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posted: 11/11/2021 2:00 AM

‘Be proactively available to listen and value each person’

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  • Kathy Kwak

    Kathy Kwak

 

Q: Describe your company.

A: Proper Title is a full-service title insurance agency serving the residential and commercial real estate industries. The firm is one of the fastest-growing title companies with plans to expand regionally and nationally. Proper Title's rapid growth is a direct result of a commitment to provide all clients with an exceptional level of customer service, superior efficiency, and an industry-best team for each closing. Proper Title was named Forbes America's Best Startup Employers of 2021, Fidelity's No. 1 Issuing Agent in Illinois for 2020, Rising Star/Excellence in Action Award by Fidelity Investments (2014-20) and Crain's Best Places to Work (2019-20). Proper Title follows its original company core values: service is our business; experience is our differentiator; striving for excellence. Proper Title fosters a forward-thinking culture for its employees. Our team is here to support one another as we guide clients, brokers, attorneys and lenders through the closing process, providing peace of mind that every step is handled with care.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: Yes, we will continue to hire this year as our sales team acquires more and more local market share. We will also be expanding throughout the Midwest as well as nationally. With both these driving factors, we will be hiring additional staff to support our existing clients, as well as provide support in new markets. Our promise to our staff and clients is to maintain our level of customer service, talent and knowledge in the industry while adhering to our positive and unique company culture.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: Continuing to adjust to the uncertainty of the virus. We will keep refining/redefining our hybrid work model for staff as well as the hybrid closing procedures for clients. COVID-19 forced our decades-old industry to change drastically in the last two years. We've adapted to a hybrid workforce and crafted lots of new procedures (which has made us stronger) while maintaining the culture for staff and continuing to service our clients.

Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: Hybrid closings. Pre-pandemic, all parties were at a physical closing table. Now, it's rare that anyone attends the actual closing in-person. For hybrid closings, parties call in with FaceTime/Zoom/Teams and/or any other viable option that does not require physically attending or going to an office.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?

A: Never lose sight of your employees that have their boots on the ground. Be proactively available to listen and value each person on your team. This is especially important with so much change in the workplace. When you lose sight or don't have a strong team leader involved, that's when the cracks begin to form.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Knowledge is power. Everyone's knowledge plays an important role in the big picture. I have worked hard to make sure that when anyone from my team gets asked, "What do you do?" they can answer confidently and without a preface of "just." No one "just" does anything. We all do a task that is an important and integral part to the successes of this company.

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: I have a trusted network of people whom I've met throughout my professional career. Each person plays an important role in each chapter of my career. I'm beyond fortunate that I can rely on them all. You know who you are.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A. I was a ballerina from age 8 through 20.

Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?

A: I had expectations when I entered management that I would have everyone's affection, respect and desire to hang out with me. I quickly learned that to be a leader, I had to let go of my desire to be Ms. Congeniality and instead work on earning the respect of my team, peers and colleagues. I learned that when there is resistance or conflict, I have to give the situation space to breathe. Once the situation has time to "air" out, I found more clarity and a resolution. Also, Ms. Congeniality isn't all that.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love and miss international travel, but what I deem fun about it has changed significantly since my younger years. The thought of living out of a backpack, doing laundry on a train, wandering around a new city without a map (i.e., iPhone or a hot spot), sleeping in a hostel (on a bunk bed), and focusing on the nearest "party" makes my stomach and soul flinch in terror. Now, I want to have an agenda, find tours (private is even better) to learn about that destination's culture, community and of course food.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: "A Promised Land" by President Barack Obama

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: I recently just moved and worry that my dog will never adjust to this new home. Also, since I see so many clients and employees in person, how do I continue to work with maskne (middle aged-mask acne)?

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: Compete and win, "So You Think You Can Dance."

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: Gap Warehouse (pre Old Navy). I worked retail, including stocking inventory. I have some impressive folding and organizing skills.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: Whatever stadium holds Da Bears -- whether it's Soldier Field or the potential new stadium in Arlington Heights. Everyone in Chicago is a Bears Fan. Da Bears, Da Proper Title.

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter.

A: #Idontdothetwittering