By Robert Tyler Cook, SVP and Western Division Manager, Planet Home Lending, LLC
A logical pro forma may lay the foundation for a great retail branch business plan, but the numbers alone will not guarantee success. Other issues play a critical role in mortgage company growth.
Moving to a new company is not something top originators frequently do. According to the 2019 Originations Consensus® Study by STRATMOR, the most productive originators (top 20%) stayed at their jobs for an average of 5.3 years. Originators in the top 20 to 40% stayed at their companies for 4.5 years, and originators in the 40 to 60% stayed put for 3.2 years. As the data show, originators who generate the most revenue for a company are likely to stick with their company longer. It would be safe to say that they are given privileges and support, which helps them decide to stay.
During my decades in the business, I have learned exactly which supports you need – in addition to a great pro forma – to achieve extraordinary results in today’s competitive mortgage market. Finding a company that delivers on all six items on the list below will give you the backing required to bring your business vision to life.
Proper onboarding of the branch and infill hires set the tone for the entire relationship with your company. It is essential to have the offer, application, background and other processes laid out in an understandable format. The more of those tasks a company does for you, the more you can focus on the ongoing operations with your team.
At a minimum, companies should have a department that coordinates onboarding and a dedicated person to support new branches. Good onboarding teams set expectations early on and make sure key management leaders stay in the loop. They discuss issues proactively to make sure the onboarding candidates do not feel any pain.
Recruits should be seen as family members you want to impress and keep happy. That process does not stop once they join the company. With the right mindset and support, a company can have confidence that new employees will become seasoned originators who attract more people to the company.
After the initial onboarding activities are completed and you have your direct deposit set up, branch personnel need training. I believe that in-person training is the best, when it is safe to travel. If you think that this costs money, I agree.
A company that views a branch as a long-term investment will acknowledge that in-person training is best. You can board employees with consistency and quality. You can make sure their technology works and minimize distractions. Most importantly, you can buy your new partners dinner after a hard day of work.
In this extraordinary time, we created a comprehensive virtual training process. Instead of flying each new sales employee to our corporate training facility, we utilize video conferencing. We now spread out the curriculum that was three days of in-person training on our company and our systems across five days of virtual learning. It lays a good foundation for our field managers to build on as they continue to support their new branch employees.
Sales Leadership Support
Recruits will know if they have their manager’s support in just a few weeks. Before you started at the company, you were a potential customer. Now, you are an actual customer and you should get the same amount of, if not more, attention. Here is a test: Does your manager still pick up your calls as fast as when you were being recruited?
Unfortunately, the opposite is true in many cases. Too many managers forget about new employees as soon as the branch opens. Managers must view recruits as customers who continue to need customer service. In addition to picking up the phone when new recruits call, managers need to solve problems when they arise.
Operations support is crucial. Fundamentally, sales drive revenue. Great operations partners understand that and provide the customer experience recruits expect and deserve. They understand the importance of a solid relationship with sales. Wonderful operations partners make a world of difference.
A competent and skilled team of professional operations folks give the sales team confidence new loans can be brought in and closed on time.
In the most well-run companies and during the upswings in the mortgage industry, the financial backing and executive-level prowess typically do not come under scrutiny. In times like we face today, there’s far more focus on financial stability, including the cash to make margin calls.
The financial backing of the mortgage industry, as well as the funding of any one company, can go in and out of style depending on the times. The revenues a company earns during a refinance boom can hide operational inefficiencies. You have to really dig into a company’s financials to gain the confidence it can last through the next down cycle.
Smart Executive Leadership
Having a C-suite filled with people who know how to navigate a company through any challenges, especially the ones we face and will face as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, may mean the difference between success and failure.
Executive leadership with experience and a steady hand is invaluable in hard times. Leaders who can correctly predict where the market is headed and pivot to take advantage of inflections are a bonus.
Like any relationship, business or personal, the one between a branch and the mortgage company partner needs to be built on respect. Otherwise, it simply will not last. Insist on a partner who is invested in your long-term success — your hard work deserves it.