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So I am sitting down for lunch with Sokhea Ean, my counterpart who owns a small mortgage company in my area. She is a broker like me, and we struck up a friendship when she asked my advice on a column I wrote a while ago. Every so often, we grab lunch together and go over war stories, share sources or just chat. It doesn’t hurt that she is absolutely stunning, and I am a lecherous old man over my prime.
This month’s special focus is on “Growth Strategies for 2016,” and I wanted to write a highly intelligent article about a small mortgage broker’s business plan for the coming year. What can brokers do to strengthen their hold on the market?
I am a loan officer in a small brokerage shop, and Sokhea owns her own tiny company. I didn’t have a clue what to write, so I asked her.
This was pretty much the conversation:
Eric: “Sokhea, what is your effective business plan for increased market share in 2016?”
Sokhea: “Err …”
Eric: “What are your company’s plans of action to foster growth next year?”
Sokhea: “Well, I guess I can do more networking, social media and real estate agent interactions.”
Eric: “Are you doing that now?”
Sokhea: “Not really, a little, but I could do more.”
Eric: “If you are not doing it now, what makes you think you will do more next year.”
Sokhea: “I don’t know. What are you doing?”
Eric: “Well, not as much as I should, I guess … Nothing really ... I think I will just keep doing what I am doing.”
Sokhea: “Yeah, me too.”
When I owned my own large mortgage broker company, every six months, I would throw a bowling party. It fostered an “Esprit Corp,” but mainly it was to do “cross pollination” as I used to call it. Cross pollination means that loan officers get together with other loan officers and share war stories, learn new sources and basically find out how the other guy is doing things. Sharing information can help you learn new things and make you more money. It helps you learn what to do right, what you are doing wrong and what the other guy is doing.
Sokhea and I both work at small mortgage broker shops. We don’t have the advertising budget of Quicken Loans or the marketing department of a large bank. We basically sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. I thought I was the only one that worked like that, but I have a feeling, most small one person shops are like that. Yes, we do the social media thing, take real estate agents to lunch and do open houses, but we could be doing more. I am sure you are the same way. No matter how much you do, you could be doing more. Buy your tickets here for the Guilt Trip.
After lunch, I felt like a complete failure. Don’t get me wrong, I make a good living and get tons of referrals from my stable of real estate agents and past clients, but I feel like I should be doing something else. Does everyone else make “company plans to foster growth” and have a “business plan for increased market share” but me? I don’t think so.
Talking to Sokhea, I came to realize, every small mortgage broker is probably like me. We wake up, put one foot in front of the other and just react to what happens in the day. We do what we can to get more business and don’t really worry about it at the time. That is, until a magazine comes out saying what we should be doing.
I know this runs counterintuitive to everything this issue is about, but try this: Don’t plan. When an opportunity comes up, just take it. If you see a marketing idea that seems to work, try it. Go out and meet real estate agents like you do now. Drip on your current customers as always. To tell you the truth, with all this new TRID stuff I have to learn and my increased business lately, I don’t have time to start writing grandiose business plans that never work anyway. It is a waste of time. What’s going to happen will happen. Don’t get all stressed out about it.
Yes, I can hear you now saying, “A man who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I say that to people all the time. But consider this, who knows the future? Have a general idea what you want to accomplish and just do it. You don’t have to write down, “I will call my customers back right away,” just do it. I think you already know what works and doesn’t work. Here’s a tip: Do the stuff that works. Basically, keep doing what you are doing. That’s my “Official Business Plan for 2016.”
Eric Weinstein worked in banking, on the commercial real estate side until 1991, when he fell in love with residential lending. In 1995, he started a small mortgage company in his basement called Carteret Mortgage Corporation, which in 2003, grew to one of the largest mortgage broker companies in the United States. Eric is semi-retired, doing mortgages by referral only. He may be reached by phone at (703) 505-8692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.