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The National Real Estate Post is one of the most popular video shows in the mortgage industry. Special correspondent for National Mortgage Professional Magazine Dave Sullivan recently sat down with Frank Garay and Brian Stevens to talk about how they got started in the video blogging space and what they have learned over the last eight years.
NMP: You were both originators for a number of years before you started video blogging, correct?
Frank Garay: Yes.
NMP: How did you start working together?
Garay: I was doing video for my loan officers. I had about 50 loan officers at the time and they were starving to death in 2007. They were all relatively new, and I had been in the business for 20 years at that point and knew how to get through a tough market. I was trying to teach them to motivate them to do the right thing.
NMP: So your videos were originally for your loan officers?
Garay: Yes, the videos were for my personal loan officers and video blogging was just stumbled upon accidently one day and then I started to do it every day. That was back on July 2, 2007. I had my brother helping me with the video end of things for about six months. We eventually stopped when he didn't make it in the industry, so then my branch was folded into the corporate office. I needed somebody else to help me with this daily video. At that point, we weren’t getting very many views, just around 100 a day. My boss at the time suggested Brian Stevens, and I said “Yeah, but I hate that guy!” My boss said “He doesn’t like you either.” So he put us together, and that's how we got connected.
Brian Stevens: On my side of things, I had basically ruined my business in 2009. I had a couple of dollars in my pocket and was feeling pretty smart at the time. When the money stopped, I realized I was not as smart as I thought I was. By the time the mortgage crisis rolled around when everybody was suffering with their business, my business was flourishing, as the span of 2007-2008 were my best two years. I was really focused on my purchase business and trying to fix the problems that I had. That is when the market started falling apart.
I always had a default rate that was probably a little bit higher than some of my colleagues in the office. It wasn’t from fraud at all, but it was from aggressive originations.
I was taking a loan application one day and my boss came to me and said, “I need to talk to you after you’re done.”
I asked, “What is it?”
He said, “Well, I need to talk with you.”
I am thinking “Tell me now! Why the hell are you interrupting me in the middle of an application?”
I am thinking … this is going to be a heavy, this has to be huge. Did my default ratio come in too high this month?
I said, “Tell me now! Are you going to fire me?” Just imagine my clients sitting there while all of this was going on.
NMP: It is like telling you customers “Can you guys come with me, I am switching companies!”
Stevens: So he takes off, Frank [Garay] comes in and says “Howdy partner,” and I thought … he wants me to be part of that stupid show? Whatever … I'm not getting fired so I agreed to do it. Neither one of us went skipping along into this relationship, but it's been a fantastic ride. What we've learned is that we work well together in small areas, I mean we had to do that … we're basically like prison cellmates!
NMP: When did you realize it was going to be more geared toward other loan officers and real estate professionals in the business?
Stevens: I think what happened was it was Frank's model at first. He wanted to have a little sales nourishment for five minutes and a little industry news for about five minutes. At that point, he was sending it to real estate agents also. When I jumped in, it wasn't just intended for his loan officers … it was developing into its own little voice.
We were going to San Diego for the California Association of Mortgage Brokers Annual Convention. It was a fairly large robust event and we were doing blogging for $20-$40 per day. I mean we were making very little money at it, but we had decided that this is what we wanted to do.
When we went down to the Convention, someone said, “Well there is a real nice lunch … you two go and get some free lunch.” We were very in appropriately dressed at the time.
Garay: We were wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Stevens: I walked in there with a t-shirt. On the shirt, and this will sound really terrible, so please don't take it the wrong way, was Charles Manson with Charlie's Angels coming out of his hair. I had no idea what I was getting into. We were sitting in the back and everyone was turning around looking at us. I was just embarrassed beyond belief that we came so inappropriately dressed. Then when the speaker stopped and they were done giving each other awards, everybody wanted to come back and take a picture with us. That was the moment when I knew we were on to something.
NMP: Was that the moment you realized it was going to change your lives.
NMP: What strategies have worked best for you to grow your viewing audience?
Garay: The same strategy we have always had, which is never stop doing what we do. We tell people that the only reason that Brain and I have had success in the real estate video blogging space, is that we are just too stupid to stop doing it. Day after day, we go into the office and say, “I so hate you again right now, I don't want to be near you and I don't like being here,” yet we do it anyway.
Stevens: I think a lot of it is tenacity. If there is one thing that we can get across to the people, is that you just have to keep at it. It certainly is not our brains or good looks, so it must be our tenacity.
Garay: The biggest mistake people make is that they do one video or blog post and the Brinks Truck doesn’t show up and dump a big pile of money at their feet. Now there are several other smaller mistakes people make, but the biggest mistake is that people just give up. Video blogging, in particular, is really like any other form of social media, it can pay off and it will pay off in a big way as long as you are consistent—at least once a week, preferably two or three times a week if you really want to gain some traction
Stevens: I agree with Frank completely. What I would add as another mistake is whoever is recording the video or writing the video. It's the inability to understand that there needs to be compelling reason for the recipient to open the message. If your past clients, family or friends aren't buying or refinancing a house right now, why would you send them information about rates every week? That becomes a boring message and you are effectively training them to ignore you.
NMP: Is there a move you made over the last three years that you look back at now and say, “Boy, am I glad we did that!”?
Garay: This is easy for me. Through our show, we were presented with the opportunity to get out of our local area and travel. Every time we traveled somewhere and visited new places for speaking engagements, it was a huge deal for us. It may not be when we are performing our duties at the event, but outside of that, it was the networking opportunities before and after our presentation. We have come across countless opportunities and multiple contacts that have been so instrumentally important to our success.
I shared this at a local board breakfast recently. We tend to operate in the walls of our local city. When you don’t get outside of that local area, you don’t experience opportunities outside of that small area.
A chamber of commerce meeting is a great example. You can attend those meetings and do some networking. If that is the only meeting you are attending, you are going to see the same people over and over again … eating a wiener in a blanket with the same guy with a plastic glass of Chardonnay every time.
When you venture outside of your city, things start to happen. When I was originating, I had my daughter assisting me, we started going to the chamber meetings that were 20 miles outside of our local area. We started making wonderful contacts with people who were outside of my geophysical area and were doing business with them.
I am in Vacaville, not far from Sacramento, Calif. I would Google “Sales Networking Opportunities Sacramento” and could not believe all of the different events that were taking place. They were all 100 percent geared toward networking with people. If you are in Illinois and Google “Networking Events Chicago,” you are going to get pages of this stuff. If you start traveling and explore areas outside of your local area, you will be blown away by the opportunities that you will find.
Getting back to your question … getting out of town to network has single-handedly brought us to the level of success that we have today.
NMP: So the speaking engagements became secondary to the networking you were able to do while at these events?
Garay: Yes, that is 100 percent correct. The speaking engagements brought us somewhere where we wound up connecting with a company or person, and that was a huge benefit toward our success.
NMP: People see how successful you are and they don’t realize that you probably went through a time when you were going to either kill each other or when you thought the business was going to fail. Could you please share with us a time when you thought maybe you were not going to make it?
Garay: There were a couple of times in particular. We were partners with three other guys and at that time branded as Think Big Work Small (TBWS). We decided that we were all going to break up and we got very little money, and they got the TBWS brand. We received the rights to the show and the subscriber database. Then, we had to completely rebuild. Bear in mind, prior to this, we were the main engine that built and developed the TBWS Rate Alert. So we started over as “The National Real Estate Post” and had to figure out how to monetize and find a way to make money again. We only had enough money for a few months and if that ran out, we would have been finished.
It was a very challenging time for us. What we did to overcome this was … number one, we had belief that what we were doing was special and had value. There were many times Brian and I have come to the point of killing each other, but we always knew that we were better together than apart. We really have a great partnership.
After we re-branded, we just went to town, brainstorming on how we could monetize quickly and make it the best value for our clients. We just rolled up our sleeves and worked 12-14 hour days. We had always done that, but now we just turned it up a notch. We barely survived for the first several months, but we did and never stopped. Now, we have now gone far beyond what we achieved with Think Big Work Small.
NMP: It is amazing how the fear of poverty energizes you.
Garay: It sure does!!!
NMP: If you were new as a real estate professional or a loan officer, what would you do to make it in today’s marketplace? What advice would you give to someone just entering the industry?
Garay: There is so much out there about how to get started and create a thriving business. My recommendation is to tap into something. Ask your peers for a good system, who is a good coach. Look for a system like Listing Booster. There are lots of them out there that can take a 100 percent green loan officer or real estate professional and take them from brand new to hero.
You need to remember that you have to follow the instructions of the system. There is never going to be a 100 percent perfect system for every person in every market. There will always be adjustments that need to be made or modifications. If you ever hear yourself saying, “I tried it and it did not work,” the truth is that you probably did not work it right. I encourage young people and new people to get into the business. I have my stepson right now getting involved in the mortgage business … he is 23 and just graduated from college. I am going to coach him from zero to hero. I told him you have to do what I tell you, you have to do it every day and don’t ever stop doing it. It will work and I know he is going to be very successful. You can beat out the top producer in your office because they are set in their ways.
NMP: So true, just work the system and adapt. Where do you think your daily show will be in the next five years? What would you like to see it grow into?
Garay: We never dreamed that the show would last this long. We thought that this would last only two years. Five years into the future is a good number. I hope that the show is still doing extremely well from a viewership and subscriber perspective. The show has really become a staple of the real estate industry.
I hope it will stick around forever. Five years from now, I would like to see the show still going strong, but maybe syndicated out to other sources. Five years from now, Brian and I may not be hosting it. We may want to have a couple of other hosts who could take it over who would be even more entertaining than we are now.
NMP: What are you working on next?
Garay: The main thing we are working now is MoveTube, that was a derivative of Listing Booster, that was a byproduct of our speaking engagements. All of this came from speaking engagements and traveling. We found our partner Kevin, and he had a product that we were a good fit to partner with. We launched Listing Booster and did very well and added MoveTube to it. The big picture for us, and the most important part of our business, is MoveTube.
The National Real Estate Post and Listing Booster’s market is comprised of lenders and real estate agents. We can do a lot better by reaching out to consumers. We are the first company to have property search on a smart TV. There is no one else doing that and to have this feather in our cap is a big deal. We are now racing to make MoveTube not only the first, but the best on all the platforms. We will continue to work on improving MoveTube to the point that it not only helps consumers, but helps lenders and real estate professionals as well. MoveTube will connect all of them together through the TV. It is a super exciting product.
Dave Sullivan is special correspondent for National Mortgage Professional Magazine and marketing director for Credit Technologies Inc. He may be reached by phone at (248) 891-2205 or e-mail [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.