By Matt Elerding
Approaching the end of the year is no time to slow down. There are many things to do to not only have a strong finish for 2011 but also set the groundwork for next year.
Here are some of my basic strategies.
Keep Producing— Obviously originators want to close as many loans as possible during the last weeks of the year. With 2011 quickly coming to a close, my team and I remain focused on keeping the front end of the pipeline stuffed full of new purchase and refinance applications. The “pull thru” rate these days is not what it used to be, with a myriad of challenges that didn’t exist several years ago. In order to offset the smaller amounts of volume that actually makes it to closing, our primary focus remains on pushing as many viable applications through the pipeline as we can manage. Originators should take advantage of every opportunity to increase their last quarter production. While some people prefer to hold off on a refi or purchase decision until after the holidays, there are many others who want to take advantage of the interest rates and other factors. Call and e-mail your database prospects to alert them about the potential end-of-the “special” you have. I realize this seems so obvious, but too many originators don’t push hard enough during this period.
Maintain Marketing–With less volume and fewer units closing, we have remained laser- focused on a consistent marketing program. We continue to send our classical music CD’s to the key customers/other important contacts. Additionally, I strive to “touch” our sphere of influence at least every other month. This includes e-mail bulletins alerting our contacts to changes in the industry and updates on interest rates and other useful news. I also write (for free) a monthly column for the local newspaper. Most importantly, we continue to remain committed to sending out handwritten thank you notes to everyone we talk with throughout the day: Realtors, new clients, referral sources, escrow officers, etc. The more of our magnetic business cards we can get in the hands of our sphere, the better chance we have of growing our business in a down economy. The point is that the fourth quarter is not the time to slow down on your marketing. Whatever your market or budget, be sure to do enough to reach past customers and generate interest among new prospects.
Be a Proactive Networker–Not everyone is taking vacations. This is a great time to meet with your Realtor/builder contacts; and make calls or visit with attorneys, CPAs and other VIPs in your sphere of influence. Explain how you envision 2012 and ask them how you can help grow their business. In addition, form new affiliations agents/others with whom you haven’t previously done business. Networking remains a vital part of our success now more than ever. Yes, loans take longer to originate, process and close, but we have not allowed ourselves to ignore the importance of networking. My team and I continue to attend industry functions, including both work and fun type events. I strive to take a Realtor, financial planner or CPA to lunch at least once a week. I offer to speak at Realtor sales meetings whenever possible. We strive to take advantage of every networking opportunity, knowing that all the little things will add up if we remain consistent.
Work on Your 2012 Plan–This is also the time to develop your overall plan for 2012. Every business book, article and other piece of industry advice would suggest that planning is paramount to success. For 14 years we have remained committed to this axiom and our plan for 2012 has already begun to take shape. Our planning process will culminate with an all-day, off-site meeting where the team and I can focus solely on the plan for the upcoming year and not be distracted by the day-to-day elements of our job. Remarkably, the past six years worth of plans have all been achieved within ten percent of our projections. Planning works! Whether you are a one-person operation or have a team of several people, it is essential that you have a plan in place before the start of the New Year. Write the basics (situation, goals, objectives, strategies) on paper and continue to monitor your progress on a regular basis.
Prepare for NMLS–One additional piece of the puzzle for 2012 will be the formal licensing process. Having worked for a “big bank” during my 14 year career, I have not yet needed to be formally licensed. With the unraveling and subsequent “reform” of our industry, virtually every originator needs to be licensed and those who don’t should strongly consider doing so anyway. Candidly, I am a bit nervous about the process for the testing. I know the business quite well but I also know there are a tremendous amount of nuances that can make our industry a very technical and mind-numbing when it comes to some of the finer details of what we do. With this in mind, my team and I will begin a three week course to study for our test at the end of the year. We currently lend in six or seven different states so we have opted to “divide and conquer.” All four team members will get licensed in our top three states – Oregon, Washington and Alaska – and then we will divide up the remaining states among the team so as not to overwhelm ourselves. Of course, for everyone who has already become licensed, you need to fulfill your obligations by the NMLS-mandated deadlines. The 2012 NMLS renewal period began November 1, 2011 and all requirements to be completed by December 31, 2011. Be sure you complete your continuing education, follow state deadlines and do everything else necessary by end of this year. (Editor note: please see Ginger Bell’s NMLS article elsewhere on this site.)
Meanwhile, this is also the time to relax a little with family and friends. Good luck juggling everything.
Matt Elerding grew up in Sitka, Alaska and attended the University of Portland and Notre Dame. He began his mortgage banking career with Chase Manhattan in 1998 and currently serves as Team Manager / Loan Officer for The Elerding Team. He lives in Battle Ground with his wife, Heather and his two children, Gage and Abi. He can be reached at Info@ElerdingTeam.com