Advice to New Originators
“Treat others as you would like to be treated and honestly consider the best interest of your customers.”
Like an ambitious amateur athlete, Megan Doonan spent years practicing, training, and absorbing skills from the veterans around her before taking to the field for her first professional “game.”
A second-year originator with Emery Financial in Newport Beach, Calif., Doonan began her career in mortgages as an assistant to James Wand, a top producer. Over the course of five years, Doonan worked for various top producers of Emery, absorbing different originating styles and strategies. This variety led to a diverse and distinct working style of her own. “I realized that you can’t just be one way,” she said. “I worked with people who went purely on personality and organization was not important to them; and others who were focused almost entirely on organization. It was important for me to respect each method of originating and use those styles with clients based on what I felt they would be most comfortable with.”
While initially Doonan, 27, had no plans of establishing a career in mortgages, after working in the industry for a short time, she discovered an unexpected passion for it. “I have always been interested in finance, and fascinated by how people obtain wealth,” she said. When business slowed for the LO she was assisting, Doonan decided to make the leap to originating on her own; a decision based somewhat on necessity. “I didn’t have much choice,” she said of the shift, “but now I am so grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to become an originator.” The circumstances proved beneficial for both she and Emery—Doonan finished her rookie year with a personal volume of over $47 million on 108 loans.
Her originating career got off to a stellar start when a personal friend referred her a $1.9 million purchase loan. With extensive experience in an originating environment, Doonan took the loan with no reservations. “Working as an assistant for so long gave me the confidence I needed to feel completely comfortable selling various products and dealing with customers,” she said.
During the course of her time with Emery, Doonan made several contacts in banking. When she began originating she called all of these contacts, including personal friends who also worked in finance, to let them know of the mortgage services she could provide. One particular contact created a collaboration that would eventually result in generating 50 percent of Doonan’s business. Mahnaz Hashemian, who is now Doonan’s marketing associate, suggested that they should work together in reaching a relatively untapped market—the Persian community in Newport Beach and other surrounding areas of Los Angeles and Orange County. Hashemian, who speaks fluent Farsi, began hosting a finance education hour twice a month on a local Farsi radio station. During the hour, she would recommend Doonan for any mortgage financing needs. Meanwhile, Doonan would be ready at her office to take calls as they came in. “It became an incredible source of business,” said she said of niche. “I instantly became someone they could trust because I was being referred by a person of the Persian community.” The “warm” leads quickly went from promising to profitable, as Doonan converted 25 percent of the calls into closed loans. The niche development built up her database quickly and generated numerous referrals. “The customers I worked with in the Persian community liked the service I offered and referred me to all their friends and family,” said Doonan. “It is an affluent community and many of them are self-employed and have excellent credit. They are wonderful to work with. And obviously, I couldn’t have done any of this without Mahnaz.”
While the radio advertising, which is a shared cost with Hashemian, is the main focus of Doonan’s marketing, she also makes an effort to maintain close contact with the customers in her database. “I make phone calls to my customers to stay in touch and I send quarterly newsletters, as well as holiday cards and thank you cards for referrals,” she said.
Doonan also generates business through the three or four Realtors she works with. “I don’t need 10—at least not at this point,” she said. “I focus on the few that I’m working with so that I can maintain a high-quality level of service. I’m not going to compromise the type of service I want to offer for more work than I can handle.” She maintains that good service is the only way to keep your business strong. “Referral business comes from great service and your ability to keep contact with those sources,” said Doonan. “And if you don’t, well, once you burn a referral source, they’re gone forever.”
Last year, Doonan produced over $58 million in volume on 129 loans and is “so happy to have stayed level and even exceeded my first-year numbers,” she said. Her marketing efforts and service levels were strong enough to drive steady business her way, but she acknowledges things may get a bit tougher in the upcoming year. “I plan on marketing for new business and will continue especially to return to my current database for continued referrals,” she said. Doonan also intends to get her broker’s license to further educate herself and expand her business reach.
Doonan fondly considers herself to have been a sort of “guinea pig” within Emery Financial. Having worked with many of the top producers in the company, she still considers many of them to be essential mentors to her career and her professional development. She meets with Shelly (Talbott) Logemann (a veteran of M.O.M.’s Top 200 List) frequently to review the state of her business and address future plans. “I think about when I started and there were all these people around me making millions and I have to admit it was quite intimidating,” said Doonan. “But the diversity and the knowledge that I was surrounded by made my transition into originating so smooth. I couldn’t be happier with where the experience has taken me.”