Holden Thomas started what is now Oak Mortgage Group in 2005 at the age of 25 — with no mortgage experience. In just over six years, he transformed the company from a mortgage broker into what he calls “a boutique-sized residential mortgage bank” — a feat impressive enough to earn Thomas recognition as one of National Mortgage Professional Magazine‘s “40 under 40.”
Oak Mortgage Group is a boutique-sized residential mortgage bank. It was started in 2005 as a response to the decline in responsible lending. The industry had begun to place profits before people. Oak Mortgage believes that every client deserves to be treated with respect, and that starts with realizing that clients are not numbers or paychecks.
MO: How did you manage to launch Oak Mortgage Group at just 25 with no mortgage experience? Did your friends and family think that you were crazy?
Holden: Yes, I think they did at first. My parents were always supportive, but peers thought I was crazy for starting my own company. I remember when I set up my voice mail service to state my name and the name of my company; my friends would leave me mocking voice mails, giving me a hard time. But, I realized over time as I stayed diligent, I became more successful, and friends began showing more respect and admiration for what I had achieved. Then, I started getting all their business and their friends business and their friends-friends business…
How I did it with no mortgage experience? Well I took into account Parkinson’s Law, which states that people will fill up the amount of time that’s allocated to them to achieve a certain task. So, if you’re given two weeks to complete a task, you will inevitably fill up those two weeks to complete that one task. If you’re given 2 hours, even though it causes a lot of stress, you will do what it takes to achieve the same amount in two hours. I decided to throw myself into tasks, and the pressure of deadlines caused me to learn so much faster than if I allocated tons of time to myself to get things done. I asked a lot of questions, figured out things on my own, and in a matter of no time, had a very successful company on the rise.
MO: How are you bringing creativity and innovation to an industry not usually known for its originality?
1. I found what interests me and tried to integrate that with the mortgage process. Obviously, in mortgage there are overall processes that just can’t be changed. However, there are smaller areas that can, such as utilizing game dynamics in the process of originating loans. Meaning, we instill innovative ways to turn the process of originating loans into a sport for Loan Officers. I found that if you give an officer a percentage of completion to finish a loan, they are more likely to drive that percentage to 100% completion. We time them on how fast they can get to each percentage marker, and we create competitive games and prizes within the process.
2. As far as innovation goes, we really focus on using social proof of value. We will gather testimonials of people that are in the same demographic of the types of clients we are targeting. My company has a very strong social media presence, and we will post 2 minute video clips regularly in order to build credibility with our target demographic. For example, if we have a teacher we are going to send her a testimony of a young teacher who has used us, or if we have a middle aged doctor, we will send a testimony of a middle aged doctor – past client. Overall, people are looking to people like them to help lead them into major decisions in their life. The creative edge behind our social media has been one of the most successful tools in lead generation for us today.
3. We have also looked into the psychology of why people buy. We’ve had different professors who have crafted teachings on the psychology of buying and selling homes. So we use that knowledge to teach our Loan Officers how to be on the cutting edge of their competitors as lead generators. As our LO’s harness the knowledge we provide them, they not only generate leads faster than competitors, but they also are able to send business to agents as well as knowing exactly how to best help the borrower in their decision to buy.
MO: Going through the process of getting a mortgage can be a stressful and complicated process. Can you give us an example of a time that you implemented creative solutions or innovative strategies to help your clients through a problem?
Holden: There was a big problem in communication between the buyer, the seller, the listing agent, and the title company. It was really difficult to tell where everyone stood in the process. So we implemented a strategy through an email communication system that gave up to date statuses on where we were in the process and what everyone needed to do. This helped pull everyone together as a team, helped prevent communication blunders, and to keep us on schedule. Overall this helped prevent:
1. Missing deadlines
2. Frustration from one party to another, and
3. The overall stresses of not knowing where each party was in the process.
Creating such systems allowed for a smooth transition through the process and simple solutions for our clients.
MO: Can you share a surprising or helpful fact that many people don’t know about securing a mortgage?
Holden: Having a lot of money doesn’t mean that you can necessarily qualify for a mortgage. Mortgages are underwritten by cash flow, and that means by being able to document how much revenue you have coming in, which is then broken down into a monthly basis and is usually viewed over the last two year period. So if someone lets say they just sold their company and have 10M sitting in their bank account doesn’t necessarily mean they can qualify for a $1M mortgage. Even though they could buy the house in cash, they must show they have a steady income to be approved for a mortgage loan.
MO: How integral has social media been to your marketing strategy?
Holden: It’s been really important to create brand recognition within our demographic on a limited budget. I found that if people are on social media as much as they are watching T.V., then it doesn’t take near the amount of capital expenditure to brand to thousands of people more closely related to our target market and locations for lending. It allows us to get in front of the right clientele strategically and not at random. Plus, the more creative we can be in our inner activity with our fan base, the more response we get and the more business we receive freely.
MO: Can you tell our readers a bit about moving into your newly designed Dallas office space at the end of the year? What inspired you to incorporate music and art into your new premises?
Holden: I think that a flaw I have seen in the mortgage industry is that overall it has been consistently left brained. I don’t think the mortgage industry has taken into account the arts or any kind of creativity, and it has been to the detriment of the industry overall. So, what we are looking to do is to harness the arts within the context of finance, because really the arts play a major roll into housing as much as the funding behind the home. The house is where life takes place and art reflects the life and personality of the person who buys it. So, I would say that finance serves greater relationships and those relationships take place in the context of the arts. If we are not exploring the arts, I think we are missing the boat in the financial world. I think in the past, people in finance have been more driven by profits and numbers than by really understanding life. So we are looking for a space where we can really collaborate local artists and musicians, which we hope will bring a fuller spectrum to what we are trying to achieve as a company.
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