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SHAWN STILLMAN
Years as an independent broker: 2
2016 volume: $268 million
Number of employees: 8

Why did you decide to be independent?
The big advantage I had is that I wasn’t starting from scratch. When I was an agent and already doing $70 million on my own, I had the relationship with the lenders that I needed. So when I went out on my own, I didn’t need a DLC or someone to open doors with my top lenders because I could pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I’m going out on my own; what can we work out?’ Because of that, the [lenders] that we’ve been successful with were very happy to work with me directly and continue that relationship.

Right now, [a network] really can’t offer much because we have our own technology, we have our own name, and we have our own volume. So from a dollars-and-cents point of view, why does it make sense to leave?

Would you ever join a broker network?
It really comes down to the control of marketing. Right now, we have two very unique businesses in our brokerage. We do business under two different names, which we’re allowed to by FSCO. So we have the traditional broker model and then a direct-to- consumer online model. We have two unique brands that target two different consumers, and we really couldn’t do that under a label. I need to have two names so I can control both of them and control those messages to the consumer.

What advice would you give to other brokers who are looking to branch out on their own?
I look back on my mistakes, and they were all around hiring people. When I started off hiring, I was looking for people who had mortgage experience, and the first two were complete duds. I came to a realization after that: If you’re a good mortgage person and you’re competent and you know what you’re doing, you never really want to come and work for somebody else. You want to be your own boss, you want to be your own agent, and you want to be your own person because if you’re out selling, that means that you’re doing an amazing job.

We find good people and teach them the skills of the industry because it’s so easy to get the licence. So it’s about finding people who are excellent at customer service, finding people who are good on the phone and are able to provide a positive experience for the customer.
 
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