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I’ve gone through many iterations of business planning over the last 20 years – you need to find the approach that works for you. But when I’m setting my own business plan or coaching loan officers, I have found that the basic framework for creating a business plan can be boiled down to these 5 steps:
1. Understand where your business comes from
First, understand what already brings you success. Many loan officers follow the 80/20 rule and spend 80% of their time prospecting – but don’t examine which of their activities are leading to closings. Do a deep dive and spend time looking at where your closings are coming from.
For example, if most of your closings are coming from your established real estate agent referral partners, should you really be spending most of your time on cold-calling and social media? And do you know where those real estate agents get those leads that are leading to the closing table?
That’s not to say you shouldn’t spend time prospecting. But you should be strategic about spending time where it will have the most impact.
2. Set a goal for the year
Once you understand where your business comes from, you’re better equipped to set a goal for the coming year.
To be honest, I’m not big on long-term planning. You do need to have a vision for the future and dream big – but when you’re creating an annual business plan, your goals should be realistic and achievable. The vision sets up where you want to go, and the plan gets you there.
3. Identify the gaps
Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, identify what you need to accomplish to bridge that gap. Keep in mind, that the gap will look different depending on how long you’ve been in the business. New loan officers who are business planning for the first time will probably have a much wider gap than more seasoned loan officers with established referral bases. Don’t let that overwhelm you – that’s why it’s so important to set a realistic goal.
4. Put together a plan to fill the gaps
The average loan officer probably has a goal related to increasing business. You’ll need to decide if you can get the business you need from your existing real estate agent partners, or whether you need to change something – add more real estate agents or other referral partners like builders. Or maybe you need to increase your social media activity. Identify where that increased business is going to come from!
A trend I have seen is that real estate agents have less control over transactions now than they have had in the past. Borrowers are coming to agents prequalified. That means loan officers now have to go really wide in order to have a lot of referral sources.
One example of a place to find new business? Social media. Personally, I think that 50% of your business should come from social media these days. I post every day on LinkedIn. The world is changing. People already know that they will do business with you before they even pick up the phone. They may get referred to you, but they’re going to look you up online and decide whether they like you before they ever call you.
If social media is a gap for you, you may want to incorporate social media milestones in your business plan. Set action items and share them with someone so they can hold you accountable.
“Set action items and share them with someone so they can hold you accountable.”
5. Review action items monthly and don’t get overwhelmed with the big goal
When I was younger, I thought I had to look at my business plan every day. But over time I realized that focusing on the small wins was a better way for me and those I coach to make that progress.
Keep it simple and focus on meeting your short-term goals. I only check in on my big annual goals once during the year, in the summer.
I run coaching cohorts during slower seasons, bringing 10 loan officers together to learn from each other. Each week they gather to report their progress on the commitments they made the week before, discuss key topics, and then make a commitment for the week ahead. They hold each other accountable, and “chunking” out their goals into weekly commitments makes them more attainable.
Whether you follow these 5 steps or another approach, I encourage you to make business planning a priority.