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  • Writer's pictureScott Peckford

Aug 2022 - Year 1 Overview






Welcome to BRX Mortgage!

We are on a quest to transform the mortgage industry.


We believe there needs to be more transparency which is one of the reasons why we decided to share a monthly report on what we have learned, what worked and what didn’t, and what’s next in our plans to grow a Billion Dollar Brokerage.


We hope you find a few useful ideas and tidbits to help you in growing your mortgage business.


We launched our brokerage on August 1, 2021. The initial goal was to create a temporary brokerage to train rookie mortgage agents.


The idea was to have a new agent join us, we would help them find and fund their first 10 files, and they would then go back to their original brokerage or join a brokerage that we had vetted.


There were two problems with that idea.


First, the new agents didn’t want to leave; and second, some of my mortgage broker friends who do a large volume asked to join our brokerage.


I knew my broker friend would not want to join a training brokerage so I had to think about what sort of brokerage I would want to join if I were in their shoes. We ended up creating a brokerage that modeled itself after eXp Realty (more on this in a future post).


During our first twelve months, we focused on getting the Rookie-to-Rockstar program working. We tried several different experiments. (Which I will share more on in this blog post.)


Below is our first blog post, with some of the highlights of the first 12 months.

We will be publishing a shorter blog post every month to share what we are learning, what is working, and what is not working.


In the first 12 months of BRX Mortgage Inc. …



 

The First 12 Month Stats


Volume funded by rookies – $146,873,530

Volume funded by rookies after graduating – $31,490,800

Total volume funded by rookies – $178,364,330

Volume funded by pros – $29,997,898

Total funded volume – $208,362,228

Total number of mortgages funded – 441

Number of rookies with at least 1 mortgage funded – 54

Number of rookies with 3+ mortgages funded – 30

Number of rookies with 5+ mortgages funded – 20

Number of rookies who funded 10+ mortgages – 9


The Team:

Number of full-time staff as of Aug 31, 2021 – 3

Number of full-time staff as of Aug 31, 2022 – 9


The Coaching Stats:

Number of specialized coaches – 8

Number of live coaching calls per week – 9

Number of training videos – 156


Top Five Lenders by Volume:
  1. TD – $47,186,287

  2. First National – $36,824,970

  3. Scotia – $25,440,331

  4. RMG – $21,650,803

  5. Strive – $19,735,798


 

What Worked?


Live Zoom Underwriting Support

When we launched BRX, we decided not to use the traditional mentor model for underwriting.


One of the biggest complaints I heard from rookies was that they had a great mentor who had lots of experience, but their mentor was busy with their own files, and sometimes took multiple days before they helped review the rookie’s new file.


We opted for a live underwriting support model, where we have two full-time underwriting coaches in a Zoom room. These coaches are available 40 hours per week to review applications and documents, and strategize on file submissions. This meant that our rookies could access highly experienced underwriters in near-real time. I believe this is one of the reasons why we have had such success in the first year.


One of my core beliefs is that you can't learn how to underwrite from reading lender guidelines. Just as you can't learn to drive a car from a book but have to get behind the wheel, ideally with a professional instructor in the seat next to you, learning to underwrite is much the same.


Having a professional underwriter who can help you figure it out in real time is a significant advantage and confidence booster for new agents.


What did we learn?


The more prepared our agents are when they show up to the Support Room, the faster and more accurately our underwriting coaches are able to help them decide what to do with the file. To ensure that our rookie agents are showing up prepared, we recently implemented a checklist.


Also, because the learning curve is so steep, the rookies’ first three files were the most time consuming. In the next quarter, we plan to significantly upgrade the underwriting training modules, to help the new agents get through their first three files more efficiently, and to help our underwriting coaches find solutions more quickly.


Launching the 100 Day Challenge

A few months after launching BRX, I started reaching out to our new agents to see how they were progressing with the training (we have 156 training videos).


I discovered that some of the agents were still implementing training they should have finished weeks ago. I realized that the quantity of training was causing confusion for our agents.

When talking to my team about the problem of so much content, I described it as a long hallway with doors running off to the right and left.


Each door represented a different piece of training content. Agents were getting stuck on training content and not making forward progress down the hallway.

We needed to reduce confusion and help our agents make more progress. We decided to remove all the doors to the left and right and provide the training in a more systematic way, creating a path for them to follow.


This led us to launch the 100 Day Challenge in December 2021.


Each day, our agents would get one video email, with links to very specific training.


They simply had to complete the training in that order, and not miss anything. That way, the actions of each week built on those of the previous week.


This was a massive amount of work, but I believe it helped contribute to our agents' success rate.


I have often described the 100-day Challenge as the quickest route to climb Everest. You are still climbing Everest, which is not easy, but if you are willing to put in the work, you now have the quickest way to get there.


(Yes, that is a line of people summiting Everest.)


Discovery Call and Strategy Call Training

An area I completely missed was the importance of the tactical Discovery Call and Strategy Call training. I have been doing sales training with experienced agents for years, and my specialty has been in generating referrals.


Usually, when I show an experienced agent how to get a referral, they can take it from there. They already know how to win the client—all they needed to learn was how to get the client on the phone.


This was not the case with rookies.


As our agents started to generate referrals in September and October, we quickly realized this was a major problem.


To help our agents have success with those first calls, we decided to create very specific Discovery Call and Strategy Call training.


This has become such an important part of the process that we still do live Discovery Call and Strategy Call coaching every week.


I now believe that an agent needs to make three sales:

  1. The first sale → Is to the Referral Source, to get the referral.

  2. The second sale → Is to the Client, to get a commitment that they will work with you.

  3. The third and final sale → Is to the Lender, to get them to agree to fund the mortgage.

If you miss one of these, you will go broke as a new agent.


By the way, if you don’t like the word “sale,” replace it with “service.” As a new agent, I know I struggled with the idea of selling, but when I switched my thinking to serving, I was able to find success. (I will share more on this in a future post.)


Charging a Commitment Fee

One of the things I have learned from running a coaching business over the past five years is that people's attention flows where their money goes.


My most successful program had the highest price—it cost $10,000 USD for 10 weeks.


Was the program good? Yes.

Were the people who plunked down that $10,000 fee more committed to the results than if they had gotten the program for free? Heck, yes.


In general, people don’t value what they don’t pay for. Which is one reason why I don’t offer free training.


It is usually a waste of both my time and the time of the person getting the free training. Because they have little commitment, they typically put in little effort.


Low Commitment + Low Effort = Poor Results


From Day One, we decided to charge a $1,500 refundable commitment fee. We refund this fee after the agent funds their 10th file.


We do not refund it under any other condition.


As I tell new agents, “We don’t want your $1,500—we want to know you are going to show up and do the work that it takes to build a mortgage business.” We want you to be as committed to your own success as we are to your success.


Studies in loss aversion have indicated that people are up to seven times more impacted by a loss than by an equivalent gain.


Let that sink in for a moment.


A $1,500 loss is 7X more impactful than a $1,500 gain.


I believe this has helped us attract agents who are committed to their own success, which then results in a higher success rate. The truth is, the success rate of new agents is ridiculously low. I have heard that only 20 – 30% of new agents in Ontario renew their license after the first two years.


Our target as a company is to get to a 70% success rate for our agents. I wish we could get it higher, but I don’t believe that will be possible. (I will share my additional thoughts on this in a future post.)


In fact, we have had so much demand for our rookie program that we have decided to raise the commitment fee to $3,000, starting on December 1, 2022.

We will still refund the fee when the agent hits their 10th mortgage with us, but I believe the higher fee will help us identify the right agents for our program.

The way I see it, the new agent is betting $3,000 on themself.


What if you can’t afford the $3,000?


Unfortunately, if $3,000 is not in the budget, maybe starting a career as a 100%-commissioned mortgage agent may not be your best choice right now.


You might be better off staying at your current job and saving until you have a bit of a cushion, or perhaps finding a job where you work for an experienced broker or lender.


There are many ways to enter the mortgage industry. Building a referral-based mortgage business from scratch is just one of them.


Listen to my podcast on six things to do before starting your own mortgage business.


You know, it actually costs more, and takes significantly longer, to become a hairdresser than to become a mortgage agent.


When you consider that a mortgage agent is supposed to advise a person on what is possibly the largest investment of their life, you realize that the barrier to entry probably needs to be higher, and the training needs to be significantly upgraded.


This low barrier to entry leads people to believe that it must also be easy.

It is not easy. It is difficult.


While the great thing about starting a mortgage business is that you don’t need a lot of money, you are going to need to have some financial resources. You will need money to live on, and money to invest in building your business.



 

What Didn't Work?


Hiring Part-time Underwriting Coaches

We experimented with staffing our live Support Room with part-time underwriting coaches. These coaches were experienced brokers who had a penchant for underwriting, and wanted to help coach.


While this looked good on paper, it did not work in execution.


If you ask four underwriters how to work a file, you are going to get at least three different answers. As you know, underwriting is not binary, and brokers solve problems in different ways and even underwrite files differently.

This led to a lot of confusion for our agents.


They would ask one underwriting coach what to do with a file, would go work on their file, and then return to the Support Room, only to find a different underwriting coach, who would give them a different answer.


This actually lowered our agents’ confidence. In fact, a couple of promising rookie agents left our company because of this situation. While this was unfortunate, we are always prepared to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.


This experiment did not work.


The other challenge with part-time underwriting coaches was that they were also running their own business, so if they had a stressful file, it was difficult for them to be 100% present for the rookie agents when their mind was occupied with solving their own file problem.


This led us to make the financial commitment of hiring four full-time underwriting staff.


Not Having A Clearly Defined Hiring Process

One of the biggest challenges to growing so rapidly is the need to hire lots of people. To be honest, I have always run small, efficient businesses. I often think being a good mortgage broker is a lot like beach volleyball: it is really just Bump, Set, and Spike between you and a good assistant.


Running a national brokerage is more like a professional football team. A football team has 52 full-time players plus 10+ coaches. When you add in doctors, trainers, office support, sales and marketing, the number balloons to hundreds of people.

Running a national brokerage that is the size of an NFL team has been a challenge for me professionally and personally, as I now spend more time in meetings than I have ever done in the past.


I used to hate meetings, and felt they were mostly a waste of time.


I have now come to realize that meetings are where the multiplication happens. If I have great team members and can have effective meetings, they will spend the week moving the company forward.


However, I have struggled with hiring staff, especially for technical positions. I tended to apply the “You’ll do” method of hiring—where you wait too long to hire, get desperate, and hire the first person who comes along who seems to have the right credentials.


Unfortunately, this only works about 50% of the time. I have been lucky, but I have also hired people who were not a good fit for the role because I didn't take the time to clearly define what I wanted, or establish a process for finding that person.


At our last quarterly team meeting, I told the team that, if we could have one superpower, it would be hiring and developing the right people. I truly believe there is nothing more important than finding the right people.


I used to think you needed to have good processes in order to succeed in business. But if you hire the wrong people, they won’t follow your good processes anyway. If you hire great people, they will help you build and improve any and ALL of your processes.


The idea is to hire people with batteries included, which means they show up ready to go, and can help you build the business.


How do you find these people? This is a work in progress, but we have done a couple of things.


First, we have created a much more rigorous hiring process.


We put everyone through an interview, where we ask 12 questions. Six of those questions are values-based and six are technical-based. If they get through that interview, we move to a panel interview. Our goal is to ensure an alignment of values and skills that match the role.


Second, we have started offering a referral bonus of up to $5,000 to anyone who refers an employee to our team.


Not Having a Clearly Defined Underwriting Training Program

Full confession—if our program has one weakness, I believe it is our underwriting training.


I think we get away with this because of the amazing support that our live underwriting coaches provide for us, 40 hours each week.


We are committed to improving our underwriting training, and to making this a big priority.


In fact, we have some big changes planned for this and hope to be rolling out one major improvement by the end of October.


Lender Sign Up Form - One Shot, One Kill

When you switch brokerage companies, one of the biggest hassles is getting set up with all the lenders again. When I reviewed the process for signing up with various lenders, I realized there was absolutely no consistency in what they wanted, or how they did it.


Some used online forms, some used PDFs, and some simply said, “Just let us know they now work with you and we are good to go.”


I wanted to make this really easy for our agents, so I had my team create a single form that an agent would fill out, that would automatically sign that agent up with 23 lenders.


I affectionately called it the “One Shot, One Kill” form. The idea for the name probably came to me from watching the Tom Berenger sniper movie in the 90s.

The idea was simple: one form, twenty-three lenders.



We spent a considerable amount of time and energy to create the form, and we even got it to work … sort of.


I thought it would be one and done. Or as Tom would say, “One shot. One kill.”

However, it turns out that without a human to follow up with the lenders, we could never really be certain that our agents were successfully onboarded and ready to submit.


This is in no way slagging our BDMs, who get hundreds of emails a week. One email asking to get an agent onboarded can easily get missed or pushed to the bottom. Imagine dealing with files and time-sensitive issues, and also having an email to update.


We now take a “white glove” approach to getting our agents onboarded with lenders. Instead of relying solely on automation (sorry, Tom), we are using a hybrid approach that we like to think of as combining high-tech with high-touch.

We think this will provide a better experience for our agents and our lender partners.



 

What Three Things Surprised Me About Running A Brokerage?

  1. How much E&O fees cost

  2. How many mortgages we funded

  3. How collaborative our agents are

First, E&O fees are far more expensive than I anticipated. I also didn’t realize that E&O fees are calculated based on total volume and the percentage of your book of business that is with A Lenders versus B Lenders.


More volume = higher E&O fees.


More B business = higher E&O fees.


And if you have a claim, I assume your cost goes up even more.


I personally don’t know anyone who has used their E&O insurance, and whether it actually covered a potential loss.


If you know someone, please message me. I would love to hear how it went and what they learned.


Second, I was shocked by the number of mortgages we actually funded.


The total was 441. That is a respectable number of mortgages for a brand-new company, with a best month of 76 mortgages in August.


This was really inspiring to me, especially since a lot of those mortgages were funded by rookies, or rookies who had recently turned pro.


Finally, I am so impressed with, and inspired by, how collaborative our team is. I have often said, “There is no problem in your mortgage business that someone else has not already solved.”


It is really cool to see our agents leaning in and helping and supporting each other.


 

Why I Love Experiments


After being in business for 17 years, I have learned that the best way to view being an entrepreneur is to think of yourself as a scientist: don’t fall in love with your ideas, and test everything.


Think of ideas as simply a hypothesis. Test them in the marketplace, or in the operations of your business, and then evaluate what happens.


If you think this way, one of three things will happen when you test your hypothesis:

  1. It will work in the way you expect.

  2. It will work, but not in the way that you expect.

  3. It won’t work at all.

You actually learn more from the last two than you do from the first one, when an experiment turns out as expected.



This has allowed me to view failure (for example, the part-time underwriting coaches) as simply feedback.


Now, it doesn’t mean that mistakes don't cost us money—they do. Or that they are not painful at the time—they often are.


However, I find that I bounce back much faster when I am not married to my hypothesis. It also allows me to be flexible, and to pivot when something is not working, instead of continuing to smash a round peg into a square hole.

In fact, I recently heard on a podcast that startup founders who were taught to think like scientists earned 40X more than a control group not taught to think this way.


If that stat is even remotely accurate, it pays to start thinking of business this way.

With that in mind, we are currently running a few experiments. I will keep you updated on their progress.

  1. Tracking Compliance Streaks – Basically, on how many files in a row can an agent have perfect compliance?

  2. BRX Block Parties – Once a month, the company puts money into events so our agents can get together. (For example, the company bought tickets for a bunch of our agents in the GTA to go to the Jays game.)

  3. Win Your Mortgage Payment – We saw the market slowing, and knew our agents needed a reason to reach out. We created this campaign to generate mortgage conversations.


 

Software Tools We're Using


Finmo – For Mortgage Apps, Submissions, and Compliance

Scarlette – For Payroll

BluMortgage – For managing our pipeline

Zoom – For our Virtual HQ

Kajabi – To host our online training modules

Notion – To keep everyone on the same page with projects

Calendly – For scheduling calls

Lastpass – To share passwords with our team

Clickfunnels – For our Rookie-to-Rockstar webinar

Freshworks – To run our chatbot (The icon in the bottom right corner of our web pages)

Zapier – To connect all of our apps and tools. This program is a must-have if you want to reduce work and errors.

MyFax Services – To have a fax that we hope no one ever actually needs to use

Aha Slides – To run live quiz training for our agents

Close.io – For managing our new agent discovery calls

Namecheap – To manage all of our domains


 

Next Month:

  1. How to Create Passive Income

  2. How to Survive this Difficult Market

  3. Broker Talks is Back!

We are hosting our Broker Talks event in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. This is part TED Talk and part Mastermind. The idea is to get our agents together to network, learn, and grow.


You can check out the details here.


If you are a rookie agent and want to find out how we can help you, check out the Rookie to Rockstar webinar.


If you are an experienced agent and want to find out how we are working to transform the mortgage industry, check out www.whybrx.com.


To Your Success,

Scott Peckford

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