David Koonce wants to find joy more than money. As a business model for a mortgage broker, it’s unconventional, but it’s proven to give him the balance he wants in his life and the client satisfaction that breeds referrals and relationship.
“My business is not focused on growth. It’s built on maintaining a client level that allows me to achieve what I want in my business, focus on family, and maximize joy,” Koonce explains. “I want to find joy more than money. I need to pay the bills, and I find joy in my job, but I want to spend my time where it’s most important.”
But it wasn’t always this way.
When Koonce graduated from college, he began searching for what he’d do for the rest of his life. Raised in a small town in South Dakota, he found himself in finance the industry in Pennsylvania, where he helped clients finance all sorts of things, from cars to appliances. The career was short-lived, but he says that when you’re aggressive and young and trying to help as many people as you can, you get recognized.
“At one point, I was managing a large territory for a large bank. It involved lots of traveling. I managed a huge staff and had many locations throughout my territories. It was enjoyable and profitable – and then market changed,” Koonce said. For someone in financing, the onset of the recession could have been a terrifying period of instability and loss. Koonce decided it was time to refocus. He met his wife Nicole in 2007 and knew that he wanted to prioritize marriage and family over financial gain.
The slower market enabled Koonce to switch gears on how he approaches business and life. He decided to focus locally in growing his business, considering how he could support his clients in a meaningful way that he enjoys. “I handle clients in a special way,” he said. “I don’t have a responsibility to a large staff. Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation is me and my regional support people. Clients call me on my cell phone and get an answer that same day. I’m going to give superior service to my clients, and they’re going to recognize that. The majority of my business is from past clients, referrals, and business relationships with realtors and financial planners, accountants, and other people who want their people in hands of someone trusted.” It’s common for brokers to give their clients a list of to-do items and advise them to come back and see the brokers when the list is done. It’s drudgery, Koonce says. He doesn’t do that. He does as much of the heavy lifting as possible. He helps to clearly explain process: “I don’t know that I’ve mastered that, but I want clients to feel like I’m in this with them. I want them to love their house AND the process getting to it. It’s a reflection on me.”
Koonce’s standard practice is to do a deep interview with his clients, learning about them and their financial situation and their short- and long-term goals for building a family and a life. “Give me all the information. I’m going to take my 25 years of experience and apply it. I tell them that knowing what I know, this is how I would help them in this process. I help them consider products that might work for their plans. I help them maximize their goals. Purchasing a home is one of the largest decisions that can have some big repercussions. It’s my goal to position my clients – not just help them buy a house.”
He’s often out in the community, meeting people and making friends. He’s recapturing the feeling of his childhood – a feeling that makes a city a community. He says, “Having grown up in a small town, it’s pretty cool to look at Columbia/Howard County and compare them. My wife and I want community, and we have that here. When you’re active, you can intermingle and get to know people. If you’re a good person and you take care of people who are going to reciprocate, you find yourself in that small town again.”
The couple is quite active in the community they want so badly to maintain. Koonce was graduated from Leadership Howard County in 2018 and his wife finished the program in 2015 – an experience that he says really “pulls back the curtain the local community.” Because of that, they’ve become more deeply involved over last five or so years. With their two young sons Wilson (age 9) and Landon (age 7) they foster civic-mindedness and community involvement. The boys are products of the Howard County Public School System, and Nicole is a very active participant in the district and the decisions made there. It’s a challenge, Koonce admits, to do it all while he and Nicole both manage fulfilling careers, but almost every Monday, when someone asks him how his weekend was, he is proud to say that he enthusiastically – and honestly – answers, “It was awesome!”
The key to an awesome weekend? Time management. The David and Nicole volunteer their time in various places throughout the county, but they especially love the food bank through the Community Action Council. Koonce also founded a networking group that hosts events and regularly participates in community service. About five years ago, Koonce founded BizCon-X of Central Maryland with the help of a partner. The group brings in small businesses throughout the community and gives them a platform to share their services.
It all boils down to knowing what matters and focusing on that. Community – as a place and as a feeling – are what the Koonces want for Howard County. So, when it all starts to get to be too much, David will stop for a minute, take a deep breath, think about the decision he made almost 13 years ago, and ask himself, “What’s my foundation?” Every time, the answer is his wife, his health, and his kids. “This is what matters the most, and I can’t ever lose sight of it.”