After purchasing their first Mortgage Choice franchise in 2008, Peter and Maureen Johnson’s business has gone from strength to strength. Today, the couple have two successful broking franchises, a financial planning business and more growth in their sights. Franchise owner Maureen discusses all things broking, planning and the building blocks for success.
Was your business strategy always to acquire multiple franchises?
We bought our first Mortgage Choice franchise in 2008 and had only ever intended to run and manage the one. Over the years however, we managed to build up a strong brand presence via various marketing activities in our local community. This helped us to generate a lot of leads and ultimately build a significant database of customers who inundated us with repeat and referral business opportunities. Eventually it got to the point where, in 2014, it made sense for us to grow our footprint and purchase another franchise.
Who manages your second franchise?
In 2013, we hired a young loan writer (Nathan Smith). Originally, we weren’t thinking of hiring an additional loan writer until at least 2014, but the business was going from strength to strength and we knew we would need additional help sooner rather than later. That was when Nathan came along. He was everything we wanted – the perfect fit for our team. He was young, enthusiastic, caring, kind, considerate, driven and passionate about helping people achieve their property goals. During the interview process, we were very honest with Nathan and put all of our cards on the table. We told him we wanted someone who would be able to put in the long hours and help us grow this business. We asked him what he was looking for in a career and gave him the opportunity to interview us.
Through that process, we found out we were all on the same page and made it clear from day dot that Nathan would work his way into an office manager role, which would give him the opportunity to take a financial stake in the business. We believe the best way for a business to get the most out of their staff is to reward them generously. In our case, Nathan was and is working with us to build a strong, profitable business, so it makes sense for us to give him a piece of that profit. The more ownership employees have in a business, the more focused they become on mutual success. And this has really proven to be the case. Since joining our team in November 2013, Nathan has firmly established himself as an excellent broker, securing a position in The Adviser’s 30 Under 30 ranking.
Is this a philosophy you employ with all of your staff?
Absolutely. For us, we want to have the best in the business and, to have the best, you have to show your staff that you value them, you respect their role and you want to reward them constantly and consistently for their hard work. Our financial planner operates in much the same way as Nathan. When we brought our financial adviser (Ciaran Davis) on-board, we put it in his contract that he would eventually work his way into a co-owner/franchisee role, which would entitle him to a stake in the business. While this particular strategy can be seen as ‘risky’ in business, it has certainly paid dividends for us. Today, our business settles well in excess of 300 loans and $200 million a year. Further, we are now (with the appointment of Ciaran) effectively servicing the full financial needs of our customers.
You had a very successful broking business, why did you decide to diversify?
From an ethical perspective, we have always thought it is important to try and meet all of our customers’ financial needs. As a mortgage broker, you aren’t just helping your customers achieve their dreams of home ownership; you are helping them to make one of the biggest financial commitments of their life. As such, it makes sense that we should then help them protect that debt, protect their new asset and protect themselves. When we first started broking, we always referred our customers on to financial planners, so the next logical step for us was to bring that financial planning component in-house. We understand the central driver for the convergence of services from a customer’s perspective is really one of trust and convenience.
Our customers do not want to disclose their personal financial information over and over again to various service providers. They want the convenience of dealing with one trusted organisation who can meet all of their financial needs. With our financial planning franchise, we can meet all of our customers’ needs, which helps us to build stronger and stickier customer relationships.
You have the two broking franchises and a financial planning franchise – where to from here?
We will continue to evolve and strengthen our offering. We are constantly revising our processes and seeing which parts of the
business can be improved. We are keen to recruit another administrator to help with the day-to-day running of the business, so that our loan writers can be freed up to get on with the important task of helping Australians achieve their financial goals. We have recently undertaken a lot of new marketing activities to help strengthen our brand presence and build our market share in the local area and these will continue to be a focus for us over the coming months and years. We strongly believe in the power of marketing and social media, and have seen great returns on our investment in these areas over the years.
PROFILE: NEILL ROSE-INNES
Mortgage Choice's general manager, distribution Neill Rose-Innes says big things await Mortgage Choice this year.
“The last 12 months were strong for us in terms of home loan approvals and settlements,” he says.
“This year, growth in our mortgage broking business will continue to be a major focus. To achieve greater growth this year, we plan to significantly grow our franchise footprint. In addition, we plan to ramp up our financial planning business.
“Today, we have more than 50 financial advisers on the ground and this will be grown exponentially throughout 2016.”
Mr Rose-Innes said Mortgage Choice is determined to become a fully fledged financial service hub that can successfully cater to its customers’ growing financial needs.
He says the key to ongoing success for Mortgage Choice lays in diversification and growth in broker numbers.
“We have set ourselves some very large targets this year in terms of turnover and recruitment growth, but we believe we are in the perfect position to be able to achieve our goals,” says Mr Rose-Innes.
“For the last 23 years, Mortgage Choice has been known as one of the country’s best home loan providers. Over the next 20 years, our goal is to establish ourselves as one of the best providers of financial services and advice.
“Of course, we will not grow for growth’s sake. We will continue to invest in the business and our people, ensuring we only bring the ‘best of breed’ on-board – people like Maureen and Peter Johnson.”
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