Superstar of the Month – Gary Welch

M.O.M.— How did you get started in the lending business?

Welch— I was right out of college (Furman College, Greenville, S.C.) and went to work for a small brokerage. I had no mortgage background or business experience, so it was “sink or swim.” However,  D.C. Aiken (top producer) who hired me was encouraging and told me to “go for it.”
I liked the idea that you could “bet on yourself,” meaning that what you put in to the profession you would get out of it. Even at the young age of 21 I wasn’t afraid because I felt that by working hard good things would happen. After 2-½ years, I went to work for HomeBanc Mortgage, which I thought was the ideal place to build a career, where I would have the tools and infrastructure to be successful.

M.O.M.—What was your first marketing activity?

Welch—At that time, it wasn’t as difficult to gain access to Realtor offices as it is today. I would spend every day visiting agents at their office and asking for an opportunity to handle their customers’ loans. I’d also ask them to teach me about the business, and to recall what it was like when they first started out. The key advice I received was to remember that it’s ok to say you don’t know the answer to something, but that it’s critical to respond quickly with the correct information.  I also spent time observing agents with their customers, to see how they interacted. It wasn’t long before they gave me some of the first customers, primarily first-time buyers.

From that point, I continued developing my database, realizing the importance of marketing to past customers. I sent out hundreds of thank-you notes. HomeBanc’s marketing department assisted with the development of various marketing pieces.

M.O.M.—Was your age an issue?

Welch—In the beginning, agents and others were willing to give me a try even though I was young, especially because they were giving me easier deals. However, later I realized the importance of showing that I wasn’t the same new college grad without experience, but now had a track record as an originator and was married with a family. That was important to do so that I could develop the relocation and luxury/move-up buyer business as well.

M.O.M.—What steps have you taken to generate Realtor business?

Welch—Much of my Realtor activity has focused on establishing relationships with agents, by hosting Christmas parties, “happy hours” and other social gatherings. We have also developed educational programs, whereby agents can earn continuing education credits by attending a daylong program taught by a certified instructor. We hold monthly Lunch-N-Learns at our Realtor Marketing Alliance. We cover a wide array of topics, from “Fraud in the Marketplace” to Fung Shei. We provide lunch for the office and discuss how these topics can help grow their business.

Another thing we did was send the “Love is the Killer App” book to Realtors (and anyone else who requested a copy). I included a personal note of encouragement, noting that I felt it was applicable to our business and how it might be for theirs as well.

We also send agents e-mails and make calls for status updates, market reports and other areas. In addition, earlier this year we held a referral campaign, encouraging agents to provide us with referrals. We kept a running tally that resembled a football field of referrals that we received over a four-month period. Agents liked the idea of having a weekly update.

We try to frame most of our Realtor and other marketing activity around a formal campaign. We usually evaluate a specific need that a builder or Realtor has (and how one of our loan programs can be the solution) and develop a program that includes several different pieces, rather than a single element. This could include a meeting/seminar, fliers, a breakfast, or attending an Atlanta Braves baseball game as a group. This helps grow momentum to reach specific goals.

M.O.M.—What about builders?

Welch—We are primarily promoting our construction to perm program at builder gatherings and more importantly, in one-on-one meetings with builder reps.  

M.O.M—How do you stay in contact with past customers?

Welch—We have a customer-for-life program that features a range of actions, including:

  • Regular mailings of “value pieces,” including newsletter and other items.
  • Monthly thank-you notes with calendar business cards sent to past customers. We also ask that they keep us in mind if they are ever in need of our services.
  • A special spring mailer postcard to past customers. It lets them know that we are here to help them with any home financing needs.
  • Another popular mailer to agents was the collection of motivational CDs by Dr. Ike Reighard, HomeBanc’s Chief People Officer and a nationally known speaker.  We had a great response from that.
  • Donations to CHRIS (Children have Rights in Society) homes, in lieu of holiday gifts. We send customers and agents a letter letting them know that a donation was made in their name. In turn, the organization sends a letter stating that a donation has been received in the customer’s honor. We get lots of feedback from customers and agents. Of course, the real return is knowing that we helped kids.
  • Inviting past customers to a playhouse, for refreshments and a performance.

M.O.M.—Do you have a specific niche market?

Welch— One informal niche is the corporate relocation market, specifically one Fortune 500 company in the Atlanta area. I’ve done close to 300 loans for this company during the last seven. While much of it is now word-of-mouth, I have also provided onsite luncheon presentations, held workshops and sent e-mail blasts about our service.

In addition, we’ve done some work with teachers. For example, we sent an e-mail to our teacher database. We sent fliers that highlighted special loan programs (reduced or no down payments) for teachers, as well as firemen and policemen.

M.O.M. –How do you use your Web site?

Welch— Our Web site offers several key benefits. First, it enables prospects to go online and complete an application. We also provide a mortgage calculator and other tools. Finally, the site includes information on my background, interests and related areas, which allows prospects to get to know me before applying.

M.O.M.—Do you develop an annual marketing plan?

Welch— We usually start our planning process in October and are finished in January. My marketing assistant and I review previous activities and discuss plans for our different spheres of influence (builders, Realtors, past customers and business to business). We then present the plan to my other team originators who rely on me for basic recommendations. 

M.O.M.—Explain your team originator concept.

Welch— When D.C. Aiken (a top producer atHomeBanc) decided to cut back on his own originating, myself and two other originators decided a good approach would be to work as a team to ensure we didn’t overlook any of D.C.’s extensive customer base, and were still able to work a reasonable schedule so that we could enjoy our personal lives… The other originators are Rick Stevens and Richard Young; each of us has about 15 years experience. Erin Kikly is our great administrative partner.

We all have our own customer bases and do our own originating. However, we share ideas, help cover for each other when on vacation, and combine our total volume from which we split the commission.

M.O.M.—Tips for making the team concept work?

Welch—You don’t take on this kind of a team approach just for the extra money; you can’t be overly concerned with generating more business and greater commissions.  It has to be a true partnership; each member brings certain talents to the team. There has to be a trust that everyone is an equal partner.

M.O.M.—Who is on your own support team?

Welch— I certainly couldn’t do this volume without the help of Cindy Sandoval, processor/underwriter; Allison Hamil, my assistant; and Wynita Cannon, our marketing assistant. They do a great job. Having this team enables me to focus on the areas that I do best: talking to clients and developing the mortgage package, building and enhancing relationships, and working on marketing. We strive to find out what everyone does especially well and then let them concentrate on that.

M.O.M.—What system/process do you have to handle the volume?

Welch— One beneficial step is that the same person who processes the loan, also underwrites and delivers the file. This helps ensure faster closings. Also, we have proprietary software that allows myself and our processor to view the loan status at the same time. I can check loan status from my desk, without having to call or meet with staff.

M.O.M.—Is there anything else you do to make a difference for your customers?

Welch—Once a week I call customers who recently closed with us to make sure that we have addressed the questions they raised. For example, they might have called regarding insurance or future servicing issues. This demonstrates that I’m just as interested in their welfare after the loan closes, as I was prior.

M.O.M.—What do you consider key characteristics of superstar originators?

Welch— First, I think top producers have a thirst to excel, they want to achieve at a high level, rather than being satisfactory at their job.  As part of this, they have an attitude that they will succeed; believing that every day will be productive and successful.

I also think that they enjoy a faster pace than other originators. They’re more comfortable, similar to great athletes who like challenges and the thrill of the game. Of course, as mentioned earlier, you need a team of some kind to succeed at the superstar level.

I also believe that working for a supportive, successful company is critical. For example, Fortune Magazine has recognized HomeBanc as one of the top 100 (number 14 in 2005) Best Companies to work for, based on benefits, working environment and other factors.

M.O.M.—How do you balance work with your personal life?

Welch— Providing for our family life is a critical objective and I always place family related activities on the calendar first, and then work other events around those. I coach my children’s football and basketball teams and we take time out for other activities as well. I rarely work on the weekends and we spend approximately five weeks a year on vacations. Having this time is one of the major benefits of our originator team partnership.

M.O.M.—What about the future?

Welch— Our main goal will be to grow the business in this different market environment and continue to refine the team concept. And, of course, to enjoy time with our families and friends.

Rookie Superstar – Lydia Gajeski

Advice to New Originators
“Gain as much knowledge as you can—other people will perceive that and you can build trust upon it.”

In 2000, at age 19, Lydia Gajeski returned home to Green Bay, Wisc. Homesick after pursuing pre-med studies and trying to make ends meet as a single mom in Las Vegas, Nev., she was ready to take on any promising opportunity that came her way. So when a friend of her mother’s needed a part-time loan processor, Gajeski hoped it could potentially be just the break she was looking for. “I love math, so that seemed a good fit,” she said, “and it was a small mortgage company and a great place to get my feet wet.”

Gajeski, one other processor and an originator handled all the business for Oasis Mortgage, a local manufactured housing company’s finance arm. “We only did 50 to 75 loans a year, but it was an introduction to the business, and eventually landed me a job as a loan officer assistant at another company,” she said, “which is where I received most of my training.” Gajeski began as an assistant during the refi boom in 2002 and quickly started taking applications, running credit and calling clients, and eventually “basically doing the LO’s job, who was always out hunting and fishing. I didn’t know much at the time about the different jobs, I just did it all,” said Gajeski, 25. “I was a single mom raising two daughters and all I knew was no matter what, you got the job done—just like coming up with money for your own mortgage payment.”

The hard work and trial-by-fire introduction to originating paid off a couple years later when a local originator approached Gajeski about joining his start-up company, Patriot Mortgage Services, and becoming an originator on her own. “I was hesitant to switch to a commission-only salary, but I knew then where the money was being made,” she said, “and I knew it was time to make more money for me and my family.”

Many of the clients from her previous company followed. “The company was actually on its way out of business, so the timing worked out well for me,” said Gajeski. “People came looking for me because I was the one they had developed a relationship with. Starting out with clients was helpful—I had no idea how to go out and get new ones.”

Additionally, it helped that Patriot Mortgage made a big entrance when they joined the Green Bay marketplace. “We advertised all over the place—newspaper, TV, radio ads, and real estate guides,” said Gajeski. “We also sponsored the Brett Favre Annual Softball event here and got involved with the local Chamber of Commerce.” Gajeski placed her own ads in the phone book and on shopping carts at area grocery stores—but she focused mainly on developing business in the niche she knew—manufactured housing.

“Manufactured homes require different types of loan products,” said Gajeski. “The key part is being able to get construction lenders to trust that you know what you are doing, and that you are going to be on board with the right builders—they are sometimes hesitant because there can be a lot of problem areas.” Having established relationships with several lenders, Gajeski was able to create four or five accounts with manufactured housing producers in the Green Bay area.

Between these business partnerships and the four real estate agents she works with, Gajeski keeps busy working nearly 60 hours a week. “I usually work at least one weekend day a week, which I spend visiting the offices of my manufactured homes’ accounts,” she said. Her husband (Gajeski was married in 2004) stays home with the children so that she can maintain her thriving career. “We make compromises,” she said, “and he’s incredibly supportive of me.”

Gajeski also relies on a little help from her Mom, although there’s a paycheck involved. “I have one processor, who is amazing, and my mother works as my assistant,” said Gajeski. “It is great—I am a very ‘get to the point’ kind of person, and my mom relates well to people on a personal level—we make the perfect team.”

In 2005, Gajeski closed over $18 million on 128 loans, and she credits her first-year success with her knowledge of the entire loan process. “It has been extremely helpful for me to know the business from the processor’s perspective,” she said. “I don’t have to wait around if someone isn’t available—I can step in and order title or appraisal or call the underwriter—there’s no waiting around for someone on my team to come back.”

With an ambitious goal to more than double her 2005 volume this year, Gajeski is making an effort to be ever-present in the field and keeping in touch with customers in her database. “I am making a lot of phone calls to make sure people remember me,” she said. “I’m also hosting events for many of my business partners and focusing on keeping those relationships strong.”

Having a specialized niche in manufactured housing may prove the most fortunate move yet for Gajeski. “I am seeing a lot of Realtors and originators drop out of the profession these days,” she said. “I am lucky to be able to rely on the trust my business partners have in my knowledge of the products and players involved. I have also learned to be very versatile with any kind of credit that comes in the door.”

Although Gajeski vows to return to pre-med after she retires from originating, right now she is exactly where she wants to be. “I am 100 percent satisfied with my career. I couldn’t have imagined that I would be doing this well,” she said. “I remember growing up and my mom struggling a lot and I never wanted to feel that way with my children. I am so fortunate to be where I am now.”

–Gretchen Lees

Two Screens, One Mouse

Dear David,
I was at a Realtor’s office the other day and I saw someone with one computer, using two different screens. Her mouse actually went from screen to screen, as she was able to work within two different programs. How does that work?

Carol S, Chicago, Ill.

The first time I ever saw that I thought it was a magic trick. When you move your mouse across your computer screen to, compose an approval letter for example, you can also have another program displayed on another screen right next to the primary screen. You can either move your mouse across your primary screen directly onto the next screen, or move your mouse and click between the two screens. On the back of most laptops you’ll find another output that looks exactly like a standard video output connection. All you need to do is plug the extra monitor into that outlet and you automatically have two screens.

I have used two screens for nearly two years now and it’s a real timesaver, especially if I’m wanting to follow some baseball scores while I’m doing real work.

Dear David,
I’m thinking of getting VOIP for our office; do you have any suggestions?

Michelle T., Miami, Fla.

VOIP has matured to the point to where it works. A few short years ago when VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phone) was first introduced it was shaky going with packets getting lost, weird noises in the background and echoes.

Now, those problems have been mostly fixed. In fact, I’d say VOIP works just as well as any landline phone. The pros? Cost savings is one. Ease of set-up is another.

Cons? When (not if) your Internet goes down or your server shuts off, you have no phone service. Remember, VOIP is digital, just like any other file you send over the Internet. And if you lose connectivity for any reason, you can’t dial out.

In fact, during the WTC attack, it was only land lines that could get an outside line, all cell and VOIP phones were either non-functional or jammed. Keep that in mind. I would never completely cancel a land line, but keep at least one for emergencies.

Such services offer redundant servers to keep that from happening but it will happen. You should also invest in some wireless headsets with a USB port to plug into your computer instead of hooking up a telephone. There are several on the market but probably the most common sets come from Plantronics and cost a couple of hundred dollars or so.

Dear David,
Since you’ve probably seen or used most of the technology that is out on the market today, I was wondering, what is the neatest “tech” thing you’ve come across?

Mike C., San Francisco

That’s an interesting question. Since we all get accustomed to new “gadgets” that come into the marketplace, they become common objects. What I think is cool now won’t be cool in a few months.

I remember seeing my first fax sometime around 1980, which really amazed me. I couldn’t believe how something would transmit over a telephone line and reproduce exactly. Now of course, fax machines are almost extinct. My computer is my fax now, not a dedicated machine.

Cell phones were a big hit, too. Who can forget those shoe-box sized Motorola cell phones? What did they weigh, about two pounds? “Hey Mom, guess where I’m calling from?” I can actually remember saying and doing exactly that when I got my first cell phone in the early 1990s.

Today, I have a cool cell phone that does everything I need it to do. It downloads music, accesses the Internet where I can check my bank account or use it to follow mortgage bonds via Mortgage Market Guide and I can talk to people anywhere in the world.

The Internet was probably the biggest technology impact. No doubt there. What I do marvel at is the speeds at which computers work and transmit data over broadband connections. Remember the “screeeeech” noises each time you dialed up an Internet connection? In my office a few days ago, an employee fresh out of college heard that sound coming over a modem from someone testing it and said, “What’s that sound? Is something broken?”

Right now though? I’m pretty fond of my Blackberry. I also like those new eyeglasses that project computer images on them, so instead of looking at a screen you’re simply wearing glasses.

Now that is cool. I can be wearing glasses, looking like I’m working, but actually catching the Padres and Dodgers game over a Webcast.

By David Reed

Creating “Affiliate Value” To Win Referrals

Yes, the market has gotten tougher. Yes, loans are still being done, and yes, top originators still have healthy pipelines. So why does it seem like you have to fight for every deal? Part of the answer may lie in where you’re looking.

While the battle for new customers rages in the streets, many originators are forgetting about value—providing tangible value to their clients. Provide more value, and you’ll win more customers. Although not a panacea guaranteed to fill your pipeline overnight, the system of delivering “Affiliate Value” will create a steady stream of referrals, bringing you a few extra deals per month. And more importantly, the system’s immune to the swing of the market!

What is Affiliate Value?
Take a close look at your target market. There are things that they want and need on a daily basis that you can help them with. Unlike the “Personal Value” that you deliver directly to your clients, “Affiliate Value” comes from other forms of resources around you – and you simply become the delivery vehicle.

First, examine the specific needs of your target market. For example, a large percentage of first-time homebuyers are looking at new cars, bridal shows, baby clothes or the local nightlife. Low credit score borrowers are researching bankruptcy laws, payday loans, credit counseling, discount stores and various forms of debt relief. But with a little thought behind it, you can get even more specific.

During the spring, people want information on landscaping, flowers and cleaning tips. At tax time, people want to know about little known deductions, loopholes and asset protection. High-end borrowers in the south want to know about pool maintenance, golf tips and vacation planning. Medical workers want to know about time management, stress relief and community events. All our prospects want to know about moving tips, insurance strategies, simple home repair tips and building equity. You can come up with thousands of variations. Affiliate Value, or AV, is simply the process of tapping into various resources to satisfy the appetite of your prospects.

Creating the Value
Start by defining your target market, and determining the value they want. What specific groups can you cater to? What types of personal experience and expertise do you have? What are your hobbies and interests? Where do you travel and spend you free time? These are all places to find your market niche.

Next, start asking questions. What are their challenges, fears or concerns? What are their interests? What do they want to know more about? Call some past clients and ask them about their profession, or read magazines and Web sites that talk about current issues. Very quickly, you will be able to identify five to seven specific items of interest, and know which direction to go.

Distributing the Value
Once you have asked the questions, the next part is pretty simple—document the answers. Locate the experts and various resources that can provide you with the “affiliate value” that your target market is looking for. These could include attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, real estate agents, architects, medical professionals, moving companies, home improvement specialists, travel consultants or any affiliated industry resource!

Tap into these resources to create and provide the value to your market through a variety of methods. Typical choices could include free reports, CDs, downloadable recordings, streaming audio or video, podcasting, on-site demonstrations, workshops and seminars, articles or e-books, newsletters and e-zines, e-mails, audio postcards, blogs and RSS (media) feeds, radio or TV shows, press releases, community events—and that’s just a start. Use pictures, graphics, music, or gimmics to make them interesting, attractive and memorable. Make sure to credit the affiliate value source, and include your complete contact information (name, address, phone, website and e-mail).

One of the most important components of implementing this type of long-term marketing system is creating the list of recipients inside the target market. If it’s one that’s familiar to you, it makes it easy, but work to build a high quality, highly targeted, responsive list of prospects.

How It Works
Let’s take a look at a specific example of how the creation of “affiliate value” works on the streets. One of my direct target markets has been attorneys, a market which has specific challenges and very little spare time. Delivering AV to this market has been pretty easy. Through regular contact with this attorney market niche, I realized that there was a recent change in a federal law that directly impacted many of their business clients. They were scrambling for ways to help these clients adjust, and having a hard time coming up with the answers and resources they needed.

Spending a couple hours on the Internet, I soon learned of an attorney in California who was a noted “expert” on the impact of the federal law. He was an author and had written many articles on the subject. While reviewing his Web site, I located an article that directly addressed the concerns of my attorney market and those of their clients. I contacted his office through the number listed on the Web site, and spoke with his personal administrative assistant. In less than five minutes, I was given permission to reprint the article, and distribute it to my attorney market. The only conditions were that the article was left completely in tact, and that it included his name and contact information.

I sent this informative article via e-mail and direct mail to my attorney prospects. About 10 days later, I got a call directly from the attorney who had written the article. He wanted to thank me for passing it on, and excitedly exclaimed that he had landed seven new consulting clients as a result. He asked if there was anything he could do for me in return, and I quickly responded that I would like to conduct a 30-minute phone interview with him about the article.

He agreed, and after scheduling the interview and setting up a teleconference line, I invited all my attorneys to call and listen in. I recorded the interview, downloaded it onto a CD, duplicated it and made labels, then mailed them out as a bonus gift. I also took the recording and made it available online, and created a downloadable MP3 file for podcasting. Total cost: about $120. The results: priceless.

While the original intent and material had absolutely nothing to do with mortgages, by providing “affiliate value” to my target market, I established strong credibility, became a trusted resource, gained new relationships and a boatload of long-term referrals. I have since done several of these types of teleconferences and coached hundreds more on implementing variations of the same theme. You can do the same thing for your target market.

No, it’s not a quick fix for your pipeline overnight, but it will put you at a higher level than your competition, and provide for a steady stream of referrals that no market swing can touch.

By Chip Cummings, CMC

Searching for the Ideal LOS

What is the ideal loan origination software? Asking such a question is like asking anyone to describe his or her ideal mate, ideal car, or even ideal home. Everyone has an idea about what the ideal should be, but most cannot clearly express details. Therefore, people compromise to make progress.

Writers, of course, have no such limitations as each has the gift of perfect clarity of thought, elegance of expression and the ability to see the future as if living it today. So, collected and distilled from myriad user requests, and filtered through this author’s “perfect” visionary ability, is an overview of the prime charateristics of a quality LOS. Of course, you’ll have your own conisderations as well, but first let us define the capability and power contained in this program. One must show the sizzle first, then the steak sells itself, or so many sales folks would have you believe.

The ideal LOS provides each user with their unique view of just their own workflow. The ideal LOS automatically adjusts to changing job requirements. There are no extraneous screens or menus to wade through. This power reduces training costs, enhances productivity and streamlines all workflow processes.

The ideal LOS allows users to work from any location. It runs with full independence as a stand-alone option on a disconnected computer, and then automatically synchronizes, on a field-by-field basis, when reconnected to the network. It works equally well on a wired or wireless network or via an Internet connection.

The ideal LOS acts as a central hub for service providers such as AUS systems, appraisers, settlement services (escrow for you in California), title services and so forth. You can order these services electronically and receive the results electronically. For any AUS, system findings automatically parse into the condition tracking section to help processors and originators function with greater efficiency.

As a file moves from origination to closing, it passes through various handling stages. In each stage, that responsible person automatically gets exclusive read/write access to the file data. Other interested parties can look, but not touch. However, they can add comments, suggestions and requests to the conversation log. The log accepts entries and allows a fixed, but limited, time for any corrections by the log writer. Thereafter log entries become permanent and, therefore, can be used as evidence should that be necessary. Each entry is automatically date and time stamped and carries the identification of the entry writer.

In this LOS authorized users can enter a rate lock, thus closing future entries to the loan amount, rate, term and product type for that file. Each rate lock is time and date stamped and identifies the entry writer. The LOS accepts this entry from a frozen copy of the target lender’s fully adjusted online rate sheet for the lock date. Lender lock confirmation becomes part of the LOS record. Only authorized staff can make changes. Changes within the rate sheet are possible. Changes off the rate sheet automatically require concurrence from the target lender staff.

The ideal LOS contains template files that enhance loan accuracy and completeness. Templates include loan products, lender costs and APR requirements, and application models. Use of templates to create and modify files, automatically adjusts based on file status. For example, for new files, templates provide full details. However, to update working files, templates only change applicable data appropriate to the template type. For borrower-critical data, any data ambiguity requires immediate user attention before the change becomes part of the file. Changes to the templates can only be made by authorized users.

The ideal LOS manages required compliance information based on the property location, the borrower location and/or the loan type. Compliance updates come from selected contract service providers who are responsible for these data. The user of the ideal LOS subscribes for this service and can rely upon the provider for accurate and timely corrections.

The most-effective software also provides data connections to verify employment, deposits, loans and other important file data entries directly with source providers. This works through internal program links with appropriate data services to obtain objective third-party confirmation of all critical underwriting data.

With the ideal LOS, third-party service fees follow company contracts. Costs automatically accumulate to the Good Faith Estimate, with a clear subtotal available. Users can collect from their borrowers in advance of services, or at closing, based on individual business decisions. However, all costs are certain in advance, greatly reducing a common problem of understated service fees that balloon at closing. Origination company management negotiates all such fees and sets these as defaults in the ideal LOS. This is possible by region, by product type, by credit profile or any combination of factors management chooses to use. Only responsible management can adjust any automatic fee amounts. Any adjustment generates an audit trail identifying the date, time and responsible party for each adjustment.

The ideal LOS provides complete links between the LOS and the target lender’s computer system. Both the lender and the origination company share the same data set. Changes made by either party immediately appear for the other parties. Thus, when ordering any third-party services, such as loan documents, appraisals, credit, or information validation, all appropriate parties to the transaction see identical data. Store once, view often is the primary data set rule.

The software manages workflow and file progress according to established company procedures. This helps standardize results, smooth the process across various users, and ensure that customer service remains at a high level. Any loan that falls “off track” for any reason, generates an automatic error message for the assigned user. If not corrected within established time intervals, the error escalates automatically to progressive management levels to ensure prompt correction or other loan level decision.

With the ideal LOS, user status reports present appropriate information in easy to read formats and/or graphically, if preferred. This makes it simple to spot business trends, identify areas for additional training, and provides highly effective management guidance for each operating level in the company. One can easily compare the number of loans opened in any time period against the number of loans approved, or loans closed, or loans still in process, within company objective time intervals. One can view reports isolated by user, by task function, or by loan type, branch or marketing area. All such reports present with minimal selection requirements. However, drill-down detail reports are also available for appropriate management levels. All work from the same report engine. Learn once, use often.

The ideal LOS manages client marketing to ensure timely follow-up of information requests, important re-contact dates, service set points and in-process client management. Each user selects from available communication sets for each client. Contact may be by any combination of electronic, paper mail or telephone contact. Learn once, use often, to automatically provide exemplary customer service, exceed all customer expectations, and retain your past client business to grow referrals and business stability.

Having set these base objectives for the ideal LOS, there are many competing systems available. These include, but most certainly are not limited to, Ellie Mae Inc. with Encompass™, Pipeline Solutions™, Dynatek with MORvision™, Fiserve with Easy Lender™and Unifi™ LOS systems, Calyx Software with Point™, CBC with Byte™Mortgage Software, Dexma with Transaction Director™, Gallagher with Millennium™, GHR with Loan Origination Studio™ and others.

By Bruce Forge

Laura Sosa-Rocha

Prior Profession: Sales and linguistics training


Niche: CPAs, attorneys and other busy professionals, and self-employed

Most Effective Marketing: Word-of-mouth

Support Team: One assistant, two processors, one loan coordinator

Applications Taken Personally: 70%

Workweek: 5 Days, 50 hours

Favorite Book: “Enders Game,” By Orson Scott Card

Favorite Quote: “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

M.O.M.— How did you get started in the lending business?

Sosa-Rocha—I had previously been in sales and linguistics training for salespeople and teachers. I went to get my first mortgage and was frustrated by the treatment I received and the lack of information the broker wanted to give me. I thought that I could do a better job and my sister who is also a top producer encouraged me to do it. Plus, I’ve always wanted to control my own destiny, rather than having to rely on someone else. I went to work for a small mortgage brokerage, and eventually became their top producer. I later worked for another broker before opening my own firm in 2001.

Knowledge is power and I went into the industry to learn and then to educate other consumers. I believe in empowering people so they always know their choices and can make informed decisions that will serve them. The more you give, the more loyalty you get back.

M.O.M.—What was your first marketing activity?

Sosa-Rocha— I started out cold calling and built a referral business from there. My cold calling was basically telemarketing. I called people at home to ask if they were interested in a loan. But I wasn’t overly aggressive and did it with some humor. For example, I would say, “Hello, this is your friendly neighborhood mortgage broker bothering you on a Sunday night.” I did a lot of difficult loans and subprime deals from those early calls. Some people would say, “You can’t help me.” But I did and continued to do their later loans as well. I also sent letters to people. I was working about 12 hours a day at that point.

M.O.M.—How did it evolve from there?

Sosa-Rocha—Consumers would tell their co-workers, friends and family that they had found an honest person in the mortgage business who actually listened. People knew I would treat them fairly and help them find the right loan for them no matter what their income or credit rating. I work hard for every client without regard to the price range of the home they are purchasing, whether it’s a $50,000 loan or a $5 million dollar loan.

M.O.M.—Did you call on Realtors and builders?

Sosa-Rocha— Fortunately, it has not been necessary very often. I have developed contacts with Realtors over the years that are ongoing. I am beginning to do the same with builders and developers. I believe in the power of networking, especially with like-minded professionals, but I have never sought to build my business based on cold calling Realtors or Builders. One of my best examples of a developed relationship between professionals is the office space I currently share with Nine Mile Trolley, a real estate agency. We have a very good relationship. The Realtors work with me because they know I get the job done.
Most of the time I am asked for my card (by Realtors) because of the experience they have at closings or through talking to others in the industry.

M.O.M—How do you stay in contact with past customers?

Sosa-Rocha—I take several steps to make sure my customers remember us. This includes:

  • Thank you cards
  • Closing gifts, such as a bottle of champagne or a Home Depot gift card.
  • Four greeting cards sent on “odd” holidays, such as Halloween or New Year’s Eve.
  • Christmas presents (Such as cookies and gift cards) to my favorite clients. Everything is very personal and tailored to the person. For example, if a client likes to golf, I will send chocolates shaped like golf clubs. I generally try to do something with the most potential impact and lowest cost.

I spend time talking to my clients (old and new) because they are the people who make my business a success. I think that periodic phone calls to talk about family or other personal matters is often more effective than mailers and gifts.

M.O.M.—How do you develop referrals?

Sosa-Rocha—When you do a good, honest job, you don’t need to ask – the clients come. My business is based on referrals; 50 percent of my business comes from agents. They know their clients are in good hands and they will benefit by referring them to me. I used to hand out business cards at various functions, but no longer do so. One of my e-mails to customers will encourage them to refer their friends to me.

I will also do some loans for free (no broker fees), which certainly makes people want to refer others. I’ll do this for my close Realtors or when I’m in a competitive situation with another originator and don’t want to lose the loan to a customer who is shopping.

M.O.M.—Have you hosted seminars?

Sosa-Rocha—Not recently, although I used to do seminars in my prior profession. Seminars are something I plan to do in the future. One of the secrets to an effective seminar is to keep it moving, have fun and don’t get too serious.

M.O.M.—Do you have a specific niche market?

Sosa-Rocha—I seem to work with a lot of attorneys, CPAs and doctors, many of whom are first-time homebuyers. While I don’t market specifically to them, I think that business professionals appreciate how quickly and seamlessly I can run through many different scenarios with them. I believe it’s critical that you don’t focus too much on one or two niches, but rather have several at all times.

M.O.M.—Have you done any advertising?

Sosa-Rocha—I’ve had ads primarily in local papers every now and then just to keep my name out there. The ads mention rates and products, but primarily focus on helping clients realize their dreams. Advertising has to be cost effective, and I’ve found that it doesn’t always work very well. I believe that word of mouth is still the best advertising.

M.O.M.—How do you use your Web site?

Sosa-Rocha—I primarily use it as a tool, enabling customers to fill out an application. We’ll get a few new customers from people finding us through a search engine.

M.O.M.—Any other marketing?

Sosa-Rocha—I have an office in a downtown coffee shop, it reminds me of the Central Perk coffee house that was in the “Friends” TV show. It has a great atmosphere and people feel like they can come in and talk about mortgages casually.

M.O.M.—Do you provide customers with any value-added benefit?

Sosa-Rocha—We provide mortgage planning for clients. We review their entire financial status and determine how the mortgage can fit into their overall plan. We become their trusted advisor. Our team will also advise on credit scoring. Sometimes, five to 10 points can save the client on rates. We will use our rescoring ability to make this happen.

M.O.M.—Do you develop an annual marketing plan?

Sosa-Rocha—At the beginning of each year, I review what I did the prior year to determine what worked and what didn’t, and make the appropriate adjustments. I’ll always try something new!

M.O.M.—What prompted you to start your own firm?

Sosa-Rocha—I worked for a company that I loved for several years. Everyone thought I owned the company and I began to wonder why I didn’t. This satisfies my entrepreneurial nature and allows me to be the sole producer, without having to worry about other originators.

M.O.M.—How did you select your company name?

Sosa-Rocha—I thought Truth and Lending would epitomize what I stand for and let customers know our core values; that we are honest and stress ethical standards. We are upfront about everything and sometimes provide customers with more information than they want.

M.O.M.—Who is on your support team?

Sosa-Rocha— I have an assistant, Lane Taylor; a loan coordinator, Shannon Williams, who I just promoted to branch manager; and two processors, Adrienne Kearney and Cheryl Franklin who can handle more than 100 files in processing at any given time. We close 50-60 files a month.
My assistant and my loan coordinator handle pricing, locking and loan placement and are incredible communicators so we are consistently on the same page with each client’s status. It works to make sure the files are ready for processing so the closing goes smoothly.

M.O.M.—What else do you do to ensure a trouble-free pipeline?

Sosa-Rocha— I have a fairly simple system. The assistant will review the estimates and after I review the programs with client, she takes over and gets them the documents to sign and then follows up to get their paperwork. I get all loans pre-approved through underwriting before I send them out. This insures that all loans will close and there is no fallout. We submit the loan to processing with very specific instructions to the processor and the loan closes on time.

M.O.M.—How do you get the most out of your loan origination system?

Sosa-Rocha—We use our LOS system (Calyx) to manage the status and provide reports of new applicants, loans in processing, loans approved, loans submitted to underwriting and loans closed. These reports help us manage the large volume of applicants at different stages of the process.

M.O.M.—Do you attend closings?

Sosa-Rocha—Someone the client is familiar with (either me or one of our team) is always present for purchases and sometimes for the refinances.

M.O.M.—What do you consider key characteristics of superstar originators?

Sosa-Rocha—I think the most successful originators take responsibility for all of their actions. For instance, if something should go wrong with a loan, I’ll assume responsibility, even if it wasn’t a result of my actions.

I also believe that the best LOs have multiple solutions for different customer situations. They have back-up plans for everything.

M.O.M.—How do you balance work with personal life?

Sosa-Rocha—I’m still trying. I prioritize—my children come first, but my clients are a close second. I work a reasonable schedule of 50 hours a week. I generally don’t take my work home with me. However, I will make a point to be available, especially to first-timers. For instance, I will call them late Saturday night to tell them not to worry, if I feel they are especially nervous.

M.O.M.—What about the future?

Sosa-Rocha—During the last couple of years, we’ve been so busy that there hasn’t been much time to do more marketing, so I plan to hire a marketing assistant to help with mailings and other programs. In addition, we’ve just started placing 100% Financing signs with certain Realtor properties, so we’ll be developing this strategy.

I’m also working on a book for consumers that will tell them how to find the best loan and avoid working with dishonest originators.

I plan to be around for a very long time. I’ve found that the future takes care of itself if you plan and stick with your core values.

Mai Yahn

Senior vice president/Originator

Previous Profession: Credit bureau

Primary Marketing: Distributes quarterly newsletter on trends and market insights to past customers and includes a follow-up response form that recipients mail in to receive free baseball game tickets. “This helps us learn who’s reading the newsletter,” Yahn explained.  She also places ads in local magazines as well. “I’ve learned that you need to make (at least) a one-year commitment to advertising, to build the name recognition.” She hired a public relations professional to help generate newspaper and magazine articles on various milestones. Yahn also held a private showing of Star Wars for past customers, e-mails Mortgage Market Guide to customers/others, and sponsors charity events. “I’ve tried just about everything at one point or another.”

Most Effective Marketing: Her greatest success is based on a “one-on-one approach,” building a loyal referral base and generating new leads through a warm market.  “The best referrals are from those people you’ve done business with in the past. Being visible with them (sending newsletters) is critical. I try not to allow too much time to go by (without some contact), so they don’t forget me.”

Niche: Realtors, builders, and financial consultants. “One thing I learned regarding Realtors, is that every transaction offers a great opportunity to gain new business/contacts through listing agents. I will call to introduce myself, update them about the transaction, and later send marketing material and invite them to lunch. You’d be surprised at the number of listing agents who often don’t know what’s going on (with a loan).”

Teamwork: Lead processor, junior processor, set-up person, and loan officer assistant. “The LO assistant takes applications, structures loans, and helps with marketing and related areas—everything a loan officer would do.” They meet regularly to discuss goals and related issues.  “It’s a continual learning process for all of us. When people make mistakes, they learn from them and become more valuable (to the team.)”

Key Ingredient for Success: Delivery and knowledge. “Clients know that when I say something will happen, it happens. I often get calls from people who were referred to me who say that they heard there will be no surprises and that I’m a straight shooter. This has helped build my business. Also, my knowledge and experience in the business has enriched me and in turn, I can offer value to the people with whom I do business.”

Achieving Work/Personal Balance:  “I’ve had to learn to let go by trusting that those who I’ve trained to share my values will follow through in my absence. I take regular time outs and do everything possible to leave work at the office.”

Superstar of the Month – Skip McDonough

In his 25 years as a lending professional, Skip McDonough has seen major changes in the residential mortgage industry, as it has become a more customer-focused, technology-driven and competitive business.

Along the way, McDonough, president of Family Mortgage in Juno Beach, Fla. (north of West Palm Beach), has refined his customer relationship technique from immediate sales (“gratification”) to long-term customer retention, and become a top producer. Last year, he closed 244 loans and $84,822,749 and was number 189 (for dollar volume) on M.O.M.’s Top Originator list.

After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 1974, McDonough entered the finance industry with the mobile home servicing sector, eventually landing in Illinois. Five years later, he relocated to Florida to set up a 2nd mortgage-lending program for First American Bank. “At that time, the wholesale lending industry didn’t exist as we know it today,” he said. “It really came into being several years later.”

McDonough, 57, got his start as an originator working with Realtors and remodeling contractors. “I flew in from Illinois and started knocking on doors and looking through the Yellow Pages,” he said. “I was basically talking about our various lending programs. At the time there wasn’t much competition. Of course, I realized that some people had negative views of telemarketing associated with remodeling at the time; so that was one challenge to overcome.”

Early on, McDonough saw the value in consumer-direct marketing, especially newspaper advertising. “Even in 1979, when I was targeting home improvement places and Realtors for second mortgages, I saw how effective advertising could be,” he said. “There were probably two other mortgage companies in my Florida market that were advertising (hard money equity loans) then, and they weren’t much competition. I advertised in business and television sections and then in a weekly newspaper magazine. I got great results until a few years ago, when there were just too many other companies doing this.”

McDonough later discovered the power of postcard marketing as well. “That’s been a huge part of my business,” he noted. “The cards typically had a simple message, such as ‘Interest Rates Drop….No Closing Costs and No Fees.’ That set us apart from others, those companies that weren’t selling the ‘no closing cost’ idea. During the major 1993 refi boom, this technique was our most successful overall strategy.”

During the early phase of his career, McDonough didn’t focus on marketing to ensure long-term customer relationships. “Loan originators just didn’t understand the benefit of maintaining lifetime relationships as we do today,” he explained. “We would do a great job with the customer, but wouldn’t have much contact with them after that. This often allowed them to forget us and they might work with another originator later on. It was immediate gratification; obtaining a new client, and then on to the next one. Part of the reason for this was that there weren’t as many educational opportunities to learn about customer-for-life strategies.”

As formal lending/broker relationships started to evolve in the early 80’s, McDonough was in an enviable position working with builders. “In certain cases, developers were paying all of the customer’s closing costs (which was the cost of doing business at the time) and they would select a single lender/originator to do all of the homes—kind of a controlled business arrangement. I was one of these and it was a major benefit.”

After experiencing success at a few different firms in the Florida market, including running his own brokerage and a three-year stint as a senior manager for a lender, McDonough opened Family Mortgage in 1996. He took extra time to create his blueprint for future success. “I wrote a business plan that was set up like a doctor’s office—myself and a support team with the goal of treating customers royally so they would continue to come back. The idea was to reconnect with the many people who might remember me from my prior origination days, build a database, and then launch a marketing campaign. Our first mailing was a simple announcement about the business opening.”

It didn’t take long for him to see the results. “After the initial announcement, we got the first three transactions from borrowers who remembered me. It was a great way to start.”

In recent years, he has refined his “lifetime customer” focus, which now includes the following steps.

During the Transaction
“We try to make it as easy as possible, with an emphasis on educating the customer, so that they have a great experience. For example, we have created a booklet and checklist for various areas that borrower needs to be aware of, including moving and basic homeownership tips. It’s a roadmap to help them get through the process. Also, we send a letter to both the listing and selling agent to inform them who we are and that we’ll stay in touch.”

In addition, prior to receiving the contract, Family Mortgage alerts agents that the customer has been preapproved. “They really appreciate this,” he added.

McDonough also sends a letter to all parties involved, using the familiar “Can you hear me now?” phrase, which reinforces their promise to be in regular contact with customers.

He noted that the “wow” service throughout the transaction is his most powerful marketing. “We’re building an image that we are a resource to all parties. We’re involved with them every step of the way. It is a positive experience and makes customers and agents alike want to refer us to others. It’s the best marketing we have.”

Post Closing
“We have a series of items that we send past customers over an 18-month period,” said McDonough. These include:

  • Thank-you card, a $5 Blockbuster movie gift card and popcorn sent to new clients soon after closing.
  • Two-three weeks later borrower receives a $25 Home Depot gift card.
  • A restaurant gift certificate is sent to select clients (depending on size of the loan) a few weeks later.
  • Three months after closing, clients receive a card that says, “Can you believe it’s been three months?” Noted McDonough, “This reminds them of us and offers us a chance to ask for referrals.”
  • Anniversary Card
  • Cards on Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and other unique holidays
  • Birthday card (for life)
  • Refrigerator magnet
  • Handwritten thank-you cards sent every time someone makes a referral, regardless of the outcome. “We want to encourage people to continue sending us referrals, even though they might not become clients.”

In addition, McDonough is adding another component to his customer contact campaign: oversized postcards that have helpful messages on both sides. These quarterly “Newsettes” will feature two brief articles on such topics as identify theft and homeownership tips. “There won’t be any specific call to action, but rather this is another way to build rapport,” he said.

McDonough has certainly seen the value of increased contact with past customers. He explained that one of his first loans at Family Mortgage was for a physician with whom he has since stayed in touch. “He has probably been responsible for three to five percent of my total business, through direct referrals,” he said. “We carefully track the source of our business and we ask not only ‘Who referred you?’ but also ‘Who referred them?’ It’s amazing how many referrals can be traced back to a few people.”

He’s also an advocate of prospecting for new leads. “We select economic and geographic farming areas for future business,” McDonough explained. “For example, we sent 5,000 direct mail pieces per month to prospects that fit our profile of possible clients in the future. This was for people within 10 miles of our office who had a mortgage amount between $300,000 and $650,000. At one time this included people with high dollar amount mortgages that would refinance when rates dropped.”

McDonough’s primary borrower base is high-end clients. “Last year, our average loan size was $344,000 and this month it’s closer to $700,000.” During the last several years, he has also developed a relocation niche, arranging handling loans for about 15 executives of an upscale Ritz Carlton community that was developed nearby.

As the office’s sole originator, McDonough obviously depends on support. “Of course, without a team there’s no way I could come close to doing the volume that I’ve had in recent years,” he said. His team currently includes: Andrew Tylander, marketing assistant who coordinates various mailings and related areas and handles post-closing duties; Evan McDonough (his son), who has worked part time during college and upon graduation this month will work full time as a processor; Ann Howell, who has been on maternity leave last year and eventually be a home-based originator, and Rita McDonough, his 82 year-old mother, who has 40 years experience in real estate and finance and has handled closings and bookkeeping. While McDonough knows that there can be challenges working with family members, he emphasizes the upside. “It can be a wonderful experience having your mother and son work with you. When he was 12 years old, my son said he wanted to take over the business some day. Here we are 10 years later, and he’s on the path to do just that.”

McDonough stressed that his team’s systems aren’t overly complicated. “After the initial brief phone conservation and an evaluation of necessary customer information, we can have an application ready to go within 15 minutes 99 percent of the time. Throughout the process, there is a system of checks and balances whereby we review files and other areas every day and critical tasks are delegated. We also make sure that the customers’ questions are anticipated and we communicate regularly so that we reduce incoming status calls, which increases the overall efficiency. Our staff is trained to help the client when they do call. People want answers, not callbacks.”

McDonough has carefully observed the essential characteristics of other top producers during his long career. He stressed that one key is having the extra knowledge and understanding that successful originators have of their customers. “The best originators know that a loan is more than a transaction. They get to know their customers and understand their future goals as part of developing a long-term relationship.”

A comprehensive business plan is another essential superstar requirement. “Many originators work themselves ragged because they don’t know their end direction and because they’re doing non income-producing things that aren’t the best use of their time. You’ve got to have a workable plan.”

In addition, aspiring superstars need to make the investment in their business. “I put at least 10 percent of my earnings into marketing,” he said. “You also have to be willing to invest in assistants, allowing you to focus on the best income-producing tasks.”

McDonough noted that this year is turning out to be a slower year overall, although the loan sizes have nearly compensated. “We averaged 20 loans a month last year and so far this year the monthly volume has been closer to half that. However, individual loans are often larger now. We’ve been doing loans in the $1-2 million range.”

To help maintain a full pipeline, McDonough is planning several new strategies, including a marketing campaign aimed at homeowners wanting to sell their property without a Realtor, along with additional ways to solidify relationships with past customers. He’ll also continue to mentor his son, as he learns more about the origination business. McDonough himself doesn’t seem to be in a rush to retire. “Over 25 years there have been the inevitable ups and downs in this industry,” he said. “Yet, I don’t know of any other profession that offers the same income potential and freedom as mortgage lending. It’s a great business to be in.”

Rookie Superstar – Kristi Hardy

Advice to New Originators:
“Don’t give up. Market at least three times a week and be relentless.”

By age 28, Kristi Hardy was one of nine female area managers in the country for Enterprise Rent A Car. She had gained experience as in car sales, worked as a finance manager, then branch manager, and as area manager, was eventually running the most profitable branch out of 300 dealerships. But there was only one problem: she was exhausted.

“I felt like I had worked myself to death at that point,” said Hardy, 36. “I was ready for a break.” Since she had always dreamed of traveling the world, the timing seemed right for her to take a break and embark on an adventure. Hardy traveled for six years, visiting over 40 countries throughout Central and South America, across Europe, Russia, Greece, and beyond. During the last two years, she met her future husband and eventually decided to settle down with him Northern Virginia. “At that point it was time for me to go back to work because we wanted to buy a house I was also ready to put some structure back into my life,” said Hardy.

She called the regional director of CTX Mortgage when she saw their ad in the paper and was told that they only hired LOs with two years of experience, but that she could start as an assistant. “I’m not really the assistant type,” she recalls saying. “So he told me I could pay my own way at Xinnix Mortgage Academy and they would reimburse me when I met their production goals.” Convinced that originating was going to combine all her strengths of financial consulting, marketing and working with people, Hardy decided it was worth the $15,000 investment.

After six years of time away from the professional world, the six-week mortgage “boot camp” at Xinnix was a bit of a rude awakening. “Just using my brain again that way was extremely challenging,” said Hardy. “I learned so much—from guidelines, to how to take a prequal and everything about the overall loan process. It was also great preparation for working long hours again.”

As part of the program, Hardy was required to create a contact database of everyone in her life she could inform of her new career—”basically anyone I had access to.” When she officially started with CTX, the database proved to be effective when it generated her first loan from a family member.

“I started originating without any leads or much guidance beyond what I had gained from Xinnix,” said Hardy. “I was confident in being a certified loan officer from a mortgage academy and felt that that was a unique selling point.”

She began to implement ways of developing business partners in the community, including giving presentations to local real estate offices. When visiting an office for her own personal home search, she and an agent had a casual conversation and somehow got to discussing shoes and discovered a mutual affinity for footwear. “We seemed to get along really well, so I decided this was a perfect opportunity to create a whole campaign around it,” said Hardy. “I took a picture of the shoes I was wearing that day and sent it as a postcard with no name. Then I sent another shot of a shoe going through a door with the note ‘How am I doing at getting my foot in the door?’ Finally, I took a picture of my foot in a my husband’s big slipper on and wrote ‘Mamma needs a new pair of shoes,’ and included my business card.” Before Hardy could follow up with him, the agent had stopped by to leave his card. “He said he was very happy with his current LO, but that I had earned a meeting with his team. I told him that I was just as creative with my financing as I was with my marketing.”

Hardy hit it off with the agent’s business partner and she had officially created one of the most essential relationships of her new career. “I began earning their trust with the way I do business and was so fortunate to have referrals coming in from one of the top agents in the area,” she said.

In other efforts to make herself known in the community, Hardy joined the Chamber of Commerce, some key Realtor Associations and lead-share groups that were limited to one per profession. “These organizations allowed me to socialize and get to know people,” she said. “And the networking groups especially allowed for me to bounce ideas off of other professionals—it wasn’t just about asking for business.”

Hardy found her years of sales and management experience invaluable as she began to grow her originating business. “I was able to feel really confident in my abilities to sell,” she said. “I also had the advantage of knowing that hard work really can get you the results you want—especially in a commission job.”

For the first eight months of her rookie “season,” Hardy worked at least 60 hours a week, and then scaled back the remainder of the year to about 45. “I never really worked weekends, but I stressed that I was always ‘reliable and available.’ If I had to take a call on a weekend, it was usually about 10 minutes of my time.” The time proved worth the investment, as she closed 112 loans for nearly $26 million in volume. Hardy also generated enough business in her first three months gain reimbursement from CTX for the money she invested in Xinnix.

Hardy plans to add two new personal mailings to her already proactive marketing plan. “I send out monthly postcards or newsletters, weekly market updates, or any tips I may find helpful, and I call Realtors or e-mail them at least once a week, just to check in,” she said. “I usually make a point to visit them once a month as well.”

Currently seven-and-a-half months pregnant, Hardy has built up a team to help maintain her business when she is on maternity leave. “I’ve had an assistant since about eight months into the business, but I added a junior LO in February to help handle my pipeline while I am out,” she said. She is certainly not letting the pregnancy slow her business down and is maintaining ambitious growth plans. “I am going back to the basics,” said Hardy. “We are going to focus on targeting relationships with top-producing Realtors and I plan to cultivate two builder relationships.”

–Gretchen Lees