In the February 2012 issue of National Mortgage Professional Magazine, I wrote an article titled “The Top Five Things to Know to Start Your Career as an LO." Now, I want to provide some tips on how to improve an existing loan origination (LO) business. The five strategies listed below are ones that some of my colleagues and I have used to build our businesses.
1. Create a business plan
In the beginning of a career, many LOs are diligent about making a plan, developing goals, creating timelines for success and creating strategies to achieve specific objectives. However, as LOs get busy, they often just keep doing the same thing day after day, year after year.
Taking the opportunity to create a business plan each year is a huge opportunity for LOs. It may seem like taking a day or even a week off to create such a plan is too time-consuming, but the end result is worth it. LOs are often stuck working in their businesses and not on their businesses; however, taking the time to refocus and build a new business plan can keep a business from growing stagnant and declining.
Creating a plan means taking the time to step back, assess success, identify failures and develop goals to pave the way to a successful future.
►Assess success: Take a look back over the last year and see what worked. Was it meeting with clients? Utilizing new technologies? Hiring help? Constantly communicating with clients throughout the loan process? Asking for referrals? Once these successes are identified drill down into each one of them. Which clients were more likely to give the best referrals? What technologies helped the most and why? What steps during the loan process were the most important to be in contact with your clients and why?
►Identify failures: Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from those mistakes. Did a certain marketing piece not meet expectations? Did a process fail repeatedly? Were there constant delays in loan processing? Was paperwork not collected from clients that needed to be? Were new LOs and staff not properly trained in their essential job functions? Once these failures are identified, ask if they have been corrected and if new processes have been put in place to limit similar failures in the future.
►Develop goals: Having goals is essential to growing an LO business. Goals can be about employee retention, developing new business leads, contacting past clients for future referrals, closing a certain dollar amount of loans for the year and so on. Dream big about both personal and business goals.
►Create a path: Goals are great, and creating a path to reach those goals will turn lofty ideas into reality. If a goal is to contact past clients for future referrals, then identify how many clients will be contacted each week. If a goal is employee retention, what strategies will be used? It could be continuous training, developing incentive programs or team building activities and lunches.
2. Continuous learning
If it was easy to be an LO there would be more of them. Having a successful career as an LO requires dedication—it is not a 40-hour per week career. Professional athletes play the same sport, but still train and practice regularly. Doctors may perform the same surgery countless times, but they still practice and learn new ways of doing things that make the surgery more successful, limit medical errors and reduce patient recovery time. As an LO, it is our responsibility to constantly better ourselves and our business. We do this by reading articles in trade publications, attending training seminars, making sure we know about the impacts of new regulations and knowing how to best utilize new technologies.
If new technology or processes are identified, it is important to determine if they would be effective for a specific office or individual LO. Take the time to learn about the technology, see how it is being used and then try it out, giving it a fair and honest review. Adapting to new technologies and new processes that work are what keeps LOs and their businesses growing and successful. Not making the necessary adaptations will put some LOs far behind their competitors and jeopardize who potential clients choose to do business with.
3. Look back
This goes beyond looking back at successes from the past year as discussed in the “Business Plan” section. This is an opportunity to look at historical successes from an entire career as an LO. When speaking with new LOs, I always emphasize the importance of referrals and putting the customer before the commission. Over time, I suspect that some LOs get so busy that they forget the original cornerstones of their success. When they first started, perhaps they called five past clients a week to check in. Did that practice stop? It is probably useful to make time in a busy schedule to make these calls again. Did a new LO set aside a certain percentage of income for marketing? It may be time to reevaluate a marketing budget and stick to it. Direct mail, print ads, e-mail campaigns, social media and social networking, and digital ads all may offer opportunities to reach out to potential customers. What other simple strategies were used in an early career to build a business? Go back and review those.
4. Evaluate with a business coach
All of the above strategies have been about an LO looking back at their own business and finding ways to improve it. Although this works very well, sometimes it is necessary to bring in an outside set of eyes to accurately assess the situation. A business coach can look at a loan originators business independently and help discover what is really happening within the organization. This second set of eyes can create accountability, not just to the business coach, but to themselves.
During the evaluation with a business coach a “SWOT analysis” may also be performed. This analysis will point out the LO’s and/or the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Taking an honest look into each of the items mentioned by the business coach will help the LO and/or the business succeed and achieve each of its desired goals.
Networking is one of the most important parts of being a successful LO. The more people an LO interacts with regularly, the better the chance that they will receive referrals. Networking can be done in both formal and informal ways. Networking is not a scary process, it is literally getting to know new people and being interested in what they are doing first. Once you ask what they do, they are almost guaranteed to ask you what you do, giving you the opportunity to say what you do in 30 sec. to one min. Once LOs know how to network, the best ones figure out how to work networking into their everyday lives, while also attending events designed for networking.
Informal networking can be done at sporting events or among friends. If a child plays soccer or is in gymnastics, do the other parents know what you do? Do you know what they do? If you are on a softball team, do your teammates know what you do? If you are at a graduation party or a backyard barbeque, did you make a point to meet five to 10 new people? Then there are events designed for networking, ranging from chamber mixers to Tweetups, to grand opening galas and community fundraisers. LOs can have a goal of how many new people they will meet at each event, how many events they will attend each month and can make a plan of how they will follow up with each new contact. Building these relationships will help create future clients and have a high likelihood of bringing in more referrals.
Utilizing these five strategies can help many LOs add new life to their business and careers. As with any thing we do in life, we will only get better by learning more, looking back and developing plans to achieve future goals. We do this whether we know it or not, in every area of our life. One individual might have a goal of losing weight, so they watch what they eat and start meeting with a personal trainer regularly. Parents might have a goal of giving their child multiple opportunities to succeed, so they plan what schools a child should attend and what extracurricular activities they should be exposed to. Just as individuals and parents do this, LOs can do it with their careers.
Leif Boyd is senior vice president of production for American Pacific Mortgage. Since joining American Pacific Mortgage, Leif has taken an active role in overseeing all aspects of mortgage origination, including the oversight of the production department and 114-plus branches. He may be reached by phone at (916) 960-1325 or e-mail [email protected]