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Partners Say Age Gap Makes for Better Business


It may be a bum rap, but, in the business world, people under 30 are often seen as too inexperienced, unsophisticated and flighty to hold top-level positions, while those over 60 are considered too burned out, slow and set in their ways to provide energetic, innovative leadership.

If David Lapin and Roy Anderson, the co-owners of Hanover Mortgage Corp. in Irvine, had bought these stereotypes, they wouldn't be in business together. Nor would they have discovered what an ideal arrangement their May-December partnership would make, in spite of the 34-year gap between their ages.

Although Lapin just turned 27 and Anderson will soon be 62, they are so in tune with each other that, they insist, they are hardly aware of the difference in their ages. And when they are reminded of it, they laugh at the fact that, if their ages were judged by personality, Lapin would be the senior partner because he's the more reserved and conservative of the two.

"David acts like a 60-year-old and I act like a 20-year-old," Anderson quips.

He says he was startled when he and David were mistaken for a father-son team by one client. "I was taken aback, because I never look at David in a son role. I look at him as a contemporary. I respect his ideas and attitudes and he respects mine."

Lapin says Anderson has never given him any reason to be concerned about the fact that he is nearing the age when most people consider retirement.

"I'd die if I had to retire," Anderson declares.

Lapin says his older partner shows no sign of slowing down: "I'm always telling Roy to stop walking so fast. And he's the one who automated the business. He embraces new technology."

Anderson points out that having a young partner like Lapin is an advantage because "he's not boxed in by past experience. He has new ideas."

Besides, he adds, "enthusiasm and drive count more than knowledge."

It was Lapin who initiated the idea of starting the brokerage firm, which opened its doors last November. He took Anderson to lunch one day about a year ago when both were employed by First Interstate Mortgage Co. and invited him to be an equal partner in the venture.

The fact that the proposal was coming from someone barely past 25 didn't bother Anderson, because he'd seen Lapin in action.

The partners met when Lapin responded to an ad Anderson had placed while trying to fill a loan technician position for First Interstate in 1989. They didn't click during their first phone conversation, but Anderson--who'd given Lapin a "don't-call-me-I'll-call-you" brush-off--was impressed when the tenacious young man called back the next morning.

Anderson hired him, helped him move up quickly and watched Lapin become a leading producer in his first year as a loan officer.

"He's a natural in this business," Anderson says.

Lapin notes that Anderson was also a top performer who made it clear when he hired him that "he didn't want anything but the best. He said he'd expect that of me or I'd be gone."

Lapin took that as a challenge rather than a threat because, he explains, "I already had high standards for myself."

He recognized in Anderson someone who shared his values as well as his work ethic. And he eventually realized that Anderson felt as confined as he did in a corporate environment.

"I like to do things my way and so does Roy," Lapin explains. Those independent streaks easily could have collided in a small operation, but the partners say that hasn't happened because they give each other plenty of breathing room.

Maydeen Stout, one of two administrative employees in their office, says she's never heard Anderson and Lapin argue, and having two bosses doesn't get confusing because "they're always moving in the same direction."

Lapin notes: "We've had different opinions on how to approach a situation, but we always compromise." Anderson observes: "A partnership is almost like a marriage. There has to be give and take."

Lapin and Anderson have found that the chemistry between them is a valuable asset in business meetings.

"Our minds seem to flow in the same direction, and our excitement comes through," Lapin says. "Clients seem to be entertained by our relationship. That breaks the ice."

Although they have much in common, their styles are quite different. Lapin has a quiet, unruffled, courtly demeanor, while Anderson is looser and more volatile. There's an edge of impatience in him that Lapin's calm presence moderates.

Stout, who has been with the business from the start, says that Anderson can sometimes be abrupt with people when he's absorbed in his work. When that happens, she notes, Lapin usually "steps in and handles the niceties."

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