Wrangling Life & Loans

Texas-based Next Level LO co-founders say to ride this market, originators need a tight grip on work, faith, and family

Steve Goode
Wrangling Life & Loans

The line from an old George Bernard Shaw play goes “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

The late, great Irish playwright might not have ever introduced the world to that long-popular phrase had he met the team at Next Level Loan Officers.

That’s because they do both.

Next Level LO’s principals are busy in the lending business, and they teach others how to be as successful as they want to be, whether that means closing enough loans a month to be able to make a living and spend time coaching their kids’ ball teams or making enough money to buy a yacht and travel the high seas.

“Success in our world comes in many different forms,” said co-founder Kellen Vaughan.

THE BEGINNING

Next Level LO has its roots in a meeting between Vaughan and Kenneth Travis (two native Texans) in 2015. They were relatively new to the mortgage business and got involved in some coaching. They quickly realized that some of their teammates hadn’t been directly involved in origination in a decade or more and decided that there had to be a better way.

“We wanted to make it relevant,” said Vaughan, and their company was born in December 2017.

“It’s always been a fundamental belief that we make better coaches and mentors when we’re actively in the business,” said Vaughan, who like his three fellow founders is a licensed loan officer. He currently works as a non-producing manager in Keller, Texas, just north of Fort Worth.

Initially, they coached other lenders one-on-one and had a clientele of about two dozen loan officers at a cost of $1,800 a month for two one-hour calls per month.

NOW

Then, in July 2022 they made the decision to expand their reach by making it more financially accessible and more private. Vaughan and Travis - who also have fellow co-founders Shane Kidwell and Sean Zalmanoff on their team, launched their own website - leaving Facebook- and introduced their current model. It features Next Level Community, where for $197 a year, loan officers get access to learn from and network with top industry professionals, up to the minute notifications and agency and market updates, done-for-you scripts and marketing, Next Level training camp, access to in-person events and push notifications. They can also sign up for one-on-one coaching for a separate fee if they feel they need it. The next level up, which Vaughan said is the most popular, is Community Pro. For $197 a month, members have access to everything Next Level Community has to offer, plus  private accountability groups, on-demand training, access to exclusive events and daily live-stream calls. LO’s in that plan can still get one-on-one coaching for a separate fee. Finally, there is Pro-Plus, which includes everything in Community Pro with coaching included, for $997 a month.

“We’re here for 95% of the LOs out there,” Vaughan said. “The other 5% are superstars and that’s not our customer-base.”

A MEMBER WEIGHS IN

Next Level LO has more than 800 members and Alysha Boles is among them. Boles, a branch manager and mortgage advisor at Navigate Lending, has been in real estate investment and ownership for 20 years and in mortgage origination for seven years.

“I learned about Next Level as a result of looking for seminars and resources as a retail loan officer who wanted to expand her knowledge and abilities. Although provided in-house support and training, I knew there had to be more to actually originating at a more competent and higher standard,” Boles said. “That was something no company at the time was providing. I attended a two-day “LIVE” in Las Vegas and was re-energized, excited and blown away. They were teaching what no one else was and with different strategies in how you wanted to run your business.”

Boles, who is based in Texas, participates in both the on-line and in-person sessions - she prefers the latter - and has recommended NLLO to her colleagues many times.

“Next Level has changed over the years to accommodate need and growth, but continues to be a leader and innovator in the mortgage coaching community space,” she said. “For me, my recommendation is based around knowing the value of the people in the Next Level Community and the commitment to relevance and excellence in the leaders.  There are endless resources, only those who choose not to act won’t find them.”

For Boles though, there is a downside to the online focus.

“Honestly, I miss our huddle coaching calls. Being in a smaller group with a coach and regular structured time was something that worked very well for me,” she said. “Some of my closest friends came from that and are resources I still use for questions and help with clients and loans. I am now part of two coaching groups because the other group has that more intimate connection with frequent in person opportunities. However, that is still possible at Next Level if you have a group who wants to coordinate and pay for private coaching sessions.”

–Kellen Vaughan

THE MONEY’S GOOD, BUT…

Co-founder Travis, who grew up in Dallas but now calls Longview in East Texas home, said the money they bring in from coaching is a motivator. He said that their hope is to have several thousand people paying smaller amounts for coaching in the next five years with a goal of reaching a $55 million valuation.

Even with that goal, Travis, a Marine Corps veteran, said the company is leaving money on the table.

“Without a question we are leaving money on the table,” Travis said. “We’re going to give you more than we take.”

And that’s by design too because they want to teach LOs to work smarter, not harder.

“If people knew how little I work (on mortgages) they wouldn’t believe it. That’s what we teach people,” he said, adding that the number one challenge is getting people to let go of things that aren’t worth their time.

Travis estimates that he still makes between $50,000 and $150,000 a month on the lending side, which takes care of his family.

Kenneth Travis

SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT

Family is paramount in Travis’s life. If you get his voicemail it lets you know that he’s available Monday to Saturday, but Sunday is set aside for family and faith. It wasn’t always that way though, especially before the creation of Next Level LOs, which Travis calls one of the best decisions of his life.

“One night I came home and my wife was packing her bags. She said ‘Kenneth, I didn’t sign up for this,’” Travis recalled of his days working non-stop.

“Here I am thinking this was what I was supposed to do,” he said. “I learned how to scale my business and help people change the trajectory of their business and their personal life.”

Travis, who now works as a mortgage broker, said if he had to choose between that and coaching the choice is easy.

“Coaching,” he said. “I’m 100% geared towards helping LOs gain confidence and live a better home life with their spouse and kids..”

Travis said that when he shares his story with other LOs inevitably there’s one who says “Kenneth, that’s me.”

Vaughan said he hopes to maintain his current mix of teaching and doing indefinitely though.

“I will probably always have a foot in lending because I think it’s an amazing business that can provide crazy opportunities for people that are willing to work it,” he said. “But I also love coaching and if the stars align, I would love to expand my capacity to do more of that.”

This article was originally published in the Lone Star LO February 2023 issue.
Steve Goode headshot
Steve Goode
Published on
Jan 26, 2023
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