How I got into the Title Business
By Michael A. Holden
According to the United States Department of Labor, there are about 175,000 people working in the title industry across the U.S. Each one of those people has a story to tell. This industry, this job, this career, no one chooses it. They come to it because of a funny twist of fate led them to it. No one wakes up one day and says: “I want to work for a title company.” Nor do they ever say: “I want to go to college so I can work for a title company.” For instance, the Vice President at a large agency in Michigan told me he started working at the company because he happened to live next door to the owner of the agency, and they asked him if he wanted a job one summer. Or the agency owner who became a practicing attorney and inherited his title agency after his dad passed away. Everybody has a story of how they got into this business. Here is some of my family’s crazy path to the title business.
My father Buz grew up during the great depression. He was 16 years old when the attacks on Pearl Harbor happened. Patriotism was very high in our country as we prepared for war. My father was no different, choosing to graduate 6 months early in 1943 to enlist in the U.S. Navy. After his service ended at the age of 21, he found himself living back at home with his parents. In January 1946, my grandfather gave my father an ultimatum – move out or come to work at the title agency on Monday. My father chose to go to work for my grandfather that next Monday. But that is only the first part of the story. Back then, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs was managing a new program called the G.I. Bill. As part of my father’s Veteran’s benefits, he received salary reimbursement to an employer for the first two years of an apprenticeship or work study program. My grandfather’s company was reimbursed 90% of my father’s salary for the first two years of his work in the title business.
My mother Sandra started in the title business like almost everybody else – by accident. In 1960, she withdrew from the University of Missouri and, at age 21, relocated to Phoenix, Arizona where she enrolled at the Arizona State University. As a new arrival to the great city of Phoenix, she needed a job in short order. So she did what thousands of title professionals do – she responded to a job add in the newspaper. Phoenix Title and Trust was hiring, and she applied that week. The manager of the office asked her about her experience and specifically asked if she could use a 10-key adding machine. Needing the job badly, my mother of course answered “yes” to his questions. But, in reality, she had never used a 10-key adding machine. The manager hired her on the spot and told her to report at 8 a.m. on Monday. She had a whole weekend to learn how to use a 10-key machine. So she spent 14 hours at the public library reading training manuals and textbooks on proper 10-key machine work. She didn’t have a 10-key to practice on, but fortunately the library did, and by Monday, she was at least able to use the machine and knew how it worked. She worked there for several years before moving back to Missouri in 1965.
My story of how I entered the title business is not quite as exciting as serving our country or moving to a new place and starting a new career. I started in the title business because it meant I didn’t have to smell like pizza anymore. I was a freshman in college in 1989 and working at a popular pizza restaurant. Long before DoorDash™ and UberEats™ the only way to have food delivered was to order a pizza. I worked almost every Friday and Saturday night delivering pizza, sometimes until 2 a.m. It was good money in 1989, but I was missing out on the college experience. My friends from the dorm were going out on Friday and Saturday nights, participating in normal college rituals like homecoming and football games. I felt like I was missing out. So my parents offered a solution – come to work at the title company. They offered me a job working afternoons Monday through Friday from 1-5 every day, and for the same wages I was getting at the pizza place. I did some quick calculation: same pay; didn’t smell like pizza; could hang out with my friends on Friday and Saturday. Ok, I’ll take the job. Within five years, I was out of college, working full time at the title agency and never looked back.
One of the greatest questions I get to ask people I meet from around the country is: “How did you get into the title business?” Everyone has a story – all 175,000 people who work in this crazy industry. Be sure to ask that next time you are at a convention or company gathering; you will be astonished by the answers!
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”Sir Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965, British Politician and Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and again from 1951-1955.
About the Author
Since 1989 Michael has held several roles in the title industry. The first 18 years of his career, Michael worked as a licensed title agent and managed a multimillion dollar title agency with 17 offices and 100 employees. Read More...
Michael A. Holden has published stories from his family's 100 years in the title industry in his book, The Ramblings of a Title Man, which can be purchased online through Lulu.com.