Q: How did you first get involved in real estate?
Funnily enough, I didn’t know a thing about real estate or private lending when I started at AAPL almost 7 years ago. My crash course was reading the content on Private Money Lending Guide and getting to know clients. I still don’t know all the ins and outs of the industry – ask me how much I know about running an association instead.
Q: How have you seen AAPL grow and expand in the last few years?
It’s rewarding to see how AAPL in many ways reflects the growth of the private lending industry. In 2013 we had 60 members; today we have nearly 500. But more than that, we’re really hitting our stride in terms of the benefit we bring. Each year we host the nation’s largest private lending event. We’re heavy into legislative advocacy for lender-friendly regulation. We’ve launched the industry’s first research-firm-backed private lender benchmark survey. We’re bringing private lender education courses online. And we’re always looking for ways to improve our support of the private lending industry as a viable alternative to traditional financing.
Q: What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I asked my right-hand employee to answer this one since she’s people.
Kat Hungerford: Most people who meet Linda in a business setting know that she’s direct, honest, and something of a force of nature. Fewer know that in the right circumstances she can curse like a sailor. But it may be that only those of us who work closely with Linda know what a closet girly-girl she is. Polka dots and just the right amount of sparkle make her day.
Q: How has your company vision evolved from Day 1 to Today?
When I first started at AAPL, it was all about how we could put the association on the right footing. We only had 60 members, and AAPL was being run by salespeople so operations were … interesting. Over the years, we’ve solidified our foundation so beyond being a well-run, well-organized association, we know who we are and what we want for the industry. Today, my vision is focused less internally and more on what we can do to grow the private lending industry’s prestige as the backbone of the real estate investment market.
Q: What do you work toward in your free time?
Balance. AAPL can take on a life of its own – especially since it’s just Kat and me working on the day-to-day—but I’ve got a husband and little girl at home. When I’m not in the office, my focus is on all the big and little things that make for a happy and mostly-functional family. My daughter is the light of my life, and I don’t want to miss out as she grows to be a woman to be reckoned with.
Q: What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
AAPL is never a routine and never typical. And with a small team, you’re either productive or you call it quits because the only way to keep afloat is if everyone is full speed ahead. We’re always working toward some big initiative (or several), keeping projects moving forward with our three committees (Education, Ethics and Government Relations). Plus, there’s the usual flood of emails, phone calls from people looking to check up on lenders, and managing all the irons in the fire.
Q: What are some of your goals for 2020?
My top priorities are data and advocacy. On data, the industry lacks statistically relevant information about private lenders’ origination volume, loan terms, foreclosure rates, etc. Sure, we have the stuff that comes out of the larger mortgage industry, but that’s not specific enough. The AAPL/Zelman Private Lender Survey is our chance to finally answer all these questions and benchmark our industry.
Editor’s Note: Private lenders can sign up to respond to the survey at aaplonline.com/industry-survey. Respondents receive aggregate reports from the survey and Zelman’s most popular report, the Housing Market Overview.
Advocacy is our second big-ticket item. We’re seeing some worrying trends on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures. AAPL is the only organization equipped and already in the trenches championing private lender interests. Others have said they’re working on it, but we have yet to see anyone else meeting with legislators, organizing grassroots campaigns, sending opinion letters, or publicizing tangible lobbying efforts.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Can I just give a year to answer this question? 2019. Our parent company at the time went through a massive restructuring early last year. Most of the employees were let go – I had to say goodbye to two employees myself – and amid the crisis, we still had an association to run. With it being our 10th anniversary, there were a lot of eyes on us, with some outside the organization suggesting that the outlook for AAPL’s future was grim.
I preface all that just so I can say this: It was hard – my gosh, was it hard – but we did it. We not only kept operations running smoothly, we launched a Government Relations Committee and brand-new member directory, published our best-yet issues of Private Lender magazine, restyled the website, hosted our largest-ever conference, and worked on partnerships whose impact will be positively felt for years to come. We started 2020 under new ownership (majority stake to our previous CEO, Eddie Wilson), and things are looking brighter than ever.
Q: What is something that most people don’t know about AAPL?
Ok, so I probably spoiled this previously by mentioning Kat. But I don’t think that many know AAPL is operated by a small but mighty team of two ladies. Who puts on an annual conference for 550+ people with just two people? We do – while also running a quarterly magazine, operating three action committees, managing a growing membership, and leading a multitude of efforts to expand member benefits.
Q: What does success look like for you?
Hey, finally an easy one! A full glass of wine with friends after a full-throttle workweek.
Q: Tell us about a person or organization that you admire. Why do you think they have made an important impact?
There are a few but specifically Carrie Cook of Ignite Funding & Preferred Trust as well as Susan Naftulin of Rehab Financial Group. They are both very strong, independent, successful women in a predominantly male industry. I always appreciate the honest feedback they provide. I am lucky to call them both friends.
Q: What mistakes have you seen others make in this industry? How does AAPL avoid making those same mistakes?
Not focusing on the thing you do well in favor of always chasing the next shiny penny. It’s easy to get distracted by what your competitors are doing, what products they’re putting out there, etc. Before we move forward with any initiative, we ask, “Does this fit who we are? Does this fit our vision for where we want to be?”
Q: What is your favorite quote?
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand
“When you feel copied, remember that people can only go where you have already been, they have no idea where you are going next.” – Liz Lange
Q: What advice would you offer to women beginning their careers in the private lending industry?
- Know who you are. If you know yourself, you won’t get caught up in trying to be who other people think you should be.
- Be resilient. Take criticism seriously but don’t take it personally. Try to learn from it, but always consider the source and what that source’s motivations might be.
- Surround yourself with the best and brightest talent, never afraid to recruit someone brighter than you. You are only as good as your team.
- Practice confidence. Chin up, shoulders back, project your voice, and don’t be afraid to speak first (in fact, try to). Eventually it won’t be practice anymore.
If someone tells you that you should smile more, tell them they should speak less (a few four-letter words thrown in wouldn’t hurt either).