RICHMOND HEIGHTS — Top Flite Financial likes to hand out money and lavish trips to encourage employee performance, and it seems to be working.
The incentives have launched the branch office here to the top revenue spot among the company’s 37 locations nationwide, executives said. “We’re the biggest team, and we do more than half the company’s total loan volume,” said division manager Todd Feager.
Top Flite took first place among small employers in this year’s Top Workplaces survey. This is the second time the mortgage lender has nabbed the honor. Last year it ranked second — and the branch has only been in St. Louis for five years.
The branch has grown to 80 employees from 12 in 2016.
A visit to Top Flite’s new office space at The Boulevard shopping district tells much of the story. First, there’s the enormous spinning wheel on a stage-like platform. The 9-foot-diameter wheel was custom-made for Top Flite, and it barely fit through the doors when it was delivered, Feager said.
Every week, the top performers spin the wheel to try to win a cash prize of $1,500 to $2,500 depending on the results from that week. Employees also spin for the monthly $8,000 vacation package. Winners can choose from numerous destinations and take a friend, spouse or the whole family.
Feager said his branch is on track to hand out anywhere from $200,000 to $250,000 in incentives this year. Entries are earned not just for sales, but also for other types of job performance so that employees in operations and administration have opportunities to win, too.
“Anyone can qualify. It keeps everyone engaged and prevents the top two people from winning every time,” Feager said.
The corporate office offers the vacation bonus to the top branch — which is consistently St. Louis — but otherwise gives each location discretion on how it will reward employees. When Feager and co-manager Dave Bray launched the office together, they wanted to share the wealth with employees.
“The concept is: What if you treated others first? Usually, the guys in the corner office get the financial rewards. It’s a simple version of the golden rule,” Bray said.
“We put it back in,” Feager added. “We don’t have to do that. People do make a great living here. We find a way to motivate people and show we appreciate them. Some people think we’re crazy.”
Money talks, but so do other perks. At the St. Louis office, the mostly male workforce — only 17 of the 80 employees are female — includes plenty of people who practice their putting skills on one of the five carpeted areas outfitted with a sunken cup.
Putting competitions give workers a break from the stress of selling and assisting customers through the mortgage process.
“These guys are on the phones all day. We try to find opportunities to help break it up,” Feager said.
On the day a reporter visited, one employee was in the training room setting up to putt. He called it “a good tension reliever.”
Many of the employees wear headsets and walk around while talking on the phone. About half the staffers were standing at their desks, which can be raised or lowered.
Another bonus is a Starbucks machine in the spacious, modern kitchen. Cappuccino, espresso and hot chocolate are just a few of the selections that employees enjoy for free.
Top Flite’s busy workload is fueled by the more than 400 leads they receive each day through Lending Tree, the online loan referral tool. Top Flite assists clients nationwide, the vast majority of whom are looking to pay off credit card debt by refinancing their mortgage.
“When you have less than perfect credit you don’t have a lot of options,” Bray said. “It’s very satisfying for our employees to help people, to give them freedom and relief. It can be a very emotional experience (for clients).”
Hiring family, friends
Bray and Feager rely on referrals to recruit new employees.
“We hire a certain type of person, with a solution-driven mindset,” Feager said. “Almost everyone we hire comes to us with no industry experience. We prefer that. It allows us to train people from the ground up and not have to break any bad habits.”
Hiring family is not a problem, as long as the person fits in and works hard.
“We’ve squashed the theory of ‘don’t hire friends.’ We have a mom, two sons and a wife here,” Feager said, referring to the fact that his mother, brother and spouse all work for Top Flite.
Jeremy Brigham joined the company in late 2019 as a loan processor. He was working long hours for an aviation supplier and was looking for a better work-life balance. He had worked with Feager and Bray at another mortgage company several years earlier, where he said the atmosphere was tense and negative. He wasn’t sure he wanted to give the mortgage business another try, but he saw a Facebook post mentioning that Top Flite was recruiting. He met with his former colleagues and was encouraged by what he saw, including the prizes and bonuses.
“The higher-ups are more concerned about their employees than giving themselves raises,” Brigham said.
He also appreciates not being micro-managed, as he was in previous jobs. “It’s nice not to have someone breathing down your neck saying: More, more, more.”
Brigham won the monthly vacation prize last month. He plans to go somewhere warm when it gets cold here.
Joe Daniel joined Top Flite Financial as a loan officer two years ago. Before that he ran a Little Caesar’s franchise. He was working 16-hour days and not seeing his two young children enough. Two friends worked at Top Flite and suggested he come in for an interview. They said it didn’t matter that he didn’t have sales or mortgage industry experience. He would be trained on the job.
The job is commission-only, which worried his wife at first. But things have worked out well. Daniel won a vacation prize and is taking his wife to Maui this fall for seven days.
“Now my wife’s happy, the kids are happy,” he said.
Top workplaces, small
|Rank||Name||Founded||Ownership||Primary sector||Headquarters||Global employees|
|76||Wise F&I||1989||Public||Finance and Insurance||Fenton||51|
|75||Parkside Financial Bank & Trust||2008||Private||Wealth management and banking||Clayton||70|
|74||GFI Digital||1999||Private||Other||Maryland Heights||350|
|73||Dodge Moving & Storage||1902||Private||Moving and storage transportation||Earth City||85|
|72||Dielmann Sotheby"s International Realty||2005||Private||Agents/brokers||Clayton||22,000|
|71||Object Computing Inc.||1993||Private||Custom software development and consulting||St. Louis||150|
|70||Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical Services||1993||Private||Plumbing, HVAC and electrical||Collinsville||86|
|69||Safelite AutoGlass||1947||Private||Automotive glass repair and replacement||St. Louis||20,000|
|67||Provident Behavioral Health||1860||Nonprofit||Nonprofit||St. Louis||116|
|66||Parents as Teachers||1984||Nonprofit||Early childhood education nonprofit||St. Louis||120|
|65||CAPREIT||1993||Private||Apartment communities||Rockville, Maryland||1,000|
|64||Jerry Kelly Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.||1977||Private||Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration||St. Peters||66|
|63||Bastian Solutions||1952||Public||Logistics||Carmel, Indiana||1,040|
|62||Vanliner Insurance Company||1978||Public||Specialty insurance||Fenton||140|
|61||Renewal by Andersen of St. Louis||2012||Private||Construction||Maryland Heights||107|
|60||The Watering Bowl||2010||Private||Pet care: Dog daycare, boarding and training||St. Louis||101|
|59||Residential Home Health, Hospice and Palliative||2018||Parent company||Home Hhealth care services||Glen Carbon||2,600|
|58||Northwestern Mutual - St. Louis||1857||Cooperative/mutual||Financial services and insurance||Creve Coeur||12,400|
|57||Concordance||2016||Private||Holistic reentry services for incarcerated individuals||St. Louis||52|
|56||Experitec Inc.||1975||Private||Industrial automation||Chesterfield||176|
|55||Axiom Product Administration||2015||Private||Auto service contract companies||O'Fallon, Missouri||79|
|54||College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors||2010||Private||Childcare services||Missouri||70|
|53||Lutheran Church Extension Fund-Missouri Synod||1978||Nonprofit||Religious financial institution||St. Louis||124|
|52||Amitech Solutions||1999||Private||Health care data analytics and management consulting||St. Louis||81|
|51||Cass Commercial Bank||1906||Public||Commercial banking services serving privately held businesses and faith-based orgainizations||St. Louis||54|
|50||Horner & Shifrin Inc.||1933||Private||Engineering design consultant||St. Louis||96|
|49||Southwestern Hearing Centers||1947||Private||Hearing health care||St. Louis||58|
|48||Lutheran High School South||1957||Nonprofit||Private high school||St. Louis||63|
|47||Corrigan Company||1896||Private||Mechanical contractor||St. Louis||51|
|46||Brand Addition||1986||Public||Promotional products marketing||St. Louis||55|
|44||National Design Build Services||2007||Private||Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration||St. Louis||57|
|43||Lakeside Renovation & Design||1997||Private||Interior and exterior design, remodeling and renovation||Chesterfield||100|
|42||Flat World Global Solutions||2006||Partnership||Third-party logistics||O'Fallon, Missouri||93|
|41||Wipfli||1983||Public||Certified public accountants and consultants||St. Louis||220|
|40||Westport Pools, Inc.||1967||Private||Swimming pool construction and service||Maryland Heights||69|
|39||Unity Hospice||1992||Private||Hospice||Skokie, Illinois||250|
|38||Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal P.C.||1994||Private||Law||St. Louis||70|
|37||Sunset Transportation||1989||Private||Third-party logistics||St. Louis||147|
|36||Stone Technologies Inc.||1996||Private||Systems integration||Chesterfield||74|
|35||Buildingstars International||1994||Private||Franchise||Maryland Heights||97|
|34||Veterans Care Coordination||2011||Private||Manage and coordinate home care services for veterans and surviving spouses||Lake Saint Louis||51|
|33||KAI Enterprises||1980||Private||Design and build firm offering architecture, interior design, engineering and construction services||St. Louis||125|
|32||Golden Oak Lending||2001||Private||Residential home loans||St. Louis||209|
|31||Vivial||Private||Digital marketing||Dayton, Ohio||600|
|30||ITF GROUP LLC||2012||Private||Brokerage, freight, warehousing||St. Charles||60|
|29||CC3 Solutions||2017||Private||Telecommunicationsand cybersecurity||Des Peres||60|
|28||StraightUp Solar||2006||Private||Solar design and installation||St. Louis||74|
|27||Elite Orthopedics LLC||2015||Private||Vendor serving health care industry||Chesterfield||75|
|26||Technology Partners Inc.||1995||Private||Information technology||St. Louis||360|
|25||Title Partners Agency LLC||2006||Private||Title insurance and escrow company||St. Louis||65|
|24||Madison Mutual Insurance Company||1920||Cooperative/mutual||Auto, home, farm, business, umbrella insurance||Edwardsville||54|
|23||McClure Engineering||1953||Private||Engineering||St. Louis||95|
|22||Erie Construction||1976||Private||Roofing and siding||Toledo, Ohio||501|
|21||Omega Auto Care||2010||Private||Vehicle service contract sales and administration.||Chesterfield||50|
|20||1904labs||2016||Private||Modern software engineering, data engineering, etc.||St. Louis||74|
|19||DriveCentric||2010||Private||Automotive software technology||St. Louis||61|
|18||Krilogy Financial LLC||2009||Private||Wealth management||Creve Coeur||59|
|17||Rossman School||1917||Nonprofit||Primary/secondary school||St. Louis||59|
|16||KnowledgeLake Inc.||1990||Private||Technology software||St. Louis||70|
|15||PreventEd||1965||Nonprofit||Human and social services||St. Louis||59|
|14||Secure24||2007||Parent company||Security and protection||St. Louis||120|
|13||Auto Repair Network||Private||Auto ealerships||Mississippi||55|
|12||Helmkamp Construction Co.||1938||Private||General contractor||East Alton||51|
|11||Maryville Consulting Group Inc.||1994||Private||Management consulting||St. Louis||67|
|10||Delmar Mortgage||1966||Private||Mortgage lending||St. Louis||125|
|9||Budget Heating, Cooling and Plumbing||2009||Private||Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration||St. Peters||54|
|8||Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation||1996||Private||Mortgage lending||Madison, Wisconsin||8,410|
|7||Design Aire Heating and Cooling||1904||Private||Heating and air conditioning||Maryland Heights||85|
|6||Beck Flavors||1904||Private||Flavor house||Maryland Heights||51|
|5||Janet McAfee Real Estate||1975||Private||Residential real estate brokerage||St. Louis||84|
|4||Circa Properties||2007||Private||Real estate sales||Clayton||57|
|3||American Metals Supply Co.||1962||Private||Wholesale distribution||Hazelwood||121|
|2||Beckner Painting & Contracting||1961||Private||Drywall, painting and flooring||Maplewood||75|
|1||Top Flite Financial||2002||Private||Mortgage lending||Williamston, Michigan||172|
In this Series
- 5 updates