Buiding Better Relationships

November 23, 2015

Field services companies are using one-on-one tactics to help their vendors grow and succeed.

In business, the key to success is the ability to provide great customer service. Building a good rapport with customers or clients can launch a company ahead of its competition in no time, but that is not the only relationship that needs grooming. Establishing good connections with internal employees and third-party vendors can be equally, if not more important in some industries.

These relationships are critical in the mortgage field services industry. National companies rely heavily on their partnerships with third-party vendors who serve as the boots on the ground network in the field. They provide a first-hand look into properties across the country, allowing field services companies to relay accurate and timely property information to their mortgage servicing clients. These third party vendors, or inspectors and contractors, are the vital backbone of this industry. It is important for field services companies to maintain healthy relationships with that particular network.

There are many philosophies on building good relationships, with several themes emerging that can assist field services companies in building those partnerships. Just as important is how field services companies implement these philosophies into their day-to-day business strategies. Safeguard Properties, has developed several methods that establish a one-on-one connection between its third-party vendors and internal employees. It is similar to a “single point of contact” philosophy, but gives both parties incentives to succeed.

The idea behind this environment was to establish a best practice for the field services industry that focuses on those relationship building ideals and enhances accountability for its vendors’ successes.

In this type of system, vendors are assigned a vendor account manager as their primary one-on-one connection or single point of contact. That vendor account manager is responsible for the coordinated success and performance of that particular vendor company. Their achievements and failures go hand in hand with how they develop and grow together as partners. The more successful the vendor is, the more successful the vendor account manager.


In creating the vendor account manager system, care in hiring or promoting current employees to this position is key to success. These handpicked individuals need to possess a very special set of skills and have the right personality, in addition to a level of professionalism that is required.

Successful ideal candidates have generally shown to originate in or have strong backgrounds and experience in high-pressure sales, legal collections or supply chain management, to name a few. They need to be someone who is outgoing and friendly, but not afraid to correct poor performance or manage issues openly and directly. These individuals should be highly intelligent, detail-oriented, and analytical with the ability to identify drivers to isolate and remediate issues. These individuals possess a hunger to always be better and exhibit an excellent motivational and ambitious mentality to help others they interact and partner with to be better as well. They are competitive and driving toward success at all times.

Conflict resolution also is a highly developed skill for ideal candidates. The daily transactions are very similar to those experienced in an advanced collections environment or other high pressure situations. Focus and calculated efforts are often required to achieve a mutually beneficial and successful outcome, in which vendor account managers have to manage challenges for vendors trying to complete work properly and on-time. They must serve as the diffuser in any conflict that arises for the vendor and find resolution in an amicable way.

A hallmark of the vendor account manager program is the way employees are compensated, incentivizing success through additional financial rewards. The premium talent that the role requires calls for a pay scale that allows the company to attract the best and the brightest.

Competitive compensation is a vital key to better identifying and attracting the correct demographic and candidate pool for vendor account manager recruiting and prospecting in the field services industry. It motivates them to ensure their vendor networks are thriving. Financial bonuses should be given to the vendor account managers whose network is exceeding the standards set by the company and its clients.

Vendor account managers should be evaluated on their vendors’ performance in quality, on-time percentages, mobile usage, in-house quality control reviews, company set criteria, quality order reviews; reopen percentages, and commitment date percentages. This is factored into their own performance in communication with vendors, correcting poor performance, and relationship building to determine the vendor account manager’s incentive. Further, there is a review component where the vendors offer feedback on the vendor account manager’s performance and their relationship.


In our company, each vendor account manager is geographically assigned on average 100 vendor companies covering over several states for one service line – REO maintenance, property preservation, seasonal work, or inspections. There is no set formula on how each vendor account manager establishes and maintains those business relationships, nor is there an exact number of vendors assigned that dictate success, but some have created best practices that help grow their networks.

Open, straight forward, and high frequency communication is critical in establishing, fostering, and maintaining a good business relationship between vendor account managers and vendors. This relationship is not only coordinated like a business partnership, but also as a joint endeavor. Conversations are ongoing and proactive. A major key in this communication is establishing the open environment for not only areas of evaluation or improvement, but also to strategically identify vendor growth, strengths, and successes. This involves dedicated communication between the vendor account manager and their vendors to work together to identify root causes of challenges to achieve their mutual goals.

A healthy vendor account manager and vendor relationship is not solely interaction from the vendor account manager or another employee at the field services company as a reaction to an issue or mistake. Vendor account managers are their partners within Safeguard and they have the vendors’ best interests in mind to enable the conversations to be more supportive, even if it is to discuss something negative.

Next to communication, performance management and review is a critical element in making this relationship work. Vendor account managers manage vendor performance by determining if the number of vendors in the market is sufficient, ensuring work is allocated properly, and identifying sources for additional coverage as needed. They need to have that intangible personal skill to be in tune with their network and consistently follow up on performance. So if there are urgent or high profile orders, they know who is capable of managing additional work, for example.

The vendor account manager works to grow, improve and follow a “Vendor of Choice” model. It’s a basic concept that helps ensure the vendors who exhibit high performance, quality, interaction, strategic operational tactics, and local coverage controls will receive work first as a priority over lesser successful companies. For those vendors that are not performing up to the standard, vendor account managers are diligent in knowing what training resources and education are available to assist vendors in their day-to-day work. They also are trained to walk them through systems and processes to ensure work is completed properly and with a thorough understanding of expectations.

As with all relationships, it takes hard work, patience, and a mutual appreciation for each other’s strengths and areas of opportunity. The relationship’s success or failure is determined by the willingness and dedication of both parties to provide each other the support to overcome challenges and work together to achieve their goals.

Relationships benefit from face-to-face interactions. It requires vendor account managers to make regularly scheduled trips to visit vendor offices and their crews in the field. Being in their backyards, and not just on the phone, gives the vendor account manager a first-hand look into their business and a way to identify opportunities they have for improvements, expansion and growth. The vendor also has the ability to share their best practices in the field that can potentially be shared with other vendor businesses in the vendor account manager’s network. This meeting helps the vendor account managers make a personal connection with the vendor, which can help them get better insight into how the vendor’s business operates.

Successful vendor account managers are invested in helping vendors grow their businesses by coaching and ensuring they have the opportunity to climb the service chain. For example, a top-performing vendor that does grass cuts or landscaping may be equipped to handle interior property cleaning. The vendor account manager will help guide them in that direction to expand their business offerings, not only for the benefit of Safeguard and the field services industry, but in ways that can help them expand into servicing other industries as part of the vendor’s intended growth plan.

Because national companies rely heavily on their partnerships with third-party vendors, building those relationships are critical in the mortgage field services industry, more so than other businesses. Tapping into philosophies on building good relationships and connecting with vendors one-on-one were the goals behind our company’s vendor account manager program. While communication and performance management are the most critical elements, using incentives, selecting the correct talent and relationship-building tactics have proven to be effective as on-time performance and quality have improved for Safeguard’s vendors.

The biggest positive this program has created is the improved relationships formed. The benefits are immeasurable and the company looks forward to continuing to help its boots on the ground network grow and succeed.

Jeremy Barrick is the director of open orders at Safeguard Properties, the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. He can be reached at jeremy.barrick@safeguardproperties.com.

Source: DS News



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.