Top Originator: Ashley McKenzie-Sharpe's character was key to her $121 million year

by Kimberly Greene18 Mar 2019

Ashley McKenzie-Sharpe had a surprisingly awesome year in 2018.

At a time when many originators were sitting back and waiting to react to whatever way the wind was blowing, McKenzie-Sharpe blew her goals out of the water, closing a staggering 721 units for $121 million. Being based in Winston-Salem, where loan amounts aren’t nearly as high as other areas of the country, McKenzie-Sharpe and her team worked hard for every penny.

“I always have a goal that I put down on paper and then I have a secret goal,” she laughed. “We actually hit our secret goal, and that was nuts . . . to even hit $120, that was $25 million more than what I had done in 2017, so I just could not envision hitting that, and then we did,” she said.

Fourteen years ago, McKenzie-Sharpe was happy in her career as a banker. She had just gone through a management development program and promoted to branch manager at a local bank. The honeymoon came to an end during her first month as branch manager, when the branch was robbed at gunpoint—twice.

She was asked by one of her local mortgage lenders to come be an assistant to a top producer, which she accepted, and her talent was recognized immediately. Within a couple of months, the manager of that branch moved her out of the assistant role, and she became a loan originator in her own right.

McKenzie focused her business on character more than anything (although hard work and dedication is a close second). She’s always been unafraid of the tougher deals, and has seen the value in them since the beginning.

“I’m just known for getting the deal done, even the tough ones. I don’t steer clear of loans are a little challenging. I say yes. By saying yes to some of those harder deals and even the lower loan amounts, that’s enabled me to establish a relationship with a variety of agents and become their trusted adviser.”

She has a broad client base, from veterans to first time home buyers to physicians, and does a lot of work with down payment assistant programs. Part of that is due to always saying yes to loans that came her way, but another part of her diversified business is engineered in order to have a steady pipeline, regardless of the time of year, type of client, or even the type of referral partner. Different partners are busy at different times of year, and originators who familiarize themselves with diverse products have access to more lenders and more of a steady pipeline.

Diversity is something that she knew was important from day one, and she’s pushing forward with that this year, which for her business means renovation loans. She said that people need to figure out what Amazon can’t do” and then go after that. Local programs are a great source of business that makes you invaluable in a particular market, and will provide in ‘in’ for local agents.

“If you’re an expert at those programs, those people will refer others to you and you can go out and talk about those programs. Yes, that gets you into a tough line of business, but it gets you loans, it gets you in with an agent. And the next time, maybe you’ll get the easy deal,” McKenzie-Sharpe said. “A lot of people don’t just want to work hard, they just want to take an agent out for coffee and expect to get deals, and that’s just not how it works. You’ve got to start focusing on the products that maybe other people don’t want to do.”

She also plans to explore existing relationships with potential to develop into partnerships with relocation programs and larger businesses, focusing on something different and seeing if that could tap into something new.

One thing that McKenzie-Sharpe didn’t have from day one was support, and she had to learn the hard way that hiring an assistant was the way to go. Not only does it mean paying an additional salary, but it means needing sustained production levels to support that salary. But she found that hiring the person helped her business grow and even though she’s slow to bring on additional members, it pays off quickly. She’s also thinking about expanding, hiring on another loan officer to her existing team, which currently consists of herself, another licensed loan officer, two LOAs, and a receptionist.

“The biggest thing for me was just learning to let go and trust that I can’t do everything, I’ve got to put trust in others to help my business grow. And that’s a hard lesson to learn. A lot of us want to have my hands in everything, and you have to let go to grow.”

For strategies from top originators, come to Anaheim on April 4th for our Power Originating session featuring Shant Banosian, Ben Anderson, and Oleg Tkach.