The ALS Challenge

There has been a great deal of interest in the ALS Challenge, in large part due to the presence of social media and the ability to quickly share information about a dreaded disease in need of funding. I applaud the efforts and think it is wonderful that donations in the millions of dollars are pouring in to support ALS research.

I also find this as a teachable moment. We can see the power of social media and how we can generate a very large amount of attention by getting the attention of just one person, who in turn, shares and includes others. Social media is a real force and the use of video is something I strongly encourage my people to be involved with. Clearly video communication is a very powerful tool in generating awareness.

As a business coach I have shared with my clients the power of video and how quickly social media can move that image to hundreds, thousands, and even millions of views. The impressions are powerful. The question is this, what is the focus and the ultimate purpose of the use of video? With the ALS Challenge, the focus is about creating awareness and raising money. The use of ice buckets and the dumping of cold water on people is exactly the shock value needed to grab attention so people will stop for a moment and focus on what is going on before them. As they say in marketing, once you have their attention you can sell your message, but you have to first get their attention. So in this regard, it is going well.

The other key issue here is that the goal is to raise money. The challenge calls for a $10 donation if you dump the water and have it on video and shared, or to write a check for $100 if you don’t. For me, I had to look at this from a personal as well as a coaching stand point. Could I create a video so outrageous that is would cause others to issue and complete the challenge, or would I be better serving the challenge by donating money and finding a way to make this a teachable moment for my clients, and appeal to them to choose making the larger donation? You see, $10 donations are nice, but $100 and larger donations get us closer to the ultimate goal, which is raising money to find the cure.

So I chose to look at it from a pure business perspective and thought I would share that with all of you. The time it would take to create the video and execute the challenge would be more than thirty to forty-five minutes of my time and ALS would get my video shared and a $10 donation. Or, I could use my time to work and share that reward in the form of this blog post and a donation equal to the time value of the task. So I figured I would make a $250 donation to ALS via and write the blog. This way I can inspire those that read the blog to contribute what they can in the best way possible, for them.

You have to remember, it’s about awareness AND raising money. Just like when you market to people, if you get their attention and don’t tell them what to do, you lose the very reason you were marketing in the first place. Here is where the teaching part comes in. You have to look at the big picture and see if what you are about to do meets the intended goal. Making a great video with water being dumped by a bucket loader, or shot from a fire hose, or 4,000 gallons from the back of a cement mixer are all attention getting, but they must lead to the donation of money or it was just a funny video on the internet!

In our business lives, how many times do we do this? Get in front of a Realtor® and ask for business but don’t provide for dual opportunities?  How many times do we talk to a customer and fail to follow up with them promptly? Why is it we seek out homebuyers and renters, yet fail to contact listings and sellers? How often do we get ourselves in front of opportunity and fail to follow up and follow through? Why is it we go through the process doing a great job for our clients and referral partners and fail to go to the closing or thank those involved for helping make it a great transaction? How is it possible that we close loans and fail to nurture those closed clients with value so that they keep us in mind and come back to us or refer us to friends and relatives?

Ultimately both things need to be done in the ALS challenge; crazy videos posted to show people going through the process of getting water dumped on them, and getting people to donate money. Just like in the mortgage business we need to be visible and in front of people to generate opportunities to close loans, but we also need to make it a great experience for everyone involved while nurturing all the relationships with value to promote other opportunities.

So dump the water and share the video or write the big check. As long as you are focused on ALL the elements the momentum continues. Challenges lead to videos and small checks, or awareness and big checks. Both are needed, make your choice! And yes, I call out Steve Jacobson, Tom Ward, and Dave Savage to write the big check!

Don’t forget that this is a holiday weekend and to be prepared for the holiday schedule. If you are working, then let people know you are available today and tomorrow, and then get out and visit people Saturday, Sunday, and Monday! If you are NOT working, be sure you call all your referral partners and be sure you have already talked to everyone they plan on showing homes to this weekend.

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The Five Minute Rule

When you coach the wide variety of people I do, you have to be prepared for all kinds of personality traits, styles of business, and the systems and companies that the people you coach work with. The one thing I have managed to find that runs true across most of the successful people I work with is that they “know” their business. What I mean by that is they understand where their business comes from, how their business is referred to them, and what types of loan scenarios they are likely to see day in and day out. The other common trend is that when they are confronted with a situation outside their normal workflow, they don’t spend a great deal of time “searching” for answers. The really successful people get help quickly and don’t waste time trying to generate a solution, especially when a solution already likely exists.

The other side of this same story with lower level producers is they can spend hours if not days searching for solutions for loans or loan scenarios that might not even exist! I see it all the time. Day in and day out you will see originators who will complete their work schedules showing two or three hours “working on Jones file”. When asked directly what that means, the originator said “I was trying to see if I could find a way to make this loan work”.  So what could you possibly have done searching for two or three hours? Better yet, what should you have been doing in those two or three hours that could have resulted in deals you KNEW would work, instead of trying to put together a deal you could figure out IF it could work?

This is where I have created the “Five Minute Rule”. The five-minute rule is very simple. If you can’t figure out what you are supposed to be doing in five minutes or less, you need to stop what you are doing and go get help! Put your scenario on paper and email a manager or coworker. Use your company support team if you have one. Send an email to your manager requesting five minutes to share your situation and see if they can help direct you as to what to do, or whom to get in touch with to help you resolve the issue. Then, go on and do something else productive!

The five-minute rule also holds true for your operating software, or computer, or any part of your technology. If you can’t figure out how to make it work properly in five minutes, GO GET HELP! I can’t begin to tell you how many originators spend hours and days trying to find solutions that already exist!

Now understand that this does NOT absolve you from training! This does NOT relinquish you from your responsibility to know your job, your guidelines, your company policies and procedures!  It means that about 99% of the time the correct way to do something or the proper solution to your situation already exists in the very office or company you are working for. Part of your job is to learn who to call and how to get answers and the help you need. Part of being an expert in our industry is building your knowledge and your personal procedures so that you never have to ask the same question twice! This is about your personal growth as a professional, not trying to find other people to do the work for you!

As professionals we get paid for our knowledge and ability to structure and close loans effectively and efficiently. Spending time on situations that will never be a loan or spending too much time on a loan that does close is not productive. You need to be aware of how much time you are spending on each task and check with the other successful people in your office or company and see how long they spend doing the same things. If someone else in your office consistently gets good results in less time than you do, maybe it is a good idea to ask them to show you HOW they are doing what they are doing? Just being able to save a few minutes on each file can amount to days or weeks over the course of the year!

So the next time you find yourself lost on a file and are not completely sure what to do next, don’t spend more than five minutes working on it; reach out and get some help. Once you find that solution, incorporate it into you procedures or add the name or number of the person that was able to help you to your call list. Remember, you can’t ask the same question twice! Once you get the answer you need, be sure you completely understand how to arrive at that same conclusion yourself for future use! The five-minute rule will help keep you moving and teach you how to problem solve effectively. Next time you get stuck, don’t get frustrated, GET HELP!

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The 90 Day Countdown

In the midst of August it is hard to get people to focus on the end of the year, but that is exactly what we are going to talk about today. If you are working with Realtors®, and all of us should be, you must be aware of the 90 day countdown and that it has already begun!

Look at the math. The last Friday of 2014 is December 26th. This will be the last payday of the year for most people. In order for a Realtor® to receive their commission from a closed sale in 2014, it must make this final payday. However, you must back the numbers all the way out:

  • Get paid on Friday 12/26/14
  • Close and funded by Friday 12/12/14
  • Contract by November 11/12/14
  • Start looking by 10/12/14
  • Preapproved by 10/11/14
  • Approached prior to 10/10/14

So for a Realtor to generate income that will count toward their 2014 earnings they will have likely been in contact with these people no later than October 10th 2014, which is less than 90 days away! As I have written about in prior posts, those people who at the end of June thought they had half a year to bring up their numbers now find themselves counting the 90 clock all the way to zero! Remember that the calendar tells us that the end of August is two-thirds the way through the year, and that September finds us three-quarters complete; the true reality is that if you want to get paid in 2014 you have less than 90 days to meet the people that are going to likely close in time for that to happen.

Now I get that it may be difficult to stress the time running off the clock for some Realtors® but don’t worry about the ones who won’t listen and work your strategies with those that do. We have already given you a number of great concepts you can use to help generate opportunities; they are:

  • First time home seller’s strategy®
  • Forever Home Strategy®
  • Help us Pick Your New Neighbor Strategy®
  • Neighbor’s Only Open House Strategy®

All of these are proven concepts that will allow you to work with your Realtor® referral partners to effectively generate opportunities to list and sell properties.

Back to school can be a trying time for everyone, but it can also generate significant opportunities to buy and sell homes or just refinance current obligations. As the kids get off to school, some homes are no longer as functional as they once were. Maybe we now need more space? Possibly moving closer to a different school or to work? What if now is the time to downsize?

We also need to be sure in our thoughts about how current loans are performing and focused on those who may have taken an FHA loan since permanent monthly MIP was instituted. Maybe looking back we have people who would benefit from getting out of that loan and into a conventional loan, even if the interest rate was a bit higher, total payments might be a lot lower? What if you ran the numbers? What if you had a few of these conversations each week? How might that improve your business? Remember, your clock is ticking as well. You will also have to deal with the fact the year ends on 12/31 but in order to get paid on the closings, they must be done well prior to the 12/26/14 final Friday payday!

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“Opportunities as Fall Approaches”

The first full week of August comes to a close and many are winding down the summer trying to get in those last few days at the beach or just wondering where the time went. Summer is a very strange season because it seems to take forever to get here, and before you know it, it’s over. Where does the time go? Why does it seem to go so fast? To me the answer is pretty clear, anticipation of all we want to do, and disappointment at what we did not achieve. But let’s take a minute to look a little deeper. Just because it’s August, does not mean the summer is over. The fact is, we have about fifty more days of actual summer season to go, but we often look at the kids going back to school or even Labor Day as the end of the summer. It’s all about perspective and maybe unrealized expectations.

When our personal lives run into the clash between our own unrealized expectations as filtered through our own perspective, the month of August can signal significant changes. Just a few weeks ago it seemed we were at the end of June and still had the second half of the year to reach our goals. Now, as we find ourselves in August, we face the fact that the conclusion of this month signals the 2/3rds mark in the end of the year, and approaching the fourth quarter!

Our mindset quickly looks to compare where we are against where we thought we would be. Only natural, but it can be very disturbing. For many, the numbers are not what we thought; the work is still left to be done; and worst of all, we may not be sure we are on the path we wanted, or the path we chose may end up being the wrong choice!

So let’s just take a quick look at our position and get ourselves in focus. By now we should have a pretty good idea of what will be closing in August which will help us check to see if we are 2/3rds the way towards our 2014 production goals. For many, the numbers will be short. For the most part, because of the first quarter weather, a significant part of the country was behind trying to catch up. But we also did not see as robust spring buying season as we are used to seeing. So add those two together, and the numbers can really look weak. The good news is, many of us have abnormally high numbers of preapproved buyers out looking for homes compared to the more recent years, and new listings are coming on the market in greater numbers in locations with limited inventories. This should help make August and September much better than first thought, and with refinances once again on the rise, we are moving into a good window of opportunity to vastly improve our annual numbers.

For those of us that are falling off our production goals because of more structural issues like products, programs, or performance of our back offices; or for those that have now come to realize that we need to make some significant changes in what we do or where we do it, now is the time to focus on getting that done NOW! You don’t have the luxury of waiting. If your team, your systems, or your company is not delivering as it needs too, you need to take control and take action. Fix it, or find a new one. If what got you here won’t get you there, you have got to make the structural changes to get to where you want to go.

If it’s your people, train them or replace them. If it’s your systems, find someone who is working as effectively as you would like to be and get them to mentor you through the process. If it’s your company restricting your growth, now is the time to talk to other mortgage professionals and see what companies ARE getting it done. Find out from your Title Company Reps or Realtor® referral partners who are the companies closing in 25 days or less? Who are the lenders meeting their obligations on time, every time? Find out who they are and go talk to them!

Regulation and compliance issues are not going to just go away. Some companies are dealing with it better than others. Some people are investing in technology and training, others are not. Some people are leading while others are just being busy trying to hold it all together. You have to ask yourself, am I leading the way or following a strong and effective leader, or could it be that I am just busy trying to keep it all together? Do I trust the direction I am going with the team and the game plan that I am confident will get me there, or is now the time to make the changes that need to be made to secure the life I intend to live?

Change is never easy. So if you already have all that you want or need and are doing it in a system that allows you to enjoy it and grow, congratulations! If you are not where you want or need to be, what are you waiting for?

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