Mortgages are what Dana Dodd knows. As a senior at Colorado State University, she interned for a wholesaler as a part-time receptionist. After graduation, she continued worked her way through the wholesale ranks until she landed at Wachovia.
Then the 2008 crash hit. Dodd was laid off, but called it “the best moment ever” because she was ready to leave banking behind.
The crash and Dana's decision to leave her position coincided with the timing of her husband's death. With two kids to care for, Dodd needed more control over her life. Whiteboard CRM’s President, Kevin Ducey sat down for a video chat to learn what happened next and how she came to run her own 22-person shop.
“I was tired of working for ‘the man’ if you will. And I was tired of having to work on someone else’s dreams and desires,” Dana said.
Dana went to work as a loan officer under a former wholesale client, learning the ropes from him and found success. She soon realized that the business was lead generation focused and didn’t work well with her lifestyle— she had gotten remarried and had two more kids.
“It was a grind having to call people on a dialer as fast as you can. It was just a hard road,” she says. “My gift was relationship building and management. I really wanted to develop relationships with agents and develop my business that way.”
This led to her next stop: in-house mortgage trainer at a realtor’s office where she taught the mortgage portion of a class to new realtors. Teaching 8-10 classes a week, she was able to develop a great realtor base.
“They don’t know what they’re doing in those beginning stages so they’re just grasping for information, help, and resources,” Dodd says.
She was able to help the new realtors get off the ground and has continued to maintain those relationships. A year later she started her own company working as the in-house lender for a competing agency, a shop with 300 agents. Premier Home Loans has been their preferred lender for the last six years.
As for how she built her team of 20-plus in such a short time, Dodd cites three ingredients.
Hire this one person
Many business owners have personal assistants who take care of their scheduling, communications, and other daily tasks. Dodd takes this a bit farther with a role best described as a Mini-Me.
“I hired a right hand. 100% right hand. She knows what I do. Knows how I speak, knows how I operate and I pay her a very good commission split from all of my production,” Dana said.
Dana highlights that her assistant learns quickly, is committed, and loyal. She can handle anything at any given time. It was important for her to find someone she could trust and work with for the long haul.
Because of her assistant, Dana doesn’t get bogged down in things that slow most producers down. She realizes that giving up control was the key to her being able to hit production numbers and run her shop.
Creating the right environment
An additional factor in Dana's success playbook was creating and maintaining the right team environment. During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been hiring people with no mortgage experience. For instance, she's hired laid off restaurant workers because she realized they are hard workers.
She’s expanded her office space by 5,000 sq. ft., adding couches, a beer tap, wine fridge, and ping pong table. She says this has helped her team become a closer unit. In addition, four corner speakers pump music out all day long around the office whether it’s country, pop, or rap.
“The music is pretty loud so you have to close your door to have a good conversation. But we love the vibe and it really helps with the younger people,” she said.
Always be (at) closings
Attending the buyer’s closing is something few loan officers do, but it’s something to which Dodd has committed. It’s part of the process she has used to build her business.
Here she takes a very active role, making sure the docs are in order, getting there before everyone else to set up the room and working with the title closer to confirm that all the numbers are accurate. She looks at everyone involved in the process as an opportunity.
“I sit down. I introduce myself. I’m very present to the listing side,” Dana said.
Over the years, her routine paid off. During one recent transaction, she got to know the listing agent who needed help refinancing several properties. He in turn referred her to friends in a similar situation. As a bonus, the seller in the transaction also had several properties needing help.
Dodd turned one customer closing into 11 potential sales all from just committing to be there.
“People always say they don’t have time to go to closings. It’s a waste of time to drive to closings. Fortunately, I don’t see it that way, she says. “I’m the relationship, the face of the organization and that’s where I’m best suited.”
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