3 Tips for Growing Your Ideal Business Team
Contributed by Idea Collective Member:
You've been there before - maybe you're there right now...
Your business is booming, your clients and business partners are in love with you, and the bank account is full. You’re happy, but you’re buried in your work. You need help – stat!
In early 2011, I was right there with you. I was tired from working 70+ hours a week and also tired of dealing with the wake of working too much – aka neglected relationships. I was finally ready to hire my first assistant and to grow a team – the Michael Creed Team. It took some convincing, but the company was willing to let me give it a try. It likely helped that this new assistant was also my wife, Lynn, but we’ll never know.
Bringing Lynn on board was the first real sales assistant the group I worked with would ever hire. Together, she and I were blazing a trail. It was tough – we had no idea what we were doing – but we did it anyway. The good news is that our business thrived, and our marriage survived!
As you keep reading, I’ll share some of what we did and what we learned along the way. I have three major tips on how me and the team became the Brookfield mortgage lenders you know today.
1. Structure - write down everything
First, we started with structure. That meant that I, as the team leader, had to take a close look at where I was and where I wanted the Michael Creed Team to be in the future. I found that we had a lot of great things going on for us already, but I also found a huge weakness:
All my processes and procedures were lodged securely in my brain.
Thankfully, some of my guided conversation scripts and email templates were in place, but they were either on paper or stored locally on my computer.
This meant that I needed to slow down and document not only everything I was saying, but everything I was doing. The challenge was that I didn’t have the time to “slow down.” I was already buried and I needed to go faster – to be leaner, more efficient.
I started right where I was. Regardless of whether I planned to immediately delegate a task or not, I wrote it down. Everything was going to be documented. When an accepted offer came in, as I processed it, I wrote down the steps. As underwriting conditions came in and we cleared them, I wrote the process down and updated my email templates to cover anything that could come up. I knew that all of my steps would get us closer to being the best Wisconsin mortgage lenders we could be, so I just kept writing.
Over time, all of that writing turned into a very solid “playbook” of policies, procedures, tools, and templates to make the job as fast, easy, and predictable as possible. From there, we figured out which tasks were mine: we found that the complex, expert-level items would stay with me, while others would go to Lynn. We also took a close look to make sure each step was done in the most efficient order possible.
While Lynn is in a different role today, she is still working in our business 11 years later. Her work was the foundation of the tools we still use today and I can’t emphasize enough how helpful she was as an assistant when we got started.
2. Systems: ask the important questions
As we took a deeper dive into our structure, we also had to look at our systems. Were they the best systems to get the job done quickly and efficiently? For the most part, they were. But there were challenges, especially around how the clients and business partners would communicate with our team. The questions we had were:
The most important thing I did was interview successful real estate professionals about their professional experiences – especially the bad encounters – of working with a large mortgage lending team. This helped because I learned what their biggest pain points were in working with the size of the team I wanted to build. From there, I was able to reverse engineer an amazing client experience that has, in the years since, earned my team over 750 online reviews from verified borrowers and business partners.
3. People: why personalities matter
For me, the first hire was my wife because it seemed obvious. She was super unhappy in her other job, our children were young and so we could both work remotely to manage childcare, and she understands how I think. Most importantly, she also has no problem challenging my very strong personality when needed.
She stayed in that role until the end of 2018. At that time, there was a large shift in how we operated, and we ended up being able to scale very quickly. My wife moved into a different role and my new loan officer assistant joined the team. This new assistant – Theresa – is an industry veteran and has more mortgage experience that I do! She loved the office-work side of mortgage lending but was done trying to “hit the streets” to drum up the business. She, too, has no problem telling me what’s on her mind, as it pertains to my demanding personality, and so it’s been great to grow with her over the years because of the healthy respect we have for each other.
Since then, we’ve added two more people to my personal production team, and it’s been very easy to do because of the systems and structure we built. We’ve applied these principles to the other teams I manage in my branch, as well as to our processing team, so I know it can help you too.
In the end, we have a true plug-and-play system for loan officers, loan officer assistants, and processing teams.
Do-Overs: what would I do differently?
If I did all of this over again, I would give the following advice to myself and anyone else who uses this process in the future:
- Hire someone much sooner: You’ll be thankful for the help.
- Hire an expert: Hire an expert like Theresa for the first assistant, not a new-to-the-industry person like my wife. In both cases, I needed a person willing to challenge my demanding – not always realistic – personality. But hiring a professional first would have saved us some time in the details.
- Start documenting operational processes and templates sooner: I wish I had done this before I ever planned on having a team.
- Use a cloud-based storage system for documents: Why? Because we can edit and view guided conversation scripts, email templates, and text messages on the go. We didn’t always have this and trust me when I say it’s much easier.
How we've grown since 2018
Growing our team has been a long journey, but a rewarding one all the same. Since I started implementing the above strategies, we’ve added a second full-time processor, three new loan officers, two new loan officer assistants, and an associate loan officer. All in all, we’re up to 14 teammates at present, and we’re always excited to continue our upward growth.
In addition, we’ve also been able to teach others many of our well-developed systems.
For Idea Collective Members: One of which I shared during the Marketing Morning at the Idea Collective Retreat back in November of 2021. You can watch that short presentation here (please note: there are a few seconds after I’m introduced where the audio seems broken, but that’s by design, it will come back. My walk-on music was copywritten and so we had to pull all that audio out of the talk.). Be sure to also check out the Small Business Rally Point Discussion where Pat Miller and I talk about this topic as well.
As a Producing Branch Manager, I’m responsible to manage all branch sales/non-sales personnel. My primary job responsibilities include originating residential mortgage loans, driving sales, recruiting amazing staff, training, and dealing with the rare personnel issue, as well as providing goals and objectives to the branch.