Top of Mind Networks

Still Don't Have a Business Plan?

January 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

j0438543Yep, it’s THAT time of the year again. Time to put aside a half or full day for some serious consideration of how you intend to grow your mortgage practice in 2010.

Being that I’ve been working with mortgage professionals and their business planning efforts for five years now, I can say, without blushing, I have some expert advice to share on this matter.

Sometimes you’ve got to creep-up on the business of business planning

What I mean is, if you tell yourself,

“Self, we’re going to spend all day today devising our business plan for 2010 and we’re gonna do it by ourselves, locked up in our office, with a blank Word doc or giant whiteboard as our business planning canvas.”

Likely what will happen is your “Self” will get cold feet, create reasons and emergencies and must-dos to keep you from what your subconscious sees as an enormous and brain-draining task.

To combat this, try a business planning warm-up exercise. Just stick one toe into the icy cold water to start. Here’s an exercise that I share with my own coaching clients who feel anxious about beginning the process: I CAN Plan Business ACTION Planning Primer

group meetingBuddy-up with other like-minded Mortgage Professionals

Going it alone truly does decrease the likelihood that one will finish his/her plan. Remember the old saying, “No one succeeds alone!”

Buddy up with 2 or 3 other goal-oriented, enthusiastic mortgage professionals in your area. Set a date and place, preferably NOT in your office or theirs and keep the agenda simple.

Here are 5 business foundations to consider as you begin to brainstorm your goals as a group:

  1. Time Management
  2. Marketing & Lead Generation
  3. Database Management
  4. Building Business Referral Partnerships
  5. Tracking/Metrics

Be specific with your goals and simplistic with your process

Creating dynamic, detailed, action-driven goals is the MOST important aspect of your business plan. All of our excitement, hope and renewed energy comes from the act of creation and creativity. Don’t just stop with a goal like:

Develop methods to cultivate my new business referral relationships.

Take it to the next level with actionable items like:

  1. Invite 5 of my new business referral partners to meet at my office on a quarterly basis as a Mastermind group.Rotate who will set the agenda and lead the group.
  2. Locate and schedule to attend at least 3 business growth seminars, workshops, or presentations per year. Call all of my referral partners to let them know about the event, and for those who agree to go to the event, host a dinner party immediately after to discuss take-aways and each person’s implementation strategy.
  3. Invite my new referral partners to join, and offer to write a recommendation for the ones who accept the invitation.

Pink HighlighterAlways set target action dates for all of the activities you must engage  in, in order to accomplish your goals. Looking at the year ahead can feel daunting. Decide when you’ll start on certain goals by quarter, first. Then take it down to months within the quarter and then finally into the week of that month you have designated as your target action date. Whatever you do, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP. Prioritizing your goals and getting them into your calendar drives a significantly higher percentage of success than passively keeping your goals in a workbook.

There are dozens of seminars, software applications and workbooks with CDs & DVDS on the topic of business planning, all of which can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Much of the content and instruction is complicated and quite frankly, overkill, for what is needed in order to develop an effective plan.

What you need:

  1. Very specific, actionable goals WRITTEN DOWN.
  2. All goals and specific action steps prioritized into your Outlook, ACT, Franklin Covey or other favorite calendar tool.
  3. “Buddies” with whom you can share best practices and brainstorm goals.
  4. An accountability partner that you meet with once or twice a month, without fail, for the entire year.

However you attack the business of business planning, just remember, it’s personal and will drive certain emotions and this is precisely WHY many professionals do not engage in the process even though they know they should.

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, conflicted or overwhelmed when sitting down to write your goals and action plan. As the old saying goes, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Your business, your family and most importantly, YOU are worth the effort.

Productivity Lost

December 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the Thanksgiving holiday week our entire office upgraded from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007, and also upgraded from ‘normal email’ to a MS Exchange server. This transition, like many, had its hiccups. First and foremost spell check no longer worked for me. And when you are as horindus a spellar as I am, spell check is an absolute must. It turns out since I was on Word 2003 that spell check feature no longer worked for Outlook. So I had to upgrade to Office 2007 as well just to get that feature working again. And when you do as much work as I do in both Word and Excel, this upgrade came with a huge loss in productivity as none of my menu commands are in the same places they used to be. Plus our entire sales force lost access to our ACT database. Fortunately this is a short term problem since we are launching our own killer Contact Management System in January.

The color-coded follow-up flags in Outlook also no longer exist. There is a new concept of categories that I had to get used to in order to arrange my inbox by type of follow-up action item I had. And if that was not enough, I now also had duplicate contacts and a duplicate calendar. And when I first booted up my machine I had about 27 Outlook reminders going off… some of which were from months ago.

I am a huge technology geek and typically love having the latest and greatest gadgets. But when messing with your ‘day to day’ stuff, it is important from a planning perspective for all offices to be cognizant of the very sizable learning curve and loss of productivity you may receive from your employees in the short term. On the surface it may make sense to make a change like this during a holiday week; but my devil’s advocate theory to that is that when your employees return to the office after being gone for 6 days, they kind of need to play a little catch up anyway. So maybe large scale upgrades like this are better suited for midnight Thursday night on a normal week, that way everyone at the office has had the week to prepare for the change and make sure they are caught up with their current workloads.

Do people really know, like, and trust you?

October 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

origmkcoahDo you ever wonder why some originators do really, really well with a system or strategy and you struggle with the same stuff?

Which system, strategy, or program is right for you? How do you choose?

What will really make you successful? Listen to today’s Originators Guide podcast to find out what 3 key ingredients you will need to have to very successful in life and business.

You can listen online here.

How to Prepare for the Future of Mortgage Origination

October 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

So much talk has been going around about the future of  the mortgage business. Some brokers have been questioning the wholesale business and if it will still be around, while some originators at banks have dealt with the fear of being shut down by the Feds. Where is the truth and what does the future really hold for the loan officer?

Should you be a broker, banker, or candle stick maker? Is there a safe place to hang your hat?What can you be doing to secure your future?

These are the types of questions I am getting a lot lately, so I devoted an entire podcast to what I think today’s loan officer should be doing.

If you are in need of some hope, real life strategies, and a clear vision for your business then be sure to listen to this podcast.

Feel free to listen here or download a copy and take it with you on the road.

4 Simple Strategies That Are Working Right Now!

October 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Wow! we have seen a lot of changes and more are on the way. Many people are questioning, what is coming next, how do I handle it, and what should I do with my business and career. I have found that it really all comes down to 4 simple strategies that the top people do to get, keep, and maintain success.

Here they are…

1. Determine your commitment level. Are you all in or all out. It just isn’t possible to get half pregnant so you either are or you are not. There is the story of having eggs and bacon for breakfast that really drives this point home. In the story, the chicken was available, but the pig was committed. There are a lot of opportunities in today’s market, and how you see them is based on your level of commitment.

2. Be Consistent! It is really hard to gain traction and everyone wants something now. I hear it all the time…What is working now? What people really mean is how can I get a loan that will close today so that I can put a paycheck in the bank. When you determine to be committed, you also have to realize that success is built over time, not all at once. You will meet failure face to face on your journey, but you must remain consistent throughout.

3. Be Memorable! If you go to an agents office, speak at a chamber event, or network at BNI are you someone people will remember? You’d better be if you want to succeed. Develop your brand, your image, and your hook and think outside the box. Make it a part of who you are as a person. Stand out or sit down. People are too distracted today to think of you unless you are truly rememerable. Gitomer says, it is not who you know, but who knows you!

4. Develop Quality Relationships! At the root of every successful person is a rolodex of quality realtionships that they worked to develop over time. When you meet an agent, client, or referral partner what system do you have to build the relationship? Remember you must invest 100% of you into the relationship for it to be a success because you can not control the investment of the other party. Choose your relationships carefully and then give them all you got!

Think about how these apply to you. Are you being your best?  If not, then improve, the choice is yours!

If you need help with your sales, then check out our new book! It is a real kick in the pants and guaranteed to help you bust out of a sales slump!



September 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

mainboxDefinition: Persisting in or remaining constant to a purpose, idea, or task IN SPITE of difficulties or obstacles.

Do you have what it takes to succeed? Are you going to thrive and survive or just get by in 2010? Or would you rather wait until 2010 to figure it out? There are only three months remaining before 2010 arrives - you need to prepare for it now!

In order to persevere, you are going to have to work at it. It does not come by happenstance.  You will need to be disciplined and remain focused on what you are doing as well as what is happening around you. 

There are many changes taking place in the mortgage industry and many people crying the end of the business!  You can easily put your head in the sand and hope for the best, or you can work ON your business.  Here are some simple things to do today to guarantee a successful start to 2010:

DAILY – Make one hour of prospecting calls.

WEEKLY – Visit Realtors offices and other referral partners.  You may be surprised to hear this, but very few loan officers are doing this right now.  Real Estate offices have become Loan Officer ghost towns.

WEEKLY – Participate in Networking events.  The key word here is ‘participate’ – that requires a little more effort than just showing up!

WEEKLY – Follow up with the contacts from your networking events.

MONTHLY – Hold seminars – this may include first time homebuyer seminar or lunch-and-learn at Real Estate offices.

None of these activities requires a lot of time.  It simply requires some discipline to get out of your chair and work ON your business.  By having a plan now, and implementing it, you can ensure your success going into 2010.  A little perseverance will overcome many of your perceived difficulties that you are seeing today.

Finally, stay connected to your industry!  Are you a NAMB member?  Are you participating in the various petitions going around?  Are you reaching out to your elected officials?  There is a State of the Union call on Thursday.  Be a part of it.

If you stay the same and do what you are doing today, then 2010 will be no different than 2009.

Commit to change yourself and you will see changes!

Commit to persevere and you will succeed! If you commit to a plan, your success is guaranteed!  It is as simple as that.

Mortgage Regulation Providing More Questions Than Answers

September 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re wondering what’s going to happen in the mortgage industry come January 1st, join the crowd!  It has been a long time since I have been this confused.  There has been more change in our industry in the last six months then I have seen in my 12 years in the industry.  As mortgage brokers, the biggest change of all is potentially coming on January 1st,…RESPA reform and that dreaded new Good Faith Estimate.  But a lot can change between now and then.  There are many forces working to either delay it or re-think it.  So, it is possible that after worrying ourselves sick, the whole thing ends up looking different than we think after all.  Look at the Red Flag rule.  It has been delayed 3 times so far this year.

To make matters more complicated, there is much left open to interpretation.  The biggest unknown to me is who really is defined as a mortgage broker and therefore subject to these disclosure guidelines?  If I read it correctly, any firm that is not planning on servicing their own loans is defined as a mortgage broker.  This means many correspondent lenders, “net branches” and even mortgage bankers could be subject to these new disclosure rules.  Many of these same firms are trying to recruit small  mortgage brokers claiming to be able to skirt this very issue.  What if they can’t?

For me personally, I had another issue that was on the top of my list as I was contemplating what my options were…I don’t have FHA and really need it at this point.  It would not be a huge part of my business but I am still losing deals.  Low and behold, this past week, FHA has proposed policy changes that would go into effect January 1st that essentially do away with an individual mortgage broker having to be approved by the FHA.  Instead, As long as you are doing business with a lender that is approved, you would be able to originate the loan.  If this is true, then that solves one large issue for me, and I’m sure many of you.

At this stage, it is prudent to be talking to as many possible people as you can.  The best thing to do is to is consider as many options as possible and have a choice in mind that you can “hookup” with if the time comes where that is prudent.  In the meantime, if you don’t really want to do anything different, I don’t see any big hurry. You have until the end of the year and most likely longer before we really know what the final outcome is going to be.  Feel free to call me if you feel like talking!

Customer Contact System HELL-Tips to get you through it

September 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fiery-hell“I should have a system. I’ve got to simplify my system. My system isn’t robust enough. What system will be most effective?” These are all common brain-drainers in the life of a solo entrepreneur.

The persistent challenge of keeping in touch with one’s customers, whether at the wooing stage, the in-process stage or after the close, seems to be a fiery purgatory for many Mortgage Professionals.

For those who have not finally surrendered to or fully implemented a “system,” the scale attempting to balance such competing activities as: keeping in touch with and in front of one’s customers vs. generating new ones, tips dramatically up and down from week to week. This teeter-totter motion affects our pipelines, our reputations and our peace of mind.

So why then do the majority of Mortgage Professionals continue to operate without one?

Some of the same old excuses rear their ugly heads…

I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the support. I don’t know how. Money-Time-Support-Knowledge. The fears really never change.

But do you really need A LOT of any of the above to create a system that works for YOU? Heck no! So what DO you need?

  1. Email
  2. Phone
  3. Content
  4. Reminders

Don’t wrinkle up your noses at me…it really IS that simple.

Think about the “Why” behind creating systems.  Generally, we create systems to keep in touch with our customers so that…

We consistently fill their brain-slot for “Mortgage Professional” in an attempt to retain their future business and referrals.

-We separate ourselves from the competition in an attempt to keep our newly found customer from being woo’d or won over by someone else.

-We can focus our attentions on other money-generating activities in an attempt to keep our pipelines filled.

Now let’s fill in the “What” part of the equation.

elephantWhat do you want to do? Do you want to create a system for staying in touch with leads, past customers, in-process customers, business referral partners or some other group? I know, I know, all of the above, right? Wrong!

Tip#1-Pick one group and see it through to completion. You may feel like eating that elephant in one enormous gulp because it has been sitting on your plate for years, but BEWARE…the indigestion will keep you crippled for months and you still won’t have a system in place!

Tip #2-Never fix what isn’t broke. If you find yourself whiling away the hours perfecting email templates, videos or scripts…STOP NOW! If what you have includes your photo/logo, is relevant information, is devoid of editing errors and goes out like clock-work-you’re done. Move on to what you haven’t created.


Once you have pin-pointed what group you will focus on, it then becomes a matter of what type of materials you will send.

Will it be industry news via your blog? Will it be a hard mail newsletter? Will you send video updates via email? Does the group you are concentrating on warrant a regularly scheduled phone call, text message or LinkedIn update?

Tip #1-Don’t attempt to figure this out in your head. Look at the resources you already have, pull up a blank Word doc or a note pad and start writing down what you do have at your disposal.

Tip #2-If you have absolutely no collateral materials to work with, nor a marketing department, start researching the web. Of course, there’s always the plethora of information you can tap into by being a member of organizations such as, Top of Mind Networks, Loan Toolbox, Mortgage Girlfriends, Mortgage Coach, Mortgage Quest, etc. All of these companies offer ready-made customer service systems and collateral materials that you can plug into and utilize.

After you have identified the pieces, you can then determine the frequency. When will these items be delivered, dispersed, mailed or communicated?

Tip #1-If working on a touch-point system for your past customers, map out a year’s worth of deliverables. For leads, clients in process & referral partners, map out at least three month’s worth of deliverables.

noteNote from experience: If you attempt to determine what to send from one month to the next or one week from the next, the likelihood is that you won’t make contact at all.

Tip #2-There is always the debate as to what is too much and what is not enough when trying to determine the frequency of one’s touch-point systems. Here is my suggestion, which is based on what the majority of my own coaching clients have followed as a rule of thumb:

  • Past customers=1 x per month
  • Leads=every 2 days until they commit to sending in their application and docs.
  • Customers in process= 1 x per week
  • New business referral partnerships=2 x per month
  • Current business referral partnerships=1 x per month

Finally, and most importantly, how, how, how will you implement the system that you ducks-in-a-rowhave created?

Let’s look at what you have thus far:

  1. You have identified the group that you will focus on.
  2. You have identified your deliverables
  3. You have created a visual map of your deliverables, the vehicle (phone, email, blog, text, video, snail mail, etc.) and the frequency.

Your current capacity must dictate the “how.”

Tip #1-If you are a “one man band” it’s imperative that you utilize a reminder system such as your Outlook calendar, an “activity series” within ACT, an Excel spreadsheet, or you finally cough up a bit of dough and use the contact systems developed by the companies before-mentioned.

Tip #2-If you happen to have a personal assistant, transaction coordinator, marketing assistant, receptionist or some other dedicated soul, than for heaven’s sake, share the tasks, meet once a week on progress and needed system changes and delegate, delegate, delegate!

Putting a system together only becomes Hell when you continue to neglect the fact that you NEED one.

So for all you perfectionists out there who are still trying to locate those perfectly valuable, perfectly aesthetic, perfectly timed contact pieces or for you techno geeks who keep waiting for the CRM that will have it all/do it all, including dialing your customers and talking to them for you, STOP THE MADNESS. I’m giving you one, “Get out of Hell FREE” card, right now!

Control Your Business with Simple and Effective Planning – part 2

August 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 This is a continuation from Part 1….

Now that you have completed your goal and the metric, it is time to look at the strategies and actions to achieve your goal. The strategies are the focal points or pillars that are needed in order to accomplish the goal. The actions are the tactical steps needed in order to make the strategies successful.

Let’s look at how we would put this together into a cohesive plan:

 If your goal was to generate $30,000 of monthly fee income in order to meet your financial obligations as well as give back, then the goal and metric may look like this:

Goal: To generate $30,000 of fee income each month in order to live debt free and reinvest 20% back into the community.

    Metric: Gross revenues of $30,000 per month; generate 10 closed loans per month, with average gross revenue of $3,000 per loan.

By having this metric, it is very easy to determine when you have reached your goal. By making it monthly, we have the metric to continuously assess the goal in order to determine if you are on target or falling short.

(Note: A lot of people like to express their goals on an annualized basis. I prefer to show it as a monthly goal. By doing it this way, I find that it will keep you better focused and does not allow the distractions or procrastination when you miss the target by saying, “oh well, I will have to work harder next month to meet the annual goal” or “that is ok, I still have 6 more months before the year is over”.

Now that we have our goal and metric, we need to focus on the strategies that will allow us to get there. For this plan, I have created three strategies complete with metrics in order to keep us on target:

Strategy #1: Increase Repeat and Referral Business

    Metric: 3-4 loans per month

Strategy #2: Increase Networking

    Metric: 4-6 loans per month

Strategy #3: Create First Time HomeBuyer Business

    Metric: 3-5 loans per month

After you have the strategies in place, you will need to focus on each one and look at the steps or actions required in order to make the strategies successful. These are the action steps. I will expand a couple of the strategies in order to show you how to build out the plan. The purpose of this writing is not to discuss what philosophies or actions work best, but instead to show you how simple it is to create a business plan.

Strategy #1: Increase Repeat and Referral Business

    Metric: 4-6 loans per month

Action 1: Develop post closing marketing system to touch past cutomers and referral partners every other month. (By using a system as powerful as Top of Mind Networks, you can automate this task for postal mail and email marketing.)

Action 2: On the off months of Action 1, call each customer and referral partner. (If you have 200 customers, that is only 10 calls per business day. 100 customers = 5 calls. If you feel that you have too many calls to make, then split up your list so that each month you are doing one half of Action 1 and one half of Action 2. The important part is that you are taking consistent action!)


Strategy #2: Increase Networking

    Metric 4-6 loans per month

 Action 1: Participate in the Chamber of Commerce

  Task 1: Join the Chamber of Commerce

  Task 2: Attend first mixer and hand out and receive 10 business cards

  Task 3: Add names to database and add names to your every-other month mailing campaign

  Task 4: Follow up with phone call within one week of meeting

  Task 5: Repeat each month


Action 2: Participate in a different networking group

  Task 1: Find a networking group

  Task 2: Join the networking group

  Task 3: Attend first mixer and hand out and receive 10 business cards

  Task 4: Add names to database and add names to your every-other month mailing campaign

  Task 5: Follow up with phone call within one week of meeting

  Task 6: Repeat tasks 3-5 each month


Action 3: Dinner Party

  Task 1: Read the book, Never Eat Alone

  Task 2: Plan monthly dinner party at home

  Task 3: Invite three past customers and three people from Action 1.

  Task 4: Follow up with phone call to each participant within one week of dinner party.

  Task 5: Repeat tasks 2-4 each month by mixing up the party with new invitees and past invitees.


There is no right or wrong answer and no right or wrong methodology when it comes to writing a business plan. The important part is being able to set targets and know when you are meeting them, exceeding them, or falling short. A business plan should give you the steps or actions that are needed in order achieve your goals. By setting goals, you are able to keep pushing yourself to excel and not sit back and relax because you made one sale or closed one loan. By actively and consistently working your business plan, you should be able to reduce the ups and downs from the sales flow and start to see consistent success.  Then, just like the pilot, you know exactly where you are headed and how you are getting there!

Please comment below and lets share ideas and strategies that each of us finds useful.

Control Your Business with Simple and Effective Planning – part 1

August 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ballooning-008My family and I spent this past weekend participating in a sport that we really enjoy and are very fortunate that we can participate often – hot air balloon flying!  We were at the Pro-Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival flying with over 70 additional hot air balloons.  The balloon flights were for competition as well as flying for fun. 


Since the balloon flights were only held in the early morning and late afternoon, I was able to enjoy some down time during the day relaxing by the pool of the hotel. During this time, I was reflecting on how similar ballooning is to the mortgage business – or more specifically, how similar it is to a loan officer’s business.  Wishes and dreams are nice and can make great pictures.  But without the proper planning, preparation, and ACTION, you will never get off of the ground or be able to hit the pre-determined target.


A hot air balloon flies with the wind.  When in flight, a balloon can only go in one direction – the direction of the wind.  There is no steering wheel.  There is no turning around, no backing up, and no second chances.  Therefore, each flight requires proper planning in order to achieve the goals and meet the planned destination.  And especially during competitions, paying attention to the direction of the wind at the different altitudes becomes vital.  Otherwise you would never get the balloon to the target.


Many loan officer’s operate their business just like a balloon – they fly in the wind! 


In order to have a successful flight, a pilot needs a game plan.  Your business is the same.  Do you have a game plan?


Do you control your business or does your business control you?  There are many different areas of control in your business that we could focus on.  But for this writing, I am specifically talking about business plans. 


How many of you actually use a business plan?  How many of you spend the time to write them, modify them and routinely update them?


Have you ever collected your thoughts to prepare one?  Most sales people do not write business plans.  When people hear the words Business Plan, they feel that it is something only a newly formed company needs to create in order to get funding.  In reality, a business plan is simple.  It is being able to plot out the direction that you want to “fly”. 


Business plans can be created at any time of the year.  You do not need to wait until the beginning of the year.  In fact, right now is the best time to write your plan.  It ensures that you continue to fly on your path and finish the year strong.  Since sales start over each and every day, right now is the perfect time to get started.


Over the next two days we will focus on creating a simple yet effective business plan.  But first, in order to have a plan, you need to know your goal.  What is your goal?  What are you wanting to achieve?  And how will you know when you get there?


Write down your goal.  Make sure that your goal is specific and definable.  For example, you do not want to boil the ocean.  Therefore, your goal is not to be rich!  That is too broad.  Instead, you want to boil a pot of water.  Maybe your goal is $100,000 income or 50 closed loans.  Those are more specific and definable.  Your goal does not need to be stated as income.  For example, your goal may be to establish 20 new referral partners where each partner sends you one deal per quarter.


Once you have your goal written down, the next thing that you need to do is write a metric for measuring that goal.  In other words, how will you know when you are there?


Focus on those two items and be sure to write down your answers:


  1. What is your goal?
  2. What is the metric to know when you have achieved your goal?

Tomorrow we will look at the next step and show you a sample business plan; simple and realistic.  Remember, the actions of today will significantly affect the results of tomorrow.

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