Top Originator: Brad L’Engle grows the grassroots way

by Kimberly Greene03 Oct 2019

Brad L’Engle doesn’t think that he’s all that spectacular at what he does.

As one of the top originators in the country, a chairman club member of Guild Mortgage, and the chosen advisor to an extensive database of clients, the facts would suggest otherwise.

L’Engle has been in the mortgage industry for more than 15 years, and in 2018 he closed nearly $80 million in loan volume. He began his career as a lawyer but quickly discovered that the process wasn’t a great fit for him. As a result, his work suffered; he made a mistake worth $38 million, and that mistake cost him his job. At the time, he was drowning in student loan debt and out of necessity he accepted a position at a mortgage company. There, he was able to tap into his sales potential and discover the things that keep him motivated and engaged. Today, he draws from his past experience and education in to benefit his clients.

“I do think that I take a different approach than most other loan officers. Maybe that's why I can get more difficult loans through just my reading and interpretation of the guidelines. When I don't agree with something that underwriters asked for or the way they read it, I will send over the guidelines and say, ‘here's my reading. Let's talk about it,’” L’Engle said. “I have a pretty good track record of being able to say, this is the better interpretation or correct interpretation. So I probably come at it with a more analytical approach, just because of my training and my background.”

This year, L’Engle has focused more on lead conversion than ever before. He gets a “tremendous” amount of business from past clients and client referrals, and that business balances almost evenly with referrals from realtor partners. At the beginning of the year, however, he noticed that his realtor partners were doing less business, and instead of looking outward to target more realtors and trying to get more leads that way, he looked inward, to the leads he already had.

He meets or at least does a video call with around 90% of his clients, and from that initial meeting and the 15-minute follow-up call, he follows a 13-20-week “extreme follow-up” outreach schedule that alternates calls, emails, and texts, sometimes including other notes and small gifts. He also sends video messages to his realtors and database.  He has one or two client appreciation events each year, and personally calls everyone on their birthday. In the last six months, he’s increased his conversion by 5%.

There are some things, however, that L’Engle just won’t do. He takes a grassroots approach to business, and doesn’t deviate from that strategy.

“I don’t believe in internet leads, or buying leads ,” he said. “I refuse to pay for anything on Yelp, I just don't think that's the way it goes. I prefer to have a really solid referral from a realtor or someone who knows me. I'm more of a relationship guy, I want to get in and find out what's going on with you and everything else beyond just getting a lead. I find that's a more sustainable business model and more fulfilling, quite frankly, for all the parties involved.”

L’Engle is the only originator on his team, but he does have two LOAs, a processor, and an administrative team member to help manage his business. He says that his “rockstar” team is all focused on the same goals, but getting there has been a journey, and it hasn’t always been an easy one.

“I would have thought that I was a natural born leader and that people would just follow me. And as I've hired and grown my team, I've realized that that's probably one of the most difficult things. I can originate alone; I can develop trust with a realtor and close a client. But getting a team who are all different walks of life together and motivated and on the same page, day in and day out has been a learning experience,” he said.

In order to help get everyone on the same page, he’s developed a L’Engle Team Manual that includes descriptions of everyone’s roles and their top three duties. It took a while to formulate something so concrete, but taking the time to put together a plan for everyone has gone a long way in supporting his business. Business owners think they can’t afford the time or the money to hire people and give them concrete tasks, but L’Engle says that originators in particular can’t afford not to take great care in the hiring process.

“You're never going to get any better or do more volume or have any peace at home if you don't have an assistant or two that you can delegate to. It's a must,” he said.

There are two types of people in the world: implementers and doers, and everybody else. L’Engle says that it’s easier for people to complain about a situation than to change it, and he’s not wrong. He tells struggling realtors and new loan originators that at some point, they have to take a leap of faith in themselves to make a change and do things differently. Until that happens, things are only going to be as good as it they are—and that was never enough for L’Engle.

“I just never wanted ‘this’ to be it,” he said. “I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable, feeling a little bit in chaos, changing my process, getting people to do things a little differently, watching and listening to other mentors, and then doing what they are doing. Don't bite off too much more than you can chew; you've got to eat an elephant one bite at a time.”