Having the wisdom to seize opportunityRyan Floriogame of life, success, making connections, creating alliances, people Recently, I was playing the board game "Life" with my nephews, and it got me thinking a lot about the notions of luck and fate, and how they pertained to the development of one's career and personal success. We've all met people for whom it seems the road to success was paved before they were even born--those with a silver spoon. These people were already waiting at the finish line before we even began. Still, in my observation, their opportunity doesn't always guarantee success. Some end up on millionaire's row and, sadly, others end up in the poor house. But I'm not addressing people who are born with this type of luck. I'm addressing the people who were right next to us where we began at the starting line, waiting anxiously for our turn to spin the wheel and see if our number was truly lucky and if our advances would direct us toward the prize. I began to wonder if our progress in the real game of life relied solely upon luck or if we played any role in creating chance and helping ourselves win the game. This question motivated me to think about the factors that guided people down the path in the direction of success. For me, these would be attributed to getting into a great school, making connections with people I would later do business with, creating alliances with other professionals and always striving to make noticeable contributions in my work commitments. However, when it all comes down to it, the real driving force in the direction of my career has been the people that I have met--the high school teacher or coach who influenced my education, the business owner who gave me a job, the friend with whom I started a business, the client who inspired new business opportunities and so on. A seasoned business professional once told me, "Business is about people," and in retrospect, I see that to be true. Today's mortgage arena is recognizing the value of people more than ever before, as the crackdown on sub-prime lenders is consolidating opportunity in the local markets. Consequently, many mortgage firms are becoming licensed in multiple states in order to remain competitive and field greater sales opportunity. This positioning also helps to build a regional or national corporate brand and alleviate some of the fear that predatory lenders have caused. The challenge arises in maintaining these people as clients when dealing with them at a great distance. But herein lies the great opportunity, as well. Mortgage brokers who can bridge the distance by creating consistent and meaningful contact with their clients after making a sale will always surpass the individual who focuses exclusively on new sales opportunities. This is because brokers who develop customer loyalty from their clients will earn repeat and referral business simply on the basis of relationship. Statistics from top business schools show that if an effort is made is this area, sales revenue will increase by 300-400 percent in just a few years, and this, coupled with new sales opportunities stemming from prospecting, makes the growth rate exponential. Consider the following key ways to develop relationships with clients who live at a distance: -Create a steady rhythm of communication with your client that highlights your name and professional services. Sending them written communication every six weeks will prevent opportunity from slipping through the cracks. -Avoid standard newsletters or generic postcards that will show a lack of sincerity in your communications. Instead, include a personal note or handwritten signature to show they are in your thoughts and worthy of your time. -Remember your clients' important dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Highlighting their meaningful days will help create a positive anchor and build their commitment toward working with you in the future. -Call them regularly to discuss their personal developments and progress. These conversations may provide ideas for new business opportunities. -Don't hesitate to ask for referrals by reminding them that their business is important to your career success. By planting the seed of referral request from the beginning, they will feel a sense of responsibility in supporting your career. By implementing a successful strategy of follow-up or hiring a third-party company to facilitate the development of your client relationships, you are harnessing the ability to create business success that does not rely on pure chance. In my opinion, the fate of success is not about the lucky spin of the wheel; it's about receiving opportunity and having the wisdom to recognize it. Step up today and recognize the opportunity before you to create success on the solid foundation of people who want you to succeed. Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland-based SpecialClient.com, a Web-based company that offers automated client relationship programs as a vehicle for client retention. He may be reached at (216) 598-0934 or e-mail [email protected].