Jane Floyd had already been successful in the restaurant and title businesses. But she was looking for a bigger challenge and a more rewarding future.
Following graduation from the University of South Florida, Floyd managed a restaurant and later directed public relations for a title company. “I liked both jobs, but I was getting bored,” she said. “Then someone suggested I might be good in the mortgage business.”
After receiving her real estate license, Floyd went to work for a small mortgage broker in 1991. “There wasn’t much training,” she said. “I learned as I went. We had a tough processor who would return a file to you if it wasn’t perfect.”
She got her start by working with a few successful real estate agents. “I already had some contacts with agents because of my title background. They were willing to give me a chance.”
Floyd, 38, closed her first loan within three weeks. “I was so excited,” she recalled. “After doing a couple of their loans, our rapport was established.” She finished the first year with about $14 million in volume.
In 1992, she and a partner opened up their own firm—Diversified Home Mortgage. “I could have gone to another firm, but I wanted to have my own company. It was risky–I took a second on my home to cover the initial costs of opening the business.”
In 1993, she acquired her partner’s share of the firm. There are now 10 people, including three other originators. Last year, Floyd’s personal volume was $38.4 million and 311 loans.
Floyd’s primary emphasis is on maintaining contact with her past customers. Her “client for life” program begins when she sends customers a thank you letter and copy of their appraisal. She follows that with a personalized tin of cookies at closing, a copy of the HUD-1 statement in January, and a gift box of nuts on their one-year anniversary. She also sends them pro football game schedules, a quarterly newsletter, Thanksgiving cards, and birthday greetings to their children. Floyd provides gift certificates for Home Depot and area restaurants for those customers referring borrowers to her.
“I emphasize constant contact with my borrowers to ensure they become ‘raving fans’,” she said. “This is my most effective marketing and it’s how I’ve received 58 percent of my business so far.”
Floyd and a real estate agent hold a relocation seminar at a Kansas City Army base. They meet with officers who are preparing to transfer to Tampa Bay. “This has generated a lot of business and further strengthens my relationship with this agent.”
Her Realtor network consists of 11 top agents. She makes an effort to meet with them about once a month. “We have strategic meetings during which I’m able to provide them with ideas that will help make them more successful. For example, we share ideas on database development and time management.”
Floyd also sends them a monthly cassette tape, which features an interview with another successful agent. The cassettes are provided by FrontRunner Resources (www.frontrunnerresources.com). In addition, every Monday she e-mails agents current market information, along with a motivational message. “This is something extra that they appreciate,” she said.
Floyd exchanges website information with her agents as well. Her site (www.diversifiedmtg.com) lists select agents. “They love that because of the added visibility they receive,” she noted. The agents share their own website-generated leads with her.
Unlike some originators who focus solely on consumer-direct marketing, Floyd is adamant that Realtor marketing is also essential. “I’ve grown much of my business through contact with past customers, but it’s also important that I work closely with agents. I’ll always have the need for them to be a conduit for expanded business.”
She meets with title reps, financial planners, and other affinity partners on a quarterly basis to discuss ways for growing each other’s business.
Floyd’s average loan amount is about $123,000. The loan size has steadily increased during the last few years. “Of course, I would love for it to be even higher,” she noted.
Her primary niche is the move-up buyer. “I go after this group by design,” she said. “I have gradually concentrated on working with agents who have a predominantly move-up base, rather than the first-time buyers.”
She added that it is a very competitive market, with many other originators also targeting move-up borrowers. In addition, a number of the area’s builders provide financial incentives to borrowers who use their in-house or affiliated lenders.
Floyd said that a turning point in her development as an originator occurred in 1997. She had returned from a seminar which emphasized the value of having a coach. Floyd soon hired her own coach and attributes much of her business increase–from $23 million in 1996 to $45 million in 1998–to the guidance she received. “I began to concentrate on task analysis and time management,” she noted. “I concentrated on key priorities and started to delegate other tasks. My volume increased and my work hours decreased.”
Twice a month she has a telephone meeting with her coach to discuss marketing, management, and other subjects that she should address. “It’s great because this helps keep me focused. I know that someone is holding me accountable to achieve a specific task.”
Floyd spends about $6,000 a year on coaching services, which doesn’t include any other seminars she may attend.
Floyd currently has an assistant (Lauri Looney) and processor (Deen Joseph) who work just for her. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having an assistant and other support,” she said. “I couldn’t do this volume without them.”
She does the initial prequalification of buyers, and her assistant then completes the application over the phone. They send the loan package to the customer for review and signature.
About half of her loans are handled completely via phone, e-mail, and courier service. “These are usually our move-up or relocation borrowers who have more experience with the lending process and don’t request that we meet. They’re actually thrilled that they can do it this way.”
She does get together with the first-time buyers and other borrowers who prefer a personal meeting. “Because they’ve already completed the application, we’re able to spend quality time together. This enables me to explain the optimum loan program and then discuss their long-term financial objectives.”
Juggling office management responsibilities with her own production has been a primary challenge. “It’s one of the difficult parts of my business. I need to focus on originating while also helping others achieve their goals. The key is delegation.”
Floyd believes that to be a superstar, originators must have a vision of what they want to achieve. “You have to be totally focused on your objectives. And you can’t work in a reactive mode. If you’re just reacting to phone calls, you won’t accomplish your long-term goals.”
She also considers ongoing professional development to be one of the main requirements for becoming a superstar. “You must keep growing and adapt to the market and industry changes,” she said.
In addition, she believes that having a mentor can help originators become more successful. She suggests finding a peer within your organization or an industry group and learn what has made them productive. “I would never have kept succeeding at different levels without people to model after,” she said.
Floyd has joined 10 other loan originators from throughout the country in a network called the Strategic Mortgage Alliance. They talk on a regular basis and meet at each other’s offices to compare origination and management strategies. She also talks frequently with other originators in her market. “You learn from each other and that’s how you grow,” she said.
Integrity is also a critical element for superstars. To Floyd, that means simply being up-front with agents and others at all times. It may seem like a basic concept, but it’s one that has increased her popularity with agents and others. “One of the top agents in our area has told people that she does business with me because I always tell her the truth rather than what she wants to hear.”
Floyd stressed that successful originators can achieve balance between their careers and family life. Once you’ve “paid your dues” and have a system in place you don’t have to continue working 60-hour weeks. Floyd currently works a comfortable 4½ day, 40-hour week. “Agents don’t call me at midnight to discuss loans and I hardly ever meet with people on weekends.”
She spends as much time with her husband and two sons as she can. They took seven vacations last year.
Diversified Mortgage recently moved into a new building, which Floyd purchased. Her 2000 plans include expanding the office’s production to about $100 million. She intends to add another couple of originators in the near future. “I also want to do less originating myself and help other originators develop their production,” she noted.
She said she would like to decrease her work schedule even more—”but not really retire”–during the next 10 years. She hopes to become more involved in training and speaking at industry programs.
Meanwhile, Floyd is obviously content where she is. “I love this business,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else now.”
A past customer referred a woman who was in serious trouble. She had been out of work and her husband had just started with a new employer, after being injured. They were behind on both their mortgage and car payments and the car was about to be repossessed. If she lost the car, she wouldn’t be able to get to work, and they would get even farther behind in various credit card payments.
When she came to me she was very distraught. She said that if she didn’t get a cash-out refinance within two weeks, her car was going to be taken away. Of course, their credit was in bad shape and we couldn’t verify much of their income because of the recent hire dates. I called the car credit agency myself to get an extension. They initially resisted, but finally agreed to hold off until she could get the proceeds from the loan. Two lenders turned the loan (subprime) down, but the third finally approved it, based on the home’s equity. They were able to pay off the car and get caught up on their house payments. They were extremely grateful. They sent us flowers and have since referred other borrowers to us.