Jodie V. Tanga was just 22 when she stumbled across an irresistible opportunity to set up her own branch of a friend’s mortgage company in Hawaii. A decade later, she’s her own boss and business is booming. Tanga says the secret to her success is simple: “I work very, very hard and I embrace change”
Having worked at HSBC, Jodie V. Tanga wasn’t exactly new to the finance industry when she decided to take the plunge and launch her own mortgage brokerage in 2004. But with just 12 months of on-the-job training under her belt, she wasn’t overly experienced either.
“I attribute my success to great mentors and, most importantly, hard work. I just did not give up,” Tanga says of her early days in the industry.
"I’ve worked very, very hard to find a good balance of product and service so that referrals would keep coming in. I was never being satisfied with my level of production, so I always felt a desire for continuous growth and process improvement.”
Tanga’s path to business ownership began when she decided to move back to her home state of Hawaii, and a friend offered to show her the ropes and help her set up a net branch of his brokerage.
“I basically had someone hold my hand in showing me how to start my own branch in Hawaii, which was a huge help, as he was already approved with all the lenders that I needed to work with,” she explains.
“The main reason I went in this direction is because he was very successful, made good money, had a good family life, and was self-employed, so he didn’t have a ‘boss,’ per se.”
It was a lifestyle Tanga was keen to emulate, and she wasn’t about to let her age get in the way of achieving big things.
“Being young has its ups and downs,” she admits. “But I’ve learned that if you just keep on keeping on, most importantly with work ethic, a high level of service and product knowledge, then age will no longer be an issue.”
BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE TEAM
She may have launched her business as a one-man show, albeit with support from ‘head office’ in Oregon, but Tanga has certainly learnt the value of time management and effective delegating. “We each have only a certain number of minutes to build our success, so time is money,” she says. “And if I’m spending time weeding through emails or taking applications, then I’m not using my time to the best of my ability.”
While Tanga knew this to be true in theory, she admits that it wasn’t a concept she put into practice right away. In fact, for five years she oversaw every aspect of her business, believing that she wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of referrals or business leads without attending to every task personally. “It’s easy to say, ‘When I get busier, I’ll hire an assistant.’ But the thing I didn’t realize was that I would never get busier until I hired that first assistant. By waiting, I placed a ceiling on my own production,” Tanga explains.
“I now have a partner, Derek Tanga, who is also my brother, plus two in-house loan coordinators and three virtual assistants. We are a tight-knit, small but power team of producers. I’m very proud of the high standard of ethics we’ve been able to keep consistent since the company started.”
Tanga and her partner have invested much time in developing systems and streamlining the process of who is in charge of what, so that everyone knows their role and is clear about where they fit within the business.
“This has led to increased levels of communication between our clients and referral partners and ourselves, which has led to more referrals,” Tanga says.
Outside of her business, Tanga is “extremely passionate” about health, fitness, and living a balanced life. It was only once she realized that her previous hands-on business model was actually impacting her lifestyle, rather than improving it, that she decided to make some serious changes.
“Family is my number one priority, and prior to building a team my family suffered because of the hours I worked. I’ve learned throughout this past year that it is actually possible to grow my business and work less hours,” Tanga says.
“I’m proud to have taken the risks involved with building a team for my personal production. Because once I acted on my conviction to grow, and started to add staff to my business, I blew my selfmade ceiling out of the park.”
STAYING SOCIALLY CONNECTED
One major benefit of having youth on her side has been Tanga’s ability to embrace social media strategies in her business. “We have implemented social media into our business in a major way,” she says.
“Facebook is a place where people are and want to be, so we, as mortgage professionals, need to be there too! It adds a level of connection with our clients and referral partners and, just as importantly, it also adds a level of presence in the market,” Tanga explains.
Tanga and her team have multiple professional fan pages, which are used to provide information, keep in touch with databases, and as an advertising platform to generate new leads.
Tanga also makes a point of connecting with clients and referral partners via social media avenues such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as soon as possible after first meeting them. While it does require a commitment of time and resources to maintain various connections via social media channels, she believes the payoff is well worth the effort.
“It’s almost like, if you aren’t on Facebook, it is pretty much just as bad as not having a website,” she adds.
“The best thing about social media is that major strategies and streamlined processes can be taught and delegated out,” Tanga says. “So it actually doesn’t take much time or money: understand it, implement it, then delegate it. Although, honestly, understanding it is not required, as long as you delegate it to the proper team member who can understand it for you!”
JODIE’S TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Let go and delegate:
I learned from my great mentor Carl White that if someone can perform a task 80% as well as you can, it’s good enough. I no longer do things that aren’t the best use of my time.
Systems, systems, systems: Everyone is busy, so mortgage loan officers who set up streamlined processes and an accessible team will see increased business.
Be accessible, always: The general trend is a low level of service. Those who are accessible will expand their market share.
Think less; act more: Don’t over-think things. If something is working for someone in your industry, chances are it will work for you – the difference is in doing it, rather than saying you will do it.
THE NEXT 5 YEARS: JODIE’S VIEW
The mortgage market is about to get very, very busy, mostly in purchase money. Because interest rates will be coming up very soon, making the transition over to purchase-money loans is very important for all loan officers.
Brokers should make the transition now versus later; they will reap huge benefits if they do, and will not be on the roller-coaster ride of any slow times. In the next five years I feel the mortgage industry will have some fallout, mostly from loan officers who have only been doing refinances and haven’t made, or can’t make, the transition to the purchase-money business.
At the same time, the purchase market is about to take off, and I feel there will be a lot of banks re-entering the market as well. The evolution, although it may take a while, will be more products and, to a degree, decreased guidelines.
The bottom line is that things will get better, and we will be able to approve more people than we can now.