With broker services needed now more than ever, having an efficient business operation is paramount. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to running a leading broking business, the first step in building and growing your brokerage is to start with a plan of what you actually want and build from there. Here are some top tips to get you started.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This adage, attributed to former US president Benjamin Franklin, may hold true in many contexts – but it is especially true when it comes to running a business. Preparing and planning your business success is as crucial to new brokers first opening their doors as it is to established brokers looking to expand and grow their business. Given the rapidly changing environment caused by COVID-19, having a set business plan can also help provide clarity and direction, and keep feelings of helplessness and overwhelm at bay.
But, all too often, planning for future growth and direction is a step that many forget to take.
Speaking at the Business Accelerator Program in August of this year, Jason Back – broker mentor, coach and former GM of leading brokerage the Australian Lending & Investment Centre – outlined that when it comes to building a blueprint for success, it isn’t so much the content of the blueprint that is key, but rather that a blueprint exists at all.
During the virtual business consultancy, Mr Back explained: “Best practice is to have a clear plan on where you want to take your business.
“When we think about the perfect architecture for a mortgage broker, quite frankly, there isn’t just one. We all want different things – we might want to go after first home buyers; we might do self-managed super funds; we might chase non-conforming loans. So, all of our businesses are going to look quite different. There are multiple ways to run a business. So, when it comes to the perfect architecture, you need to think about what’s important to you.
“So, you need to start by thinking about where you want to take the business. It’s the same way as the architectural plans behind building a house, you don’t just rock up to the block with a couple of 2x4s and some quick dry cement and start plugging away. You start with a plan, with an architect. You have your designs in place and follow them to get to the end product,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to be 100 pages, but you do need to have one and you do need to be working on originally.”
Create a plan
So, what should you include in your plan for growth? There are so many business plan templates out there you can draw from – whether it be from your aggregator, brokerage or public sources such as business.gov.au. Better yet, business mentors and coaches are able to deliver hands-on, personalised approaches to creating a business plan that is right for you, and that builds on first-hand experience.
A good place to start is to set your business objectives (what do you want your brokerage to do?); identify how you can most attract, convert and maintain that business; specify how you want to run the brokerage/the culture of it; find best practice/brokerages you most aspire to be like; map out strategies to achieve your goals, and plan for the different risks and factors that may affect your success. A business plan for growth should also look at the brokerage outside of yourself – who would run the business in your absence should you be away, or wish to retire, for example.
By writing a plan, and keeping it updated and in sight, you can not only keep on track, but also update or amend the goals as you go.
Speaking to The Adviser’s Elite Broker podcast, Equilibria Finance broker and managing director Anthony Landahl agreed, underlining the importance of brokers making a decision about whether they want to be a practitioner where they are applying their trade as a broker or whether they would like to “morph” into a business owner who is focused on building the business.
“Both of these profiles, if you like, for want of a better word, have different decision-making mechanisms, have different ways to approach how you’re running the business,” Mr Landahl said.
“You can run an incredibly successful mortgage broking business as a practitioner where you’re essentially applying your trade. But some of the challenges you run into is essentially you run out of time – the whole business is reliant on you. You’re making all the decisions in the business; you’re essentially chasing your tail.”
Mr Landahl outlined that his goal was to build a business that exists and thrives outside of him (the key person). His goal is for his business to be in a position to sustain itself if he decides to take a step back or focus on other segments of the business.
To enable this, Mr Landahl said he had to focus on some of the core fundamentals of the business, including identifying revenue streams and building a team to generate those revenue streams. He also had to take a critical view of his business systems and processes, and build workflow processes that provided staff and clients with a consistent experience.
“It’s looking at building good processes, building a team and bringing on board staff and processes before you need them,” Mr Landahl said.
Furthermore, he focused on building the business’ capacity rather than reaching capacity and suddenly realising that the business may need an additional staff member or different processes. He warned of the risk of losing long-term clients in this scenario because of an inability to look after them.
“So, it was looking at it from the perspective of ‘I’m a mortgage broker as a practitioner, but I’m actually a business owner’,” Mr Landahl said.
“Part of the key was looking at what are my goals, and part of that was to build an asset rather than just a trail book.”
Mr Landahl added that this approach has also given him options around what he can do with the asset in the future.
“Do I bring another business partner in? Do we expand into different areas or different disciplines? Or does it get sold as an asset?” he said.
“It gives that flexibility, both from a business and personal perspective.”
Constantly review your plan
Once you’ve determined your plan, the key is to constantly review it.
Mr Back said: “Having a business plan is something that’s relatively fluid. It’s not something that you design and put away for the rest of your life and never come back to. It’s something that you should be reviewing and checking every quarter, every year.
“You should be talking to other people about it; you should be working with your aggregators, your BDMs and business coaches; you should be constantly looking at your business plan, so you can deliver on it.”
He added that it was particularly important to have a current, visible and clear business plan for those looking to build their brokerages out – as they are often not only responsible for their own futures, but also the future of their staff and the culture of the brokerage as a whole.
Mr Back explained: “If you’re building a larger practice and you’ve actually got staff on board, you need to be delivering on your business plan. Because if you don’t, you can have a scenario where you are building a city on really shaky foundations and that never truly reaches its potential.
“So, when it comes to effective business planning tools, you need to look at a mix between having the right architecture in your business and the right physical tools in the business, but you also need to be looking at your behaviors and how you deliver the outcome that you want.”
Get the message out there
Once you’ve spent time creating your plan for growth, the next step is to tell people about it and create a presence. As well as physically talking to people and building your brokerage brand by word of mouth, establishing a consistent brand is also key to building a reputable business.
Speaking during the Business Accelerator Program, Social Broker founder Sarah Barnett outlined that brand is much more than just a strong visual identity through logos or fonts, it’s about providing a strong cultural identity, too.
“You also want to make sure that you’ve got a well-defined voice,” she said. “A lot of generic content that just falls flat and doesn’t connect with people is because there’s no personality to the ‘voice’.
“So, try and create a voice that really aligns with who you are as a brokerage so that when people interact with your brand online, it actually lines up with the experience they have with the person.”
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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