say they believed the company would give them the job flexibility they wanted and build the team it needed for a high-quality title insurance business.
Latra Szal, who previously worked with Tandy for years at another company, joined Tandy’s startup in mid-April as chief operations officer.
“The attraction for me was bringing over people that I have faith in,” she said. “We are out to grow the company together. People came in and did whatever it took. It happened completely out of faith and trust and transparency.
“The people who joined us are top-notch producers and the cream of the crop in knowledge of the (real estate title) industry. They are trusted by their clients and their staff. They wanted to be with us and they trusted us.”
Employees said their belief in Tandy and his senior management team made moving to the company easier. Some of them said they were looking for a more flexible work environment where they would have a chance to have their say in how the company was run.
Lacey Warren joined the company in May as manager of its West Lake Hills office despite the fact that the actual area office didn’t exist yet.
“I wanted to be heard and to have collaborative input,” said Warren, who became manager of the company’s West Lake Hills area office when she joined in early May. The company since then has opened 10 area locations.
“I was employee No. 16,” she said. “We walked into a bullpen office in the Shoal Creek area and everyone was hugging each other. We had baskets of clerical stuff. I had to get back to the root of the process and gain appreciation” for all the details. “We just rolled up our sleeves and said this is how to get things done. We all helped each other. There was this great energy. Everyone just wore every hat.”
“It reminded me of the value of our team.”
All the new employees brought established client relationships with clients in the real estate and lending industries.
Warren said she had to educate her clients and business allies about the new company and make them feel comfortable that she would still be able to handle their needs in a new setting.
In Texas and many other states, the title company team is the trusted middle party in what are sometimes complex transactions between property buyers and sellers. They are there to make sure the details are handled correctly so the transaction gets done right.
“There has to be a lot of trust there,” Warren said. “We handle peoples’ finances and money. I make them sign all these documents and they give me a bunch of money to complete the transaction. People have to trust us instantly.”
Melissa Cason said she joined the company as a sales representative in May because she knew and trusted it founder and top managers.
“David Tandy and his team take care of their employees,” she said. “That is the most important thing to us. Happy employees equals happy customers.
“We were a little nervous about the new company, but more excited about the opportunity to create something with people we trusted. We were going to have the opportunity to build something really great.
“We are seeing our (longstanding) customers stand beside us and support us. This is unheard of in our industry to take off so quickly.”
Customers, she said, trusted that the new company would build a strong team to handle the many details of real estate transactions. “We created a solid process with a solid team.”
“The proof is in the results and the results are strong,” she said. “We came out with guns blazing and we are here to stick around and show everyone what we can do.”