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Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive

Stewart Hunter and Jim McMahan
Aug 09, 2011

The opportunity to thrive in today’s mortgage marketplace—despite a challenging marketplace and onerous regulations—is there for firms if they learn to ignite their entrepreneurial juices and become innovators. I am not referring to gimmicks, but rather, innovations that have a profound effect on the marketplace, and ultimately, create more relationships that translate to more loans. At Benchmark Mortgage, loan originators and their home offices are sharing their ideas and innovations, and the home offices are listening and developing the ideas, delivering them to their originators and supporting them. Despite the regulatory environment, it is not a violation to brainstorm, develop ideas and bring them to fruition, working with referral partners … far from it. In fact, it makes good business sense to educate referral partners and think of them as “idea partners,” working together on the best ways, for example, to communicate with clients—through co-marketing, blogging, Facebook, video or Webcasts. The aim is to generate ideas—and then have a dedicated team in the home office that can develop them and ensure that they meet the needs of users. At Benchmark, we have created a department that gathers all the ideas. Then, originators are selecting people to serve as the CEO of creativity to lead mastermind groups that take ideas, implement them and support them. Here’s how that works: Mastermind groups gather mortgage people from different regions that want to increase the size of their business. They scrutinize social media and develop techniques that enable them to rely on video business cards or Facebook to communicate with past clients and their referral partners. They dedicate themselves to finding innovative ways to maintain communication and relationships. Believe it or not, the approach works. Once an idea is suggested, the team brainstorms to improve upon the idea, figures out how headquarters will support the idea and determines the best ways to distribute it to business partners. That ensures the ideas are not the private reserve of a think tank, but that they are being tested in the marketplace. There is cooperation with this approach because they recognize that to perform well requires flexibility and an open mind; one that embraces new ways of doing things that will affect the marketplace in a positive manner because it is creative and fun. Firms that understand how to apply the techniques of entrepreneurship to innovation have a competitive advantage over companies that are sitting back, content to do business as they always have. The aim is to get originators and branches to share ideas with their home offices to develop them and support them. All they should have to do is make the video and forward it through the Internet to the home office. It’s then edited and completed for the loan originator or branch partner. To serve a marketplace and be considered an entrepreneur requires firms to embark on a creative format for generating and implementing ideas and feedback. The aim is to ensure buy-in from the company and to create a process for bringing these ideas to the market. More importantly, this approach has the added benefit that the creative work will be a part of the culture of the business on a daily basis. Innovation will not be delegated to part-time status, or worse, never undertaken because it is not familiar or comfortable for management and employees. The approach is exciting for another reason. In reigniting the entrepreneurial passion, these firms are creating a community around innovation. It tends to challenge people, enhance the enjoyment they receive from their jobs and brings out their leadership capabilities. While the goal may have been generating business, the result was much better than expected: A higher level of commitment from employees and clients, as well as a more well-rounded understanding of the business and the forces that make or break a company. Jim McMahan is president and Stewart Hunter is core values officer for Dallas-based Benchmark Mortgage. You can find them both online at  
Aug 09, 2011