After jumping 35 places from rank 38th in 2015 to third in 2016, Josh Bartlett has once again climbed the ladder to achieve second place in the Elite Business Writers 2017.
The Loan Market broker joins James and Annie to discuss how his structure and procedures have allowed him to become one of the industry’s top business writers, what he has learnt over the last six years as a broker as well as his tips for other business writers in the country.
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Announcer: Welcome to the Elite Broker Podcast with your host, James Mitchell.
James Mitchell: All right, welcome back to Elite Broker. I'm going to be your host for today. My name's James Mitchell, Managing Editor of Mortgages at Momentum Media. We're going to be chatting today to Josh Bartlett from Loan Market down in Victoria.
Josh has been a really interesting rising star to watch over the last few years or so. He's only been in the broking industry for a number of years, but he's really risen pretty rapidly over that time. He makes it into second place in this years Elite Business Writers ranking with some pretty formidable volumes and a lot of hard work, so we're going to be chatting to Josh just in a little bit. A little bit about what he's done over the last 12 months, how he's been bringing in new staff to the business and what some of his strategies are moving forward.
We wanted to catch up with you just about this year's Elite Business Writers ranking. Do you know where you've come this year?
Josh Bartlett: No.
James Mitchell: You don't, so this is a big reveal.
Josh Bartlett: What's the reveal?
Annie Kane: You're very nervously waiting for that, then.
James Mitchell: I'll go back. Last year's, so 2016 Lead Business Writers, you jumped 35 places, which is pretty extraordinary to be number three, and total volumes just under $350 million, and that included insurances and everything like that, or other business, sorry. You've moved up one place this year, you're number two this year.
Josh Bartlett: Ah, there you go.
Annie Kane: Number two.
Josh Bartlett: Oh well, at least we're always moving in the right direction. That's the goal, isn't it?
Annie Kane: Yeah.
James Mitchell: Absolutely, and total volumes have gone to 425 million. I mean, Resi volumes alone, 185 million. It sounds like you've had another pretty successful year.
Josh Bartlett: It has been, mate. It's only even I think in business, every single week you're still challenging yourself, you're still looking for new ways to do things. That's the business that we're in, isn't it?
James Mitchell: Yeah, and I remember last time we caught up, must've been a year ago, or maybe not quite a year ago when we had you on Elite Broker for a podcast, and we were talking about processes and I guess that point you reach where you realise you've got to bring on support staff and have a team and that sort of thing. Obviously you've reached that turning point and progressed beyond that, but where are things now in terms of operationally for you and the business, and how do you manage these volumes?
Josh Bartlett: I mean, again, I've only been in the game still only six years now and I think that the last couple of years, or at least the last 18 months to two years, having better staff around you. Well it's not staff, but a better team. Really it's a team effort. There's no way an individual, like one person, can do what we do.
As you know, I've probably had the same people for the last couple of years straight now. Even though you do have processes, you do have systems and all that kind of stuff, and it starts to become a bit of an ugly word that whole process and systems and all that kind of stuff, but in the end it does become having better people around you.
You go through a lot of strain over those first two or three years when you're a volume broker. It can be extremely painful day in, day out, and you can go through a lot of people, a lot of staff over a period of time. You're just trying to find the right people that fit, that gel, that are prepared to jump in and be part of the team. There can't be, you're the broker, you should do everything. There needs to be people around you who are prepared to do things.
Annie Kane: When I spoke to you last for the website, the news website, I was asking when's a good time for someone to take on someone to help with the processing, and you were sort of suggesting, well, when isn't a good time? Do you have any tips that you could share with our listeners in terms of how you actually identified that you needed help and what the turning point was for bringing in your first person?
Josh Bartlett: Yeah. I think if anyone actually sits down in any business ... I mean, our business is not just sitting in front of people and writing loans, we have to have a back end system, we have to have a marketing system, we have to have a front-end system, there's so many things. I'm going to be honest, even though we write what we write, we're not great either. I truly believe that there's another 25, 30%, 40%, that could actually come out of the business again if we just increased our numbers of people. But you've got to increase the numbers of people who are actually doing some things that are helping the business.
If you actually sit down and write what are the 100 things that you would love to do in your business, and there's hundreds of things, absolutely hundreds. A lot of it, once you're starting to write the volume, as a broker my job in the end should be talking to my clients and sitting in front of people, and that's literally all you nearly have time for. Honestly. If you're doing your 20-odd appointments per week and then you're following those clients up with an email structure and then you're then calling existing clients, that's pretty much my job every single week. There needs to be someone who's pushing the marketing, there needs to be someone who's processing the loans, there needs to be someone who's looking for new referral partners. There's not 100 things, there's literally 200 things. If you-
Annie Kane: Can you talk us through ... Sorry, go ahead.
Josh Bartlett: No, you're all right.
Annie Kane: Can you talk us through now your structure ... so you're down in Loan Market in Victoria ... the structure of your team? Who's responsible for what and how many people there are altogether?
Josh Bartlett: Yep, yep. Again, when we talk about structure, I think the structure changes all the time, and you have to continue to change all the time. So up until probably about three months ago, I probably had three client service managers and we've now gone to two client services managers, but someone who now assists them. So now they actually have someone who's going to actually help them.
Now, that person hasn't even started yet. They start on Monday. But I've designed a description of exactly how that person can then assist them. Because we're now designing layers in our business. Instead of everything comes to me, once I hand over a file I should be able to hand over a file to someone and then that person should also have some assistance underneath them at the same time.
James Mitchell: Nice.
Josh Bartlett: Again, having the experience of our team now, and two years in, and I say this to people. I feel like we wrote $180-odd million this year easier than what we wrote 90 million, and easier what we wrote 70 million, because the team is actually growing with it. And as the team grows, their experience grows
So now we have two client service managers, we have one person who assists them and I've got a EA who's really really really helpful. So there's only four in our background, but we've also got a broker who works within the office; he doesn't work for me, he just contracts underneath me and he's doing great things as well. So as far as my structure, I've got four, and that's it.
James Mitchell: I just want to, sorry, ask a little about your work/life balance, for lack of better word, in terms of what sort of time you put pens down, get out of the office each day. 'Cause I know we've spoken to brokers who are the top of their game and writing huge volumes, and some of them literally wake up at three a.m. and don't get home until very late.
And then on the other end of the spectrum, Hannah Nguyen, for example, another loan market broker down at St. Albans, I had a chat with her. We did a podcast with her and she said she makes it a rule. She gets out of the office around five, she doesn't work on weekends, so she structured her business so she can have that downtime. What's been your experience with that?
Josh Bartlett: Absolutely. Yeah. And hey, Hannah's an absolute superstar in the way she structures that as well, and she's definitely come up with some great ideas. Every single area of clientele dictates a certain way you actually have to work your business to, so Hannah works in a particular area where she can drive that kind of attitude.
I'm in a bit of a different area where probably some more professional people who are working long hours themselves, so probably dictates that I probably have to work some different hours. Look, I'm not the three a.m. person. I'm at the office at let's say 8:00 in the morning, and probably walking out at 8:30, 9:00, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so still 12, 13 hour days.
I do pretend to think that I'm going to take some files home and work on that after that. That usually doesn't happen. I take them home, I put them on the kitchen table and they stay there until the morning and my wife laughs at me. That's just the honest truth. So I probably take files home and work one night a week, and it's usually that Monday, just so that it's easier on the Tuesday.
But the Tuesday, Wednesday, I finish the appointments, go home, and then that's it. But last night I got out at 9:30, so probably let's call it a 12 to 13 hour day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursdays I finish at five, Fridays I try and walk out at about 3:30, and Saturdays I probably do about three or fours hours on a Saturday as well.
Annie Kane: I'm so surprised, Josh, that you say that, 'cause obviously having support staff, I would've assumed that that would've meant that your hours would've been less, that you could've actually taken more time for yourself. Is it that you're doing work?
Josh Bartlett: They're probably similar but the hours are easier, to be honest. So they're similar hours, but there's just not as much pressure in those hours that you're at work.
James Mitchell: Yeah, so you're not cramming loads into each hour.
Josh Bartlett: Yeah. There was a period of time last year where, or probably say 18 months ago, where my team, who are still here, were new. That meant that I had to handle more of the pressure, and now because they're more experienced, there's less knocks at my door which means I can get through my day easier.
But sometimes you try and handle everything, 'cause it's always, well, you're the broker, you do it. You're the broker, you do it. There's probably a different attitude in my office now, where like, okay, well we're all a team member, how can we handle that so that it makes it easier in the business? It means that I'm not as stressed, and if I'm not as stressed the office is not as stressed.
James Mitchell: Yeah, well one thing it seems like is very much part of your game, and it's something which I see across the board with "the" most successful loan writers in the industry, is really that consistency of delivery and consistency of service. It's something which I've spoken to Sam White about just quite recently actually, obviously the chairman of Loan Market, about the importance of delivering consistency when you've got obviously a volume business. But also with the regulatory stuff and the increasing compliance and these sorts of things, it's important to, I guess, to be consistent in all aspects of the broking business. Would you agree?
Josh Bartlett: Absolutely. If you're not consistent in your day, things will pop up that will slow your day down. Like if you don't come to work and then you send that email that you said that you were going to send to that client that you met the night before, all of a sudden the next day they're sending you an email saying, "Hey, you never sent that to me," and then there's all of a sudden an issue.
If you're not doing your compliance properly, and Loan Market have a system where they're auditing your files every single month, a month later, all of a sudden, they're auditing files, and because you're not compliant, that then slows your day down. That uncompliant file that might've taken five minutes then becomes an hour and a half of your day, when it should've only been five minutes. So if you're consistent in absolutely everything ...
This is why more brokers need to put on more people so that you have more systems. People keep thinking that they can't afford more help, but they can't afford not to get the help is what I always say. Because if you're just doing the good old saying, "Dollar productive hours", if I'm just continually doing dollar productive hours all the time, then everyone else is doing no things that need the business to continue to move. The consistency just moves forward.
Just getting back to your point before, you were saying, I thought it would be a little bit easier to write that kind of volume. I do actually feel like I do have work/life balance compared to your three a.m.-ers out there, but the thing is once you create a certain business, and you have been consistent, you then get sent referrals. As soon as you get sent the referral, your job is to actually make a phone call, and when you make a phone call to that client your job's then to see them, and then when you see them there's no point in wasting your time; you may as well take the deal. Does that make sense?
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Josh Bartlett: So it becomes this, well, I'd like to do less, but how do I do less if I've always done so much? And then if you're doing the right things, you then get more referrals.
James Mitchell: Not a bad problem to have, though.
Josh Bartlett: I know. But moving forward with my goals, moving forward would probably be, how can I continue just to do what I do and start to make it even easier? That's probably what my goal will be this year. It's not, hey, how can I go and write 300 mil? I'm probably more, well, I'm really happy with the volumes that we're writing. How can we write these volumes and then the office can have more fun and it's a little bit easier, and have some more staff. That way, if we can continue to write what we write, but a little bit easier, I think that's my goal moving forward.
James Mitchell: Nice.
Annie Kane: I just want to touch a little bit there on the figures. You're mentioning it's not like you're going to be setting a 300 mil figure for next year, but obviously just trying to move forward. But just looking at the other figures the Elite Business Writers is ranking, we also include insurances. The last financial year you wrote 240 million in insurances. How important is it to be writing insurance along with a home loan when you're doing the mortgages, and do you think that enough people are writing insurance at point of sale?
Josh Bartlett: Yeah, yeah. It's a big part of our business and I think every broker needs to do it now. There's only so many stories where I have to hear ... I've got a guy that we use all the time, he's a good friend of mine and I totally trust in what he does.
There's just so many stories of people losing their houses. Especially out there with all this information, you see emails coming through; this is what happened to this broker and this is what happened to this client. If we have a look at five years down the track with NCCP and how one day someone will be knocking on my door, I don't want someone knocking on my door in four or five years time saying, "Hey, I got this debt and you never even asked me about insurance, or you never even ticked that box." I just don't want to be that broker.
James Mitchell: Do you think there's more awareness around and do you think that customers are becoming more willing to get themselves covered? 'Cause I hear different reports. I hear ones where it can be quite hard to, I don't like to use the word sell, but sell the insurance to the client, and other times where they're just like., "Yeah, of course. I'd be crazy not to."
Josh Bartlett: Yeah, yeah. I think it's a no-brainer when you sit there and go, "Okay, well you're ..." Myself, that is always, do you insure your car? And you do insure your car. And how much does that cost? $150. And what's that car going to be worth in 10 years time, right? You paid 50 for it, in 10 years time it might be worth 10, so we're insuring a depreciating liability.
Annie Kane: Whereas houses are normally the other way.
Josh Bartlett: And that's it. So if you've got a house, how much is that worth? How much is that going to be worth in 10 years? Okay, it's going to be worth more.
Annie Kane: Especially in Melbourne.
Josh Bartlett: Why wouldn't you insure that? That's pretty much it. That's my sales point when it comes to that, because that's the easiest thing to do. When you say it like that, you go, "Oh okay, well yeah I do have car insurance, and yes, that's going to be worth nothing." Why wouldn't you insure something like that? It just doesn't make sense.
James Mitchell: Well, I think we're just about out of time, Josh. But it's been great speaking to you. I know obviously in addition to being ranked the second broker, number two, in this years ranking of Lead Business Writers, you also won some awards at the Loan Market Conference, or Awards, earlier in the year? Is that correct?
Josh Bartlett: Yeah, so that was last week up in Queensland. I was number one Australian broker individual and number one Australian broker business. I was actually number two international, because my friend, Bruce Patten, in New Zealand, I think he got me by 600,000, so-
Annie Kane: Oh, Bruce. Well, congratulations on winning those awards and congratulations on making your way up the table.
Josh Bartlett: Yeah, it's Australia anyway, so we're talking Australian brokers not New Zealand. But he's a superstar in his own right. I think he's written 1.3 billion.
James Mitchell: Oh wow!
Annie Kane: Wow!
James Mitchell: We'll have to get him on the podcast.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Josh Bartlett: Absolutely. He's achieved some amazing results over there, so if you can get hold of him he's a very good guy to talk to.
James Mitchell: No, we will. No, I appreciate that. Good stuff, Josh. We'll catch up soon.
Annie Kane: Thanks for your time.
Josh Bartlett: Fantastic. Thanks guys.
James Mitchell: All right, always good to speak to Josh Bartlett there from Loan Market.
I think that's all we've got time for this episode, but do join us next time on Elite Broker and we'll be chatting to some of the most successful and some of the more interesting brokers in the business. Catch you then.
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