Jim Black is a mortgage broker who has built a successful business by focusing on helping others get what they want. Jim’s unwavering commitment to integrity has helped him expand his business into multiple cities and provinces in a relatively short time.
In this interview he shares some of how he has been able to achieve such success.
Years as a Broker: 10 years
Brokerage: DLC Mortgage Excellence
Team: 18 agents
- Give value and help find solutions for others
- Cross selling is not the same as diversifying
- There is multiple ways of doing quality business not just our way or my way
- Think big from the start
- Develop a repeatable underwriting process
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
ADVICE FOR NEW BROKERS
1. Systems will set you free
2. Think big
3. Be a sponge – learn from everyone
JIM BLACK INTERVIEW
Scott: I Love Mortgage Brokering, Episode 53.
[START OF THE INTERVIEW]
Voice Over: I Love Mortgage Brokering Episode 53.
Where the best mortgage brokers get better – I Love Mortgage Brokering with your host Scott Peckford.
[START OF INTERVIEW]
Scott Peckford: Hi, Broker Nation. I am thrilled to introduce our guest today, Jim Black. Jim is based in Lethbridge, Alberta and he’s with DLC Mortgage Excellence. He’s been a broker for 10 years, and he has people in his company BC Alberta and Ontario. I am stoked for this interview today. Jim, are you ready to rock?
Jim Black: I am ready to rock.
Scott: Awesome. I want to just start out by asking – can you tell us a little about yourself?
Jim: I sure can. I’m a father of two kids. Family is very important to me. I graduated with a business diploma from a local Lethbridge college a few years back, quite a few years. I love sports – hockey, soccer, and running. And of course, I love business that’s why I’m in the mortgage business.
Scott: How did you get into the mortgage business because no one ever in kindergarten says, “When I grow up, I want to be a mortgage broker.” So what was your path – obviously, entrepreneur, but actually mortgage brokering?
Jim: Yes, long and winding. Like I said, I took business in college. I was always fascinated with business and entrepreneurship. It took me a few years to get there, but the reality is that I just wanted to be self-employed. Mortgage brokering was something that gave me that avenue. That was the beginning.
Scott: Awesome. You didn’t come from a bank background or anything, did you?
Jim: I had no lending experience and no sales experience. So I was lucky. I did have a friend who’s been in industry and I joined up under him and he guided me up from the start, and that was it.
Scott: Then how long before you launched your own company?
Jim: Two and half years. I got in, I was lucky when the real estate boom was happening. So I was fortunate to have some good numbers myself. I always knew I wanted to build my own franchise and try to build my own company. Two and a half years after starting, I started to Dominion Lending Centers, Mortgage Expo.
Scott: Alright, awesome. Before we dive more into your story, I want to ask about a success quote. I love quotes. They take an idea and they distill it down into something that’s portable and it’s memorable. You can take it with you. Can you share a quote that’s really had an impact on you?
Jim: Yes. I used to have a quote on my wall that I put up right after I switched and started Dominion Lending Centers, and that quote is: Travel the path of integrity without looking back for there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.
Scott: That’s awesome. So travel the path of integrity – how did you say that?
Jim: Without looking back for there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.
Scott: Right. How do you apply that quote to your business? Can you share an example of something where you’ve applied that?
Jim: I’ve used it in professional circumstances and personal circumstances. I think a lot of times, the right answer or the right decision is sometimes a very difficult one. A lot of times, people in business and personal will bury our heads and just go on with the status quo, even though inside our gut is telling us something different.
For example, when I left my brokerage, as it happens in a lot of instances, it’s a little messier. There’s the friendship there and that was the case of mine. I knew it was the right decision to move on for a host of reasons, but it was very difficult.
My point was, travel the path of integrity and don’t look back because there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Looking back, it became clearer and clearer it was the right decision to go and start my own brokerage.
Scott: Awesome. Well, you guys are doing really well. You got 18 agents and you’re killing it. Obviously, you’ve made the right choice.
I’m going to ask a little bit about failure. I know that for me as a business owner, entrepreneur, mortgage broker, that failure has happened but it’s never fatal. Looking back, there’s always a lesson. Can you share an example of something that you did fail at, but when you look back, there’s a lesson in it for you?
Jim: Yes. We follow a guy named Darren Hardy quite a bit. One of his sayings is “Fail more, fail big.” We’ve done a lot of that, lots of failures. Anyway, that’s part of the journey, right? One of the biggest things I think was we try to expand rapidly and maybe take shortcuts and we almost did a merger with the big team at one point.
I quickly realized it was a mistake. The culture was different. The value is different. A whole bunch of things were different. Basically, it was like two years – so we’re trying to chase the volume. It took us two years [spp-timestamp time="0:04:25"] inaudible]. It actually went backwards. That was a big mistake. The lesson learned from that was build it slowly, focus on keeping A players, so that your culture remain strong.
Scott: Right. It’s a marathon not a sprint so just take your time.
Jim: Yes. I think all of us as entrepreneurs just want to get to the top of the mountain tomorrow that we either don’t have the skill set in place or the resource or the infrastructure and you just can’t. Generally, you’ve got to build it up over time.
Scott: Right. That’s good advice. I’m going to switch gears a little bit talking about systems and processes. I find that talking to successful brokers that they have systems and processes. They don’t just show up and hope for the best.
Specifically about with administrative process, can you share an example of an administrative process that maybe wasn’t working as well as you’d like and then the tweak that you made and the outcome that you got?
Jim: Sure, more so than even a tweak. We have two people here that actually comprise our central underwriting. So my point was we used to always struggle with a process in underwritings. They have it uniformed or systematic.
Now, we’ve implemented software so that it’s step by step and never changes. We have girls that execute that on the underwriting side, so that it’s always the same experience for the client. It’s always the same experience for the lenders. Again, it took us seven years to develop that change, so that the underwriting process [spp-timestamp time="0:05:49"] inaudible].
Scott: Do you use proprietary software that you built or do you use something that software that you guys purchased or licensed?
Jim: It’s software that we lease. We pay a monthly fee, but then you build it yourself. It’s customizable software. It does what we want it to do.
Scott: Okay. Which company is it with if you don’t mind me asking?
Jim: It’s Revo.
Jim: Revo. R-E-V-O.
Scott: Okay. I’ve heard of those guys actually in the magazines.
Scott: Cool. I want to ask about sales and marketing because it’s obviously another big part of being a mortgage broker. Sometimes, what’s working one year doesn’t work the next. Can you give me an example of something maybe that was working, but then you had to make a change to it? Can you share the change and then the outcome you got?
Jim: Something that was working that’s not. That’s a trickier one. We have a philosophy here, and we try to get our people to build pipelines rather than hole buckets, the old saying. We wanted to focus on building long-term relationships where they can be fed consistent deals whether it’s financial planners, realtors, builders, something like that. Invest your time there and they can pay off forever and ever versus just chasing the one-off from a sales perspective.
I don’t really have an example where we did something that was working great that’s not working anymore.
Scott: Okay. So maybe give me an example – you’ve got a lot of agents that work for you. What sort of advice do you give them when they are trying to build that new relationship with the financial advisor, for example? What sort of advice would you give them to nurture and build that relationship?
Jim: The simplest advice is we tell them to find solutions for the partner they’re going to business with. Most people come in and they go meet people and they go, “Give me, give me, give me. Where’s my deals? Help me out.” We try to get our people to look at it. Of course, you want a reciprocal relationship in the end but if you can add value to their business, then perhaps, they’re more likely to give you some deals or leads.
We see that where – for example, the lead generation or post follow up. A reason it might be really horrible at post follow up, they don’t have a system. They don’t have the time or resources. If it’s one of our new people, he’s not a great mortgage broker, it might be decent at post follow up because these are our systems or something.
We’re saying, go tell them, “You’ll handle all their post follow up for them, add value to their business, and then hopefully, in return, they will start using you or see that you’re a person of value and build the relationship that way by trying to help the other person rather than asking for help.”
Scott: Right. This interests me, the post follow up system that you guys have. Are many of your agents providing that to realtors as a way to build relationships or it is just a one-off thing?
Jim: Yes. That’s a one-off example but it’s just one example. Basically, we’re saying take a look at whoever you’re trying to obtain business from, figure out the problems that they’re having in their own business, and then try and provide a solution for that problem whether it’s post follow up, lead generation, consistency, who knows what it is. If you can help them find solutions, they’re very likely to start working with you.
Scott: Right. That’s great advice.
Jim: It is one-off a lot of times but we’re just trying to figure out – just like us, we have issues in our business and if someone can provide a solution, we’re more than happy than leads, referrals, business whatever it is.
Scott: Right. Yes. My wheels are just ripping right now. When we’re done, I’m going to be like clinking on my computer. Sometimes, you need to hear some things though. That’s a great thing about these interviews. You need to hear something a few times before it either sinks in or before it clicks. You go, “Oh you just gave me an idea.” I don’t need another idea, but I’ve got another one. So we can chat off. Off air maybe.
Scott: Another thing I’ve noticed that talking to successful brokers is this – coming up a lot is the need to diversify your income and that you need to get sure of wallet. We’re obviously building those relationships, building trust. I found out that there’s two camps forming. There’s one camp that says yes, definitely diversify. There’s another camp that says no, just broker. I want to know where you fell on that. Then if you are diversifying, what are you focusing on?
Jim: What do you mean by diversifying exactly? What are you talking about?
Scott: I’m talking about sometimes some brokers are getting into the insurance business. Some of them are getting into setting up other banking products, or just other products and services that they can sell to their client.
Jim: I think of diversification a bit differently. To me, diversification means earning income outside of the mortgage brokering channel. We encourage our people to invest in property or other businesses or something outside of their day-to-day job.
In my example, you can say you’re diversified but if mortgage has come to a screeching halt, so are mortgage insurance sales is going to come to a screeching halt. To me, you’re dead either way.
What I’m looking for is the reason you diversify is to protect yourself. Cross selling is the way to increase your income, maybe tie up the client a little bit more, but I don’t really consider that diversification. I think you’re in the same industry and if it’s successful, great. You make a bit more money, but if mortgage brokering has a lull or has a big downturn, that’s not diversification to me.
We’re trying to get people to diversify outside of the mortgage industry, so that if there is a lull or a downturn, they can survive for two and three years until it gets through.
Scott: Can you give me a couple of examples of…?
Jim: A lot of our people have invested in other businesses whether it be car wash, restaurant, bar. Some of our people have tried to start I guess lead generation things, coaching businesses, different things like that. They’re always looking at ways to try and generate income again outside of the mortgage broker channel just as something to protect them in case the mortgage income isn’t steady or the business dries up.
Scott: Right. Okay. That’s actually a really good distinction. You know what, out of 50 plus interviews that I’ve done, you’re the first person who said, “Wait a second. If your income still requires real estate transactions, they are mortgage transactions and you’re not really diversified,” which is technically true. It’s definitely the way we talk about it and the way it’s in the magazines.
Jim: I know where you’re going with that, but it gets more cross selling and diversification. I’m a believer. I think that’s where the industry is going. You’re going to be offering different products including insurance and maybe lines of credit and maybe financial products. That’s smart and that’s good, but again I don’t really consider that diversification.
Scott: You know what you’ve just done Jim. After 50 plus interviews, I’m actually going to change the wording of that question. I’m always trying to learn and improve, too, so I’m going to make the question about cross-selling and not about diversifying. I totally agree. It’s like if you’re in mutual funds and if your idea of diversifying is just buying another mutual fund that is also in the market, still, that’s not really diversified, right?
Jim: It’s not.
Scott: Okay. You’ve convinced me that the language needs to be cleared. That’s good. I’m going to switch to asking you about – you said you have a family. It’s important to you. So how do you run – you got this mortgage practice, you got your own mortgage business. You’ve got these agents that you’re trying to help and you’re growing and expanding. So how do you balance that with family?
Jim: It’s very tough especially in the startup years. Thinking back, that is just the tough one you see. Lots of entrepreneurs struggle with that because they care so much about the business, and the business demands so much you at the front end when you’re getting started and you’re doing everything.
I probably didn’t have great balance. Now, to be clear, my priority is my family and my children. I always made time for them. It felt like I was the guy who wakes up at 5 in the morning, at home at 10 at night. With that said, you work on weekends, doing lots of things.
So I think off the start, the first couple of years when you’re building any company, it’s very challenging. What’s happened now is because it’s a bit more established is I’ve chosen the pull back terrains. My kids are little, so family is my first priority and that’s without exception.
I choose to coach some hockey. I’m always home for dinner. I make sure they’re my first priority, and the business does suffer because of that. There’s just nowhere around it. If you put more hours in, you’re probably going to get more results. But I’m okay with that. I’m willing to sacrifice that to see my kids grow up.
Scott: That’s good. I’m going to switch gears now to the rapid fire questions. These you can answer a little shorter answers if you like. What is the number one thing holding back most mortgage brokers from being successful?
Jim: I would say themselves without being too simplistic. We’ve always had a saying in our office, “Get out of your own way.” If you look at where we’ve gone in our journey in seven years, some of our associates – your mind is so close and you’ve got so many blockages and you’ve got this train way of thinking. A lot of times, it hurts you. They say, “Just get out of your own way. Open up your mind. Be flexible. Start to learn something new.”
That’s the biggest thing holding people back is actually themselves including me and other people in the office. We’ve all agreed on that.
Scott: Right. That’s good. What’s one thing you have that you think has made you successful?
Jim: Realizing there’s more than one way to do things. I think we all tasted a little bit of success whatever that means maybe on volume or something. We get a little bit of an ego. I think, “Well this is the only way to do it. The way I underwrite it is the best.” Every mortgage broker will tell you that. This is how you underwrite.
As the brokerage grew for me, I started seeing a number of different people doing it in number of different ways, different value systems, emphasis on different things, different lead pipelines, but the number at the end was very similar and very good. It was an eye opener for me to see there is multiple ways of doing quality business not just our way or my way.
Scott: Right. That’s good. You know it reminds me my daughter is taking piano for the last couple of years. She’s playing this Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars. She can literally play it like six or seven different ways. She can make it complex or simple. Ultimately, she’s playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but how she’s playing it and the notes that she adds.
That’s the difference I think is that ultimately – you have to match your personality to a large degree so that you define success. It’s hard for them to get to a rabbit shell but you maybe think of that. Do you have an internet resource or software program you use to make your business more successful?
Jim: We’re a paperless office, so we use Dropbox, [spp-timestamp time="0:16:19"] inaudible] paperless and mobile obviously because multiple people could be working on a file. It’s very easy to share documents. That was a change we made a couple of years ago.
I mentioned Revo before. Some people use Auto. Some of us use Infusionsoft more for lead generation and campaign. Those are some things we’re trying to utilize.
Scott: Yes, that’s awesome. If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be?
Jim: I love books. I love books. I have a few I guess. I would say different books for different people. For brand new people, one book I always give them is Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It’s the book I first read. I just didn’t get that to entrepreneurial cash flow mindset.
Another one I like is The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It’s just about consistency over time and how the results will be drastically different at the end if you are consistent. Maybe for existing business owners or brokerage owners, I really like the book Good to Great, and there’s another one called First, Break All the Rules.
Scott: That’s awesome. Actually, three of them I’ve read but I’ve never read First, Break all the Rules. That’s a good book?
Jim: Yes. It’s a really good book. It’s Marcus Buckingham, one of the authors. Basically, the catchphrase is “What the world’s greatest managers do differently?” I just think it again provides different outlook on how to manage people and what gets people fired up so you can utilize it in your business.
Scott: That’s great. Where do you think the industry is headed? Where is the opportunity?
Jim: I see lots of opportunity. You talked about it before in the cross selling side. I see way more product offerings. I know a lot of people are getting into an unsecured line of credits, financial investment, products like GACs, [spp-timestamp time="0:18:14"] inaudible], bank accounts, car loans.
I think a mortgage broker or brokers will become more of a finance center in general, which will give the mortgage broker a lot more power and control and to set a more leveled playing field with the banks, which obviously offer all of that stuff already.
Another change I see that’s all ready started to happen is I see the middle-sized smaller firms going the way of the rollover. I think what you’re going to see independent one person shows or small teams of one person that run very lean, have limited overhead and maximize their dollars generated. They don’t have lots of expense and maybe only utilize two or three lenders but they’re happy and they’re lives are very simple.
Then I think what you’ll also see is the mega brokerages or the large brokerages. I’m saying mega but I’m saying 20 to 100 employees. They’ve got status of all lenders. They’ve got underwriting. They’ve got systems. They’ve got all the perks and value. Again, they can be profitable and will have certain type of broker because they’ve got so many employees there.
Scott: Right. So both will exist. You have to pick which business you’re in.
Jim: The purpose of running a firm with four or five people is not going to exist in the future because you have all the ethics, set of compliance, management and people, and you probably need staff that you’ve got to pay but you don’t get any lift because you don’t have enough volume. Those people will start just amalgamating into larger firms and are cutting the associate to just running these one person shows.
Scott: Right. That’s good. This is the last question. One of my favorites. It’s the DeLorean question. Remember the movie Back to the Future?
Scott: In the movie, there’s the car, the DeLorean. You travel in time. If I could set the DeLorean for 10 years back and send you back to visit yourself and give yourself three pieces of advice so that your company will be bigger and better today, what three things would you tell yourself?
Jim: If I went back 10 years, I’ll probably laugh for one. I would say systems will set you free. That’s a Darren Hardy. We do a lot of systems stuff. I would say think big. I remember listening to Calum Ross, and he talked about – before he ever wrote one mortgage goals to be a hundred million producer, which is amazing and of course he attained that goal. He was just thinking bigger up the start, and I see most people just really can’t even think anywhere near that. Think big. It’s okay to think big.
Three would be a sponge like I learned from everyone in the industry – your BDMs, your lenders, your brokers, your fellow associates. I just think if you could just tap in everybody and take some of the best points, that would really help people be successful or would help me speed up the process of being successful.
Scott: Right. That’s great. So systems will set you free, think big, and then be a sponge. Learn from everyone. By the way, this is a little side commercial. One of the ways you can learn is listen to this podcast because there’s lots of brilliant people sharing some stuff that we should be implementing in our businesses.
Scott: How can people find you online or where can they find you?
Jim: Very simple. JimBlack.ca. They can get any of my contact information if they want to reach out, ask questions or anything like that. I’m more than happy to share.
Scott: Are you guys hiring?
Jim: We’re always hiring. That’s another change we’ve made though in the past. We’re hiring good people. We’ve worked really hard to clean up our brokerage and have great A players, good people. I guess the answer is yes, we’re hiring. We’re hiring good quality people.
Scott: Awesome. So anybody listening to this can also get links to the show notes to Jim and his website and to connect with him at ILoveMortgageBrokering.com. Jim, I really appreciated your time. Like I already said, you give me a brilliant idea. I hope you absolutely crossover your years and continue to grow.
Jim: Thank you very much.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Voice Over: Where the best mortgage brokers get better – I Love Mortgage Brokering with your host Scott Peckford.
Scott: Hey, Broker Nation, Scott Peckford here. Have you joined our VIP club for mortgage brokers yet? If not, you’re missing out. We share exclusive content not available on the web or the show. We share scripts, step by step guides, and other insider tips to help you save time and make your more money.
I can’t tell you how many times after I turned off the recorder, a guest started sharing some awesome advice or script or tip. I take the best of this and share with my VIPs. If you want to get on the list, visit ILoveMortgageBrokering.com/VIP. That’s ILoveMortgageBrokering.com/VIP.
Oh, and one other thing. Since it’s exclusive for mortgage brokers, there is a skill test required. Good luck and I hope you continue to rock your mortgage biz.
[END OF RECORDING]
[END OF INTERVIEW]
VO: Want to learn from the top 5 mortgage brokers in the country? Then you’ve come to the right place. Join Scott Peckford on “I love Mortgage Brokering”.
Scott: Hey brokernation. Scott Peckford here. Have you joined your VIP club for mortgage brokers yet? If not, you’re missing out. We share exclusive content not available on the web or this show. We share scripts, step by step guides and other insider tips to help you save time and make you more money. I can’t tell you how many times after I turn off the recorder our guest start sharing some awesome advice, or script, or a tip and I take the best of this and share with my VIPs. If you want to get on the list, visit ilovemortgagebrokering.com/VIP.
Oh, and one other thing, since this is exclusive for mortgage brokers, there is a skill testing question. Good luck and I hope you continue to rock your mortgage biz.
[END OF RECORDING]