When Michael Deery was a boy growing up in Donegal, Ireland, his mother encouraged him and his brothers to write stories. Write he did, and even though he didn’t grow up to be an author or a journalist, writing has become a staple of his business plan in his career as a mortgage broker.
“People enjoy reading content that is yours versus pre-canned stuff, because there was a lot of that stuff out there. That was when email was becoming popular and websites were becoming popular, about 10-12 years ago,” Deery said. “I started figuring, I should write my own material and become the expert versus letting somebody else be the expert and all I’m doing is sharing their information. The penny dropped when I started doing all that.”
Deery produces two newsletters, one for his clients and one for his referral partners, “The Mortgage Market Insider.” He also has a blog on his website, and he writes mortgage content for newspapers and other publications, in addition to sharing content via social media. He believes in giving information freely without obligation, and that through this “educational marketing,” people will want to do business with you somewhere down the line.
“I look at it as like a funnel. Eventually the whole goal is for them to drive to my website and contact me,” Deery said. “With writing, I believe you’ve got to be consistent. You have to pick a day in the week or a day in the month that people start to expect your material, and they will start to expect it then, they will read it. And I always try to do something a little fresh, and then you gain an audience, and once you have an audience, you’re the expert. And then once they think you’re an expert, they’ll start sharing and passing on your information and basically they’re marketing for you. And that’s when the magic happens.”
Extensive writing isn’t a part of the typical mortgage broker’s role, but Deery’s never been one to be shy about veering from the typical path. In fact, Deery took a bold approach when it came to furthering his career in the mortgage industry itself. After working for a year at Wells Fargo (back when it was NorWest Financial), he opened the Yellow Pages, called local finance companies that specialized in mortgage loans, and asked how much money their top producers made. He made friends with a salesman at Household Finance, called the branch manager, and eventually got hired by someone who really liked soccer (Deery played professional soccer for Liverpool and got a soccer scholarship the University of San Diego). Soon after, the company was bought by HSBC.
Just five years into his mortgage career Deery decided to start his own company, Citywide, on St. Patrick’s Day 2004. He got great training from the large banks, he said, but it wasn’t an agonizing decision to leave.
“I believed in the earning potential, being able to control your business. I get up in the morning every day and it’s me. I decide what to write, who to call, I decide what content I’m going to post, versus when you’re at a company, you have to go through all these layers of nonsense. So that’s the beauty of running your own business being a broker, is that every day I decide how much I want to go on hunt and bring on business and it’s a tremendously rewarding career,” Deery said. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that he’d do his own thing. “I didn’t even think about it, I just did it.”
Not that it was always easy. One of the most important things that an originator can do for their business, Deery said, is to figure out what works for you. He used to run a 50-person operation at Citywide, but after the financial crash he took it down to a lean, mean, three-person machine, consisting of himself and two loan processors. Success is often equated with growing and scaling a business, but there are other ways to structure a company that can be just as successful.
“I completely changed my model because I figured out that I would rather just work directly with the consumers and not have to deal with a lot of employees,” Deery said. “I enjoyed being my own boss, being in charge of me, being in charge of where I get my business. And you know what, it’s not for everybody. I have friends who would rather run a larger company and would rather manage and coach and do everything. I just figured out it wasn’t for me. I tried that, and I’m glad I tried it because sometimes the learning lesson is trying to do something and it not working out, and then figuring out something else.”
Between the informational content and educational material he creates, Deery has faith that he’s differentiated himself enough from the crowd and will continue to attract quality buyers and partners who share his content with their own networks. Surviving the ups and downs depends on offering something different from what everyone else offers. And once you figure out what that is, stick to it and be consistent. If you have a good plan, it will reward you.
It’s not as if the current market hasn’t affected Deery at all. The fact of the matter is, rates are higher and he’s doing fewer loans. But he hasn’t changed how he does business, nor does he see the slowdown as a bad thing. In fact, he’s comfortable with the amount of business he’s bringing in, having trading some of the high volume for lower stress levels.
“I’m enjoying this little bit of a lull in our industry right now just because it’s less stressful. I’ve got a couple of kids, too, so I’m spending more time with them. I’m not working as much, I’m not working weekends. So for me, it’s actually been a benefit and a plus. Rates are cyclical, so I’m kind of enjoying the less stress right now, and I believe in the next year or two, couple of years, we’ll probably get another big dip in rates and I’ll jump on and I’ll refinance everybody again in my database and be stressed out, but until then, I’m just going to kind of enjoy it,” he said.