Ben Smidt, VP Digital Strategy & Innovation
The mortgage industry consistently shifts, requiring mortgage professionals to regularly evaluate their business planning strategies to improve mortgage growth year-over-year. Because of this, I’m providing loan officers with insights from several mortgage experts on business planning strategies that aim to assist several types of mortgage professionals in today’s marketplace.
I reached out to several mortgage experts from a variety of backgrounds, including mortgage influencers, top producing loan officers, real estate experts and industry leaders, to gather their perspectives on successful business planning strategies in the mortgage industry.
While interviewing them, a common set of themes emerged that anyone in the mortgage industry can leverage in their business planning strategies going forward.
Many thanks to these mortgage experts who were willing to share their insight and strategies:
- David Stevens: Housing Finance Policy Advisor
- Rob Chrisman: Consultant – Capital Markets
- Sue Woodard: Chief Customer Officer
- Steven Kyles: Branch Manager / Top Producer
- Neil Mathweg: Real Estate Pro
- Dustin Brohm: Podcaster & National Speaker
- Bill Gassett: Real Estate Marketing Expert
- Geoff Zimpfer: Mortgage Leader & Podcaster
Here are 7 business planning strategies from mortgage experts:
1. Understand Values
Knowing and understanding your personal values helps guide the professional goals you want to achieve in the future as they relate to business planning strategies.
Sue Woodard lives and breathes this concept saying, “Get clear on your values. This is often overlooked as part of a planning process, but I feel it is critical in determining how you will approach your goals, what you are willing to sacrifice and what priorities certain things should take over others. For me and those I work with, we are all clear that customer success is our number one value – so it drives our goals and initiatives.”
Dustin Brohm builds on this concept by adding, “When making business plans, you first need to step back and be honest with yourself about a) what you’re good at and, b) what you like doing. If you hate writing articles, don’t focus your strategy around blogging. If you absolutely love being on camera, then focus more on video content. Start a local show or podcast, be intentional and consistent with your Instagram stories. You must choose a strategy that aligns with your strengths, values and what you enjoy doing because that’s the only way you can stay consistent long enough to win. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you end up having more success.”
“You must choose a strategy that aligns with your strengths, values and what you enjoy doing because that’s the only way you can stay consistent long enough to win.”
– Dustin Brohm
I agree with this strategy for mortgage professionals and feel it’s easier to achieve a business goal when when it aligns with your values and you understand what’s important to you.
2. Have Specific Goals
Some goals can be too broad. Big goals are essential to business planning strategy success, but it’s more important to focus on smaller, specific goals that can help you achieve your larger objectives.
David Stevens makes this simple to grasp by stating, “Be SMART in your business planning strategies. Set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Trackable sub goals to get to the larger goal. Note that you can find other words to define SMART – but to me, it starts here. Goals need to be specific. The goals need to be precise enough that you can build a calendar and contact list from them. Think about what the overall larger goal is and then itemize the specific things you need to do to get there. There is much more to this, but this is a start.”
Additionally, Sue Woodard mentions, “Be specific in your goals. Easy to say, not easy to do. Many people simply think ‘more’ is better – but you must be crystal clear on what you are aiming to accomplish in the year ahead. Not ‘be healthier’ – but lose x pounds and run a race of x length. Not ’make more money or do more loans’ – but make x number of dollars or close x amount of volume.”
“Be specific in your goals. Easy to say, not easy to do. Many people simply think ‘more’ is better – but you must be crystal clear on what you are aiming to accomplish in the year ahead.”
– Sue Woodard
I like this concept because it allows us to clearly connect what we want to achieve with how are we going to get there.
3. Start Time Blocking
Setting aside time to develop a strategic thought or idea is important for taking action on your business planning goals in the mortgage industry.
I appreciate how David Stevens likes to approach this. He says, “A road map only works if you manage yourself and commit time to execute activities. In my early days as a loan officer, I would spend late Friday afternoons laying my entire next week’s plans on paper with a minimum of 3 full afternoons blocked for making face-to-face sales calls on Realtors®. I would also block every Tuesday morning to attend, and hopefully speak at, a Realtor sales meeting. I know activities today might be different but it’s the commitment to a blocked/dedicated time that matters.”
“A road map only works if you manage yourself and commit time to execute activities.”
– David Stevens
Geoff Zimpfer makes it simple saying, “If it’s not on your calendar it doesn’t exist! Your business plan should include time blocking and tracking of your sales-focused activities including calls, meetings, events, classes and online activities.”
Sue Woodard has a similar approach when focusing on time blocking as it relates to business planning strategies. She explains, “Block the time. Time block a weekly, monthly, quarterly check-in on progress against your goals. This will not happen automatically, and I find it will never happen if you don’t calendar it just like you would any other important meeting.”
Interestingly, in my experience, I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful in how I work to reach my business goals month-over-month and year-over-year.
4. Incorporate Accountability
Accountability in business planning strategies works to keep you on track with established goals. Not just personal accountability, but accountability from others that you trust can help keep you on track.
I found that Rob Chrisman’s remarks on business planning strategies fall in line with the concept of self-accountability. Rob says, “Throughout my years in the lending business, I have found that strategies for business planning are varied and subjective. For individuals, they range from ‘showing up every day at work’ to extensive multi-page marketing and origination plans. Lenders run the gamut from having no business plan to extensive frameworks that are reviewed quarterly by senior management. However, I have found that the common theme for success is consistently putting in a little extra time, a little extra effort, a little extra listening and a little extra customer service to help one client at a time achieve their goal.”
“The common theme for success is consistently putting in a little extra time, a little extra effort, a little extra listening and a little extra customer service to help one client at a time achieve their goal.”
– Rob Chrisman
I believe this self-accountability approach, and making sure you help each client, one-by-one, achieve their goals, pays off in the long-run.
David Stevens, who reinforces the need for accountability when preforming regular self-check-ins, says, “Ask the hard questions – why did I not do that? Hold yourself accountable. No excuses!”
Sue Woodard echoes that, recommending you “put your goals in writing, put them on your bathroom mirror or next to your computer, and then tell someone else your goals.” She continues, “These little steps supercharge and dramatically amplify your odds for reaching those goals.”
Having someone to hold you accountable is powerful, but learning to hold yourself accountable will have even more impact on reaching your business planning goals.
5. Create Focus
Everyone’s time is valuable so when thinking about business planning strategies in the mortgage industry we need to understand where to focus our efforts. Where will we see the best return on our time? I love what many of these mortgage experts shared about creating focus.
Steve Kyles says it well: “We must be strategic with our time. I encourage you to target the right partners. Make sure you know their sides and how many opportunities you can earn. Someone may love you, want to work with you AND give you EVERY deal. BUT let’s do the math: If they only close 10 transactions a year, they may only be able to refer you for 5 of the 10. And when all is said and done, you may only close 3 of the 5. That’s not enough. The solution? Build relationships with teams and partners producing a minimum of 24 transaction a year. Build relationships with influential brokers. Go deep in your relationships. You only need 5-10 of these types of SOLID relationships to close $30 million or more a year. Add value and help your partners grow.”
Real estate pro Neil Mathweg shares similar insights: “Want to ruin a man’s vision? Give him two. Or in some of our cases, ten. Meaning our businesses are full of shiny objects leading to a very cluttered business plan. And when it’s cluttered, you can’t stay focused. Energy is spread too thin and you lack consistency. I think what’s important to your business plan is removing the clutter, the shiny objects, and getting focused on three activities. We call it the three-pillar plan. The first pillar is your ‘sphere of influence’ and focusing on how you will cultivate it (think client appreciation events). The next pillar is asking what we are going to do to ‘chase’ business (think open houses, online leads, Facebook advertising or for sale by owner (FSBO)). Lastly, we ask ourselves what are we going to do to ‘attract’ business (think searchable content like blogging, podcasts and YouTube videos). By focusing on these three pillars, you will have a clear plan to execute, a clear plan that is congruent to YOU. Now, add consistency to that clear-congruent-plan and look out. Amazing things will happen in your business!”
“What’s important to your business plan is removing the clutter, the shiny objects, and getting focused on three activities.”
– Neil Mathweg
To hammer the concept home further, Geoff Zimpfer shares, “For mortgage loan originators, you’ve got three main sources of business: 1) real estate agents and referral partners, 2) past clients and sphere of influence (SOI), and, 3) online leads both paid and organic. Consider the percentage of closed business from each of those sources last year and identify which one provided the best return on investment (ROI), then modify accordingly to expand your business.”
This perspective resonates clearly with me as I’m a huge advocate of identifying where my time is best spent and focusing my energy there to see a positive return.
6. Develop Content / Branding
Content and branding in today’s mortgage marketplace should be crucial parts of your business planning strategies. They can help scale visibility about who you are and what you do with the broader audience of warm leads across social media and Google Search.
Bill Gassett is great at creating content to drive sales and he keeps it pretty simple, saying, “One of the most important aspects I have found in business planning is keeping my website/blog, Maximum Real Estate Exposure, primed to generate the most business possible. The end of the year is a wonderful time to do a little bit of inventory on the site. Consider updating previously written articles with new information, or improve upon the images used in older articles. This can bring new life to older posts. If you are a mortgage broker or real estate agent reading this, take note. Remember your branding matters – it is how people remember you. Doing a refresh of your website can lead to good things down the road.”
Neil Mathweg has a great approach to content and branding as it relates to business planning strategies. He states, “Think about what you can do to be a media company that happens to sell real estate (or originating loans). Is it searchable content like blogging or creating YouTube videos? Is it social content like the I Love Madison show I created that helps those who are new to Madison connect with people, places and events in Madison? A community-first mindset is an excellent way to get the ball rolling on content that highlights your brand.”
This approach is perfect because it allows you to highlight who you are, your brand and the value you provide while also having the content indexed in social search, as well as Google Search. This ensures your efforts will have a long-lasting return.
The evaluation process is critical to the success of fluid business planning strategies. A mortgage professional always needs to keep tabs on what is working and what is not, as it relates to the big goal.
I appreciate Steven Kyles thoughts on this. He offers, “Work and rework your plan. Reevaluate results every 30 days and adjust as needed. Measure your effectiveness, NOT your busyness.”
David Stevens offers a similar message on the importance of evaluating what you are doing and how it aligns with your business strategies, saying, “Any business plan requires reality checks. Dedicate two hours once a month to review your previous month’s calendar, the activities you did to reach your goals, and those that you did not do.”
Geoff Zimpfer’s approach to this concept of evaluating is a good one as well. He suggests, “Review your progress towards your goals every week. Measure your results, conversions and adjust as needed. When you’ve done the work and achieved the results, celebrate! Reward yourself with something that matters. It’s important to stay connected with your ‘why’ as you achieve your goals.”
I agree with Geoff that knowing what worked and what didn’t is important for understanding how we can continue to improve our business planning strategies in the mortgage industry, and stay motivated.
These 7 themes for achieving success lay the groundwork for any mortgage professional to start creating something special going forward. It’s now up to you to decide to act and create a strategic business plan that will help you grow your mortgage business in the new year.
The opinions and insights expressed in this blog are solely those of its author, Ben Smidt, and do not necessarily represent the views of either Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation or any of its parent, affiliates, or subsidiaries (collectively, “MGIC”). Neither MGIC nor any of its officers, directors, employees or agents makes any representations or warranties of any kind regarding the soundness, reliability, accuracy or completeness of any opinion, insight, recommendation, data, or other information contained in this blog, or its suitability for any intended purpose.
VP Digital Strategy for Fairway
Ben Smidt is the VP Digital Strategy & Innovation, helping drive digital transformation and innovation to delight customers at Fairway. His strategic direction and thought leadership shapes how Fairway communicates and connects with our customers–through content, visual, mobile, web, and emerging technology experiences.