Perth-based The Local Loan Company recently won the Excellence in Business - Community award at PLAN Australia’s 2018 National Conference gala awards night. Director Kylie Platt reveals how engaging with the local community can build a shared sense of purpose and wellbeing in broking teams.
Being a broker is about much more than the number of loans you write. Brokers play a key role in the areas they live and work in. And for me, helping out in the local community has always been second nature.
A key theme for our aggregator, PLAN Australia, is “Your Partner in Progress”, and this is something we have carried through to our own business, focusing on partnering with our local business community and running our own initiatives to give back.
My family have had a long-standing involvement with surf lifesaving. So, when I teamed up with like-minded business partner Sue Lepidi to start The Local Loan Company, it was natural to find ways to get involved in the community.
Over the years, we have staged fundraising and awareness events for charities, sponsored community sports clubs, and helped out at local schools.
Community engagement shows potential customers that you are invested in your local area, boosts brand awareness, and has helped us grow revenue and broker numbers during a challenging period in WA for the economy and property prices.
However, business gains have never been the main motivator of getting involved in community initiatives. I would say the main benefit for us is the sense of purpose and wellbeing we get as a team.
It’s important to support causes that are close to your heart and meaningful to your employees. With a predominantly female staff, The Local Loan Company has had a focus on supporting women, raising funds for domestic abuse shelters in partnership with Communicare, and supporting Share the Dignity, which provides sanitary products to women in shelters and living on the street.
For brokers who are considering supporting a cause in their community, I would say don’t go into it unless you’ve got a passion for it, because it’s hard work and takes up a lot of time and energy.
Sue and I check in with our administrative staff before committing to any new community initiatives, to make sure it’s something they are happy to support. The admin team are going to need to do a lot of the heavy lifting, so it needs to be something that resonates with them.
Getting the entire team involved in community initiatives creates a strong sense of shared meaning and boosts staff satisfaction.
We think of ourselves as a family – that’s brokers, admin staff, everybody. And we look at how we can give a hand up, not just a handout. Our whole team comes on board. And their family members come along too – partners, kids, everyone gets in and helps. And the benefit of that is just this wonderful feeling of togetherness, a sense that together we can all help a little bit. That’s what really drives us.
Don’t be afraid to be creative and design your own unique events. In 2017, The Local Loan Company hosted its inaugural Positively You event, a half-day workshop where experts in their chosen field provided advice and strategies for positive mind, body and finances.
Positively You brought people together to raise money to donate to women’s refuge. That money provided new furniture for the families at the refuge, yoga classes for the women to help them manage their mental health, and musical instruments for the children.
Most causes are community-wide issues, so it pays to get everyone in the community involved, including other businesses. The Positively You event delivered an opportunity for local businesses to talk to 200 potential customers.
Participants appreciated the relaxed, non-threatening environment, the opportunity to meet and network with (predominantly) other women and be introduced to offers from businesses interested in building an ongoing relationship with them.
The event led to a number of businesses establishing drop-off bins for donations of handbags and sanitary products to Share the Dignity. It created a community of like-minded local businesses and a blueprint for future local events.
In summary, community engagement promotes brand awareness, builds relationships, and leads to referrals, but the real benefit is the intangible value you get from doing community work you are passionate about.
Kylie Platt is the founder and director of The Local Loan Company. She has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, having worked as both as a mortgage broker and Business Development Manager.
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