At BrokerEngine, we define a self-managing practice as a mortgage brokerage that manages itself to greater growth. It’s a practice that can run smoothly and effectively — and even grow — when the principal broker isn’t there.
While not every broker aspires to a self-managing operation, many would like their practice to be less dependent on their personal efforts. Once you achieve that, the end result is more money, fewer hours and more extended holidays.
Processes > People > Progression
We’ve seen a lot of mortgage brokers strive to achieve more freedom and autonomy in their practices. And we’ve noticed that success or failure usually hinges on getting three things right: Processes, People and Progression:
- PROCESSES: to really step back and let go, you need very detailed processes that define exactly how everything is done in your practice.
- PEOPLE: you need the right people in the right roles, with the right training and autonomy to do their jobs to a consistently high standard.
- PROGRESSION: this is the element that sometimes gets missed. Your systems are not static. They need to evolve with the changing market and improve over time, or else they will grow stale.
With this high-level framework in mind, let’s drill down deeper into 6 principles for building a brokerage that ultimately runs without you.
1. The 7 Strata Of Systems
Building deep processes involves much more than compiling a “Standard Operating Procedures” Manual.
Multiple layers of systems are required, which we call the 7 Strata of Systems™️. Here’s an overview, before we look at some examples:
Strata 1: Big Picture
High-level flowcharts are great tools for giving your team context of how each major process works. E.g.
We use “swimlanes” to specify which team member or role is responsible for each part of the process. Here’s an example for the Sales Process (click the image to enlarge):
Strata 2: Stages
At the next level down, you have process stages, which need to be defined for each major process (Sales, Loan Processing, Reviews etc.) Here’s an example of what our default Deal Stages look like for residential home loans:
Strata 3: Tasks
Next you have the Tasks associated with each Stage. Because mortgage brokers are constantly executing variations on the same broad theme, most Tasks can be templated to a high level of detail. For example:
Note the task description includes details such as:
- Why the task been triggered
- The purpose of the task
- Steps to complete this task
- What happens once this task is completed
- Plus an explanatory video
While it might seem like overkill, this level of detail is required in order to fully “let go” and delegate your processes to a team.
Strata 4: Communications (Emails, Text Messages Etc.)
After your internal Tasks are locked down, the next layer is to template client-facing workflow emails and/or text messages, voicemail broadcasts or phone scripts.
A good system of email templates is a huge time saver when you’re sending many similar emails on a regular basis. And it’s even better if those emails are automatically pre-populated with mail merge data so they can be fired out of your inbox instantly.
If you’re in the mood to “go deep” into the Communication dimension, check out this article on The 3 Layers Of Mortgage Broker Marketing Automation.
Strata 5: Information In (Client Fact Find, Bank Statement and Document Collection)
Email and PDF or Word Doc attachments are very blunt instruments for collecting client data, bank statements and documents.
Streamlining how you get information into your practice feeds into greater efficiency downstream. For more specific tips in this area, refer to our article on Mortgage Document Collection Best Practices.
Strata 6: Information Out (Client-Facing Advice Documents)
Key milestones in the mortgage approval process call for more than just emails and text messages. Structured Advice Documents deliver service, professionalism and efficiency in one tidy package. Here’s an excerpt from our Settlement Advice document:
- Including relevant information about the loan saves you from fielding routine phone calls (“How do I set up Internet banking?”)
- Confirming completed actions sets the client’s mind at ease and prevents unnecessary phone calls (“It’s been 6 hours and I still don’t have the money!”)
- Error-proofing messages help to ensure the client doesn’t unwittingly make a mistake (“I didn’t know I had to remain on the Advantage Package to get my rebate!”)
Strata 7: Checklists
Checklists are the final yet perhaps most critical step in the 7 Strata. You can create the best systems in the world, but if your team don’t follow them, balls will get dropped. (And if you can’t verify they have been followed, it’s hard to “let go”.)
The challenge is that so many different things can potentially go wrong, meaning that checklists can quickly become a mile long.
The solution is Dynamic Checklists™️, a way of delivering the specific checklist required for a specific deal that is a feature of BrokerEngine software.
Here’s an example of a Broker Handover Checklist that ensures a deal can be delegated cleanly to the team. Unless all these items are completed successfully, calls or emails will be required downstream to get the deal back on track.
2. Fireproofing vs Firefighting
Even if you map out your processes and workflows well, you may find you’re inundated with client emails and phone calls on a regular basis that prevent you from getting much done.
Fireproofing means building a process that means your clients will never call unless urgent. You do this by:
- Baking quality into your process (e.g. by briefing your loan processor in detail) so that fixes and rework aren’t required downstream
- Anticipating client questions before they are asked
- Eliminating surprises (e.g. tell the client that document X will be required at stage Y)
- Reducing errors or mistakes that cause delays
- Always advising clients what to expect so they don’t have to ask
- Delivering on promised timeframes (or proactively advising when you can’t)
- When mistakes do occur, fixing the system so they don’t happen again.
3. Systemise What DOESN’T Make Money
Most mortgage brokers are motivated to systemise the exciting and profitable things that make money (such as Deal Processing Workflows).
But it’s equally important to systemise the things that DON’T make money, such as:
- Progress Payments
That’s because these maintenance items cost you time and carry a high opportunity cost. Time spent doing these things prevents you (or one of your brokers) from writing your next deal.
4. Move Quickly, Touch Lightly
Does “Systemising Your Practice” sometimes feel like a “big lift” that distracts you from your business for 3 months or more?
The problem with the “Big Lift” approach is that it not only distracts you from your business for months at a time, but it is too heavy and unwieldy to keep updated in real time.
Processes that aren’t updated fail the Progression test. Maintaining processes should be so quick and easy that it can happen in real time, by:
- Recording a quick Loom video and adding it into a task or checklist
- Dropping in a quick email template
- Saving a BID note template for future reference
- Adding a checklist item (with or without display conditions)
It’s astounding how quickly these 5 minute systems interventions compound over time into an almost bulletproof Process.
5. Build For Redundancy
Many brokers invest in recruitment and training in order to get a team humming along with great efficiency and enthusiasm.
This works great… until it doesn’t. If one team member leaves, a lot of the knowledge can go out the door with them. Gaps in the process are quickly exposed.
That’s why I make it habit to always think, “If one team member leaves, how will the next team member know what to do?”.
This means creating robust Processes including:
- Loom videos
- Clear task descriptions
- “Too much detail”
The idea is to build your Processes right once, instead of “paying many times” by training each new hire from scratch forever.
6. Empower Your TEAM To Evolve Your Systems
A practice where the Principal is the sole “systems guru” is a practice where the principal can’t really let go.
So the final tip is to build a practice where there is a Culture of Systems. This is where team members are empowered and rewarded for:
- Creating documentation
- Recording a quick video
- Adding extra detail to a task
- Branching a general workflow into several specific workflows
In my practice, I’ve often found that errors and oversights are the fuel for creating more robust processes in future.
I don’t mind mistakes happening once, but I aim to ensure they don’t happen twice.
This final principle is all about building in Progression to ensure your practice is always getting better and better and never stagnating.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Many mortgage brokers love what they do and the impact they make… but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to earn more, work less and make an even BIGGER impact. Who wouldn’t?
In this article we’ve covered 6 proven principles for building a practice that runs without you. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but by chipping away a little at a time, you’ll gradually build a practice that YOU control, and not one that controls you.
Would you like all your mortgage broking processes BUILT FOR YOU…for a tiny fraction of the cost of doing it yourself?
If building a practice that runs without you appeals, the tips in this article will certainly help.
While I have no doubt that if you put your mind to it, you’ll get there in the end, keep in mind that there may be 1,000+ hours of work involved to do it properly.
Those are 1,000 hours that you could use to either (A) write more deals (B) focus on growth or (C) enjoy more time on hobbies, family and friends.
The far cheaper and easier alternative is to just jump on board as a BrokerEngine user. When you sign up, we’ll give you all the foundational processes you need, done for you on day 1. From there, you can customise them even further if you wish.
With your processes locked down, you can focus on doing more of what you enjoy. To explore further, check out the latest BrokerEngine demo here.
Why reinvent the wheel when it’s already been done for you?