You and Technology by Chris Jones

by 23 Sep 2011
Use technology to reach into markets Technology is cool.  Let’s face it.  We all grew up with Star Wars and Star Trek, old and new, and we had the space shuttles, and even though the grand old birds are gone now, we all have a pocket full of enough computing power to launch one of our own, should we get the chance.  This issue is (likely) full of new and powerful ways to use QR codes, iPad apps, desktop underwriting solutions, email marketing, and insert-your-favorite-heres.  Facebook is a huge and ever-growing force on the web, and then we have the latent power of location-based apps like Groupon and Foursquare, whose potential hasn’t even begun to be tapped by the real-estate profession.  Of course, we don’t even have to get started on the power of YouTube and video marketing, not with Frank and Brian, a monthly presence in this magazine, and a daily one in all of our inboxes. Over and over we see headlines about how technology is changing the way mortgages are originated, the way business is done.  Either get on the train, or get left behind. I use almost all the tools I mention above.  I love Twitter.  I’m the Mayor of half my city on Foursquare.  I produce YouTube videos and run a RateWatch e-news alert.  You could argue that as far as tech-savvy geekiness, I’m in the top fraction of a percent of mortgage guys.  So I don’t write this next bit because I’m a Luddite. And yet, fellow trekkers, I think we’re getting confused and distracted and we need a reality check. Good business is done when a person adds value to a transaction.  That’s the moral responsibility of a businessman, to add value.  Whether that’s taking ore from the ground, refining and smelting it, and producing a purified version for someone else, or whether it is connecting a person that needs money with a source that has the funds the person needs, when value is created, business can be transacted. What value are you using your technology to provide?  Are you using it to take business from others, essentially carving out a larger slice of the pie for yourself while making the whole no larger?  Or are you using it to communicate more efficiently, faster, with greater clarity, thereby improving the quality of the transaction and adding value to it? For some, perhaps this doesn’t matter.  But to us, to the professionals that value this business and want to see it thrive, it does.  And the greatest reason why, is that the current incarnation of the government (and much of the population, from the poll numbers) doesn’t think we add value at all.  This is obvious from the blizzard of regulations and rules being propagated inWashington.  Every major piece of legislation, every major regulatory change, has as its underlying premise; the idea that mortgage people, left to themselves, will rip off the consumer and laugh about it. If we change this perception, we can survive.  If we can’t, how long before we’re exterminated? Really, I’m an optimist about it.  I think most mortgage people do excellent work and deserve to be compensated for it.  And I think technology has the ability, if we use it correctly, to make the total pie much larger than it is today, to the benefit of everyone. The basics are pretty simple.  Where can you create value, and how can you use technology to help you do it?  The information you have about loans, rates, and programs has value.  That knowledge is worth something.  Can you use technology to transmit that knowledge faster, to more people, especially to people that otherwise wouldn’t get it?  Then you create real value, the same way shipping a product does. Can you use technology to reach into markets where there are people that would like to be a part of real-estate, but think they cannot be?  Can you use it to communicate more efficiently within the elements of your company or your team?  Can you use it to be more entertaining?  More interesting?  More clear?  To educate?  To inform?  To warn, even?  All these things add value, taking knowledge from one place and getting it to another, improving the lives of the people it touches. Personally, I think the greatest value is created by human interaction.  To be an ethical businessman, then, I need to make sure that having an interaction with me makes your life better.  If it doesn’t, I’m not a businessman, I’m a parasite.  I use technology to improve not only the number of interactions I have with people, but also the depth of the interactions I have.  Even if it doesn’t show on the bank statement – and sometimes, let’s face it, it doesn’t – my life is better because of the relationships I have and the communities I participate in.  That creation of value will eventually produce tangible economic results, and not just for me, but for everyone that works with me. Now folks, six hundred Facebook friends is not a community.  It is possible to use Facebook – as merely one example to stand for the rest – to make deep, powerful relationships that have enormous value, both personally and professionally.  It is, however, also possible to use Facebook to play FarmVille for seventeen hours a day, putting energy into the virtual instead of the real.  If you do this, consider a daily “reality” check.  Is what you are doing real?  Does it make better the world you actually live in?  Are you using your technology to remove yourself from the process, or expand your role in it? You’re probably way ahead of me here.  No doubt it’s occurred to you that you could use snail mail, the phone, even a personal visit to do the same work that Facebook and Twitter purport to do.  And indeed, you can.  All of those things are tools, too.  You might be better off using some of them instead of the electronic ones.  I absolutely flat-back guarantee you that you can make a career doing mortgages door-to-door, if you want to.  If all this Twitter/Facebook stuff makes your eyes cross, if you thought Foursquare was a game schoolchildren play, if you wouldn’t know a QR code from a Jackson Pollock painting, that doesn’t matter.   What matters is not the technology. What matters is YOU. YOU have to be creating value and improving the lives of your associates and your clients.  YOU have to be the reason people start saying, “you know, this blaming mortgage guys for everything from job flight to climate change is just wrong.”  Use what tools you like.  There’s nothing wrong with expanding your reach and your marketing power – in fact, you ought to, every day.  But never forget, these are tools, and you are the craftsman.  So create.  Create something wonderful. No matter what you do, there’s never been a better time for that. Chris Jones, branch manager with City 1st Mortgage Services, is a seven-year industry professional in brokering and banking, with a background in financial services, national politics and Main Street entrepreneurialism. Raised outside Washington, D.C., Jones lives in Lehi, Utah, with his wife, Jeanette, and their eight children. He blogs for Zillow.com and can be found at www.thechrisjonesgroup.com, chris@lehilender.com or (801) 787-2162.

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