Backed into a Corner: How are you going to come out fighting?

by 20 Aug 2012

(TheNicheReport) -- Two weeks ago I broke my leg.  It wasn’t a clean break, where you cast it and that’s that; no, it was a crushed tibial plateau, complete with plates and screws.  Three-month restricted mobility.  I’m doing a lot of sitting around.

For those of you that follow this space, you know that physical presence is my secret weapon.  I get deals by being in places, in person.  It’s old-school, I get that, but that’s what works for me.  Unfortunately, now, that’s not really an option.  I can’t go anywhere for an entire month, and for two more months, only with stiff limitations.  So my main marketing vehicle is out of commission.

It strikes me that this isn’t that different a situation that many of us find ourselves in.   Whether it’s a technology that is superseded or a loan program that disappears, or a broker that packs it in, we can often find ourselves in a position where we have to radically change what we do and how we do it.  How do we recover from changes of that nature?  How do we come back?  I have three ways, so far.  Take them for what they’re worth.


  1. Get clear.  One of the hardest parts from this leg surgery has been my head’s fuzziness and it has been hard to concentrate.  The odds are that you won’t have this problem quite the way I have, but even if you’re not hopped up on pain meds, when a major industry shock happens it can be hard to retain a clear sense of what you need to do.  Step back, get some clarity.  If the program is gone for you, is it gone for everyone?  If that particular marketing tactic is out, is it out for the competition as well?  What was it about that program that appealed to people?  What can you use in the new product mix to replace it? 

    Remember, your business is not selling FHA streamlines (for example).  Your business is mortgage loans, or even broader, your business is helping people with their home loans.  If you were doing it well with one program, you can do it with another one.  Take a step back.  Get clear on what it is that has really happened, and assess what your capabilities still are, focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t.


  1. Consider all the options.  There was a fellow I worked with that had been in the mortgage business for years.  He was excellent at what he did, and had a huge base of loyal clients.  Then the industry changed and threw his normal marketing tactics out the window.  He found that he didn’t like doing mortgages anymore.  But he was wise enough to step back and consider what it was about the business that he liked.  He realized that one of the vehicles he used to deliver value to his clients was gone, but that he still had others.  It was the clients themselves that he enjoyed, not the mortgage loans.  He retooled his business as a credit-repair specialist and makes a decent living helping most of the same people he was helping before. 

    This may be an extreme example, but I think it serves a purpose.  I’m laid up here and can’t go to the meetings I once did.  Those meetings were a major source of referral business.  So those are out; now what do I do?  Well, time to consider all the options.  I have long neglected my online resumes on Facebook and (especially) LinkedIn. Time to spend some time there. I can’t hang out at the local pub, but I can hang out in virtual places where I will meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise.  The interactions are largely the same.  The things I enjoy - talking with and helping people - haven’t changed.  So I have to go about doing it differently.  So what?  

    In each of our careers there are going to be moments when we should step back and consider all the options.  Without sounding more alarm bells than I did a couple months ago, there exists the real, serious possibility that the entire mortgage industry will be nationalized.  If that happens, are you ready?  Do you have a plan for working at the equivalent of the DMV?  Do you have ideas about where you might go and what you might do?

    Likely, it won’t come to that.  But every day we face that same cataclysm in smaller ways, on a broker level and a personal one.  Consider all the options.  Be open to the idea that it’s not what vehicle you use to serve people, but that you serve them at all, that is the core of your business.


  1. Take microscopic action.  In the face of shock, in the presence of a completely new business landscape, it’s easy to panic and try to do too much at once.  It’s like a basketball team that gets down by ten or twelve in the middle of the fourth quarter.  The team starts jacking up three-pointers and pressing on defense in an attempt to come back, instead of sticking with what they do well and keeping their heads.  They miss a couple shots, give up a couple layups, and before they know it they’re down twenty and the game is over.  You see it all the time. 

    You can’t come back all at once.  There’s no such thing as a ten-pointer.  To win, you have to be willing to do the micro work that incrementally pulls you back into the game.  This is hard to do when the crowd is screaming at you and it feels like the world is caving in.  Believe me, I know this.  The last time I was in the hospital I was two weeks old.  I’ve never even had stitches.  Now I have a major joint reconstruction and I’ll be setting off metal detectors in airports for the rest of my life.  I can’t even get out of bed on my own.

    The temptation (I feel it) is to rush back, try to make everything the way it was immediately.  But this is courting disaster.  I have to take micro action, concentrate even harder on the tiny actions that make things better over time.  Sleep.  Rest.  Do only the exercise that will make the joint better.  Don’t pretend that I can go back to being on the job twelve hours a day, especially not at first.

    When we have a major event in business, we need to concentrate our actions on the micro actions, those things over which we have the best control and in which we have the most skill.  For every business this is different, but all of us can figure out what those critical actions are.  Call two people for referrals.  Just two.  Send out one email.  Write three personal letters.  “Shore up your base,” to use a political term.  Don’t worry about the cash-flow for October.  Just do what you can do today.  And when you’re done, you’re done.  Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.  You can’t grow tomatoes faster by really wanting them to grow.  These things happen on their own time.

Maybe there’s a fourth here, somewhere; a part of the others.  A good friend of mine calls it “sitting chilly.”  Relax.  None of this is permanent.  The one that is most calm in the face of a storm is the one that will see the way out of it.  No matter what the event, no matter how terrible the disaster – and my friends, we’ve seen some disasters over years – we are going to get through it.  We’re going to come back.

See you on the basketball floor.  One of these days.

Chris Jones, branch manager with City First Mortgage Services, is a nine-year industry professional in brokering and banking, with a background in financial services, national politics and Main Street entrepreneurialism. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Six Channels of Marketing, available in January. Chris lives in Lehi, Utah, with his wife, Jeanette, and their eight children, and can be found at, or (801) 850-3781.


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