Posts Tagged ‘business’

Cindy Koebele, CEO TitleSmart

Making Everyone Feel Valued is Paramount

Alliant National Agent finds work-arounds amid COVID-19

It feels almost impossible to stay connected right now. Though we’re starting to see stay-at-home orders lift across the country, social distancing protocols remain. As we continue to be separated from each other, title agents are finding innovative ways to make sure their clients and employees are safe and feel valued. Cindy Koebele, owner of Minnesota-based TitleSmart Inc., recently joined us on a webinar about doing just that.

When her home state started to close in response to COVID-19, Cindy’s first focus was to see who could work from home and make sure those team members had the tools to do so. Cindy and company also started scheduling smaller appointments to ensure client safety.

Cindy’s team also faced the same roadblocks everyone has experienced over the past several months – a shortage of everything. The offices needed to be stocked with essentials like disinfectant wipes and masks for staff and clientele, but there was a long period where nothing could be found. Thankfully the team at TitleSmart is just that – a team. A joint effort to equip company offices was quickly underway. Staff members would even text Cindy late at night if they managed to score a hard-to-find item.  

Nearly everything about day-to-day work had to change. The team was issued clipboards so they could hand papers to consumers who sat in their cars for “no contact” signings. Meanwhile, the “little things” Cindy’s team does to help clients feel welcome had to change a great deal. In the past, they’d bake fresh cookies and have an assortment of other goodies for clients taking the next big step in their lives. It was an important way the TitleSmart team connected with customers.

Thankfully, having to change the way you connect doesn’t mean giving it up entirely. Though the homemade touch of fresh baked cookies has to be put on pause, Cindy and team are still making yummy goodie bags for their closers. The focus of ensuring everyone feels welcome is more important than ever, and it’s something everyone at TitleSmart is taking very seriously.

Cindy notes that she refuses to lock her doors. She has no intention of making anyone do something they don’t want to do during these difficult times. Accommodations are being made both for those who want as little human interaction throughout the process as possible, and for those who still want that in-person experience.

The most critical takeaway from the discussion with Cindy is that connection isn’t impossible right now. It simply requires a little bit of innovation. Our situation may be a complicated one, but it’s one that we’re all in together. Making your team feel valued and showing your clients that you’re still willing to go the extra mile no matter what it may look like is the smartest business move that you can make right now. 

doodle style illustration of two road signs representing the new way

Inventing as We Go: Post-Pandemic Business Operations

With many states choosing to lift their stay-at-home orders, many people are left wondering how to move forward in this new and uncertain landscape. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that there is no real “going back to normal.” A new normal will be achieved, but the idea that things will return to the way they were across the board is wishful thinking.

The notion of forming a new normal can be overwhelming on both a personal and professional level, but it’s something we find ourselves obligated to do in order to keep our businesses moving forward. Adding in the fact that everything feels topsy-turvy at the moment doesn’t help, either.

As an example, March and April were two of the heaviest order months in the history of title insurance. That influx is in direct conflict to the majority of other industries, many of which are struggling to stay afloat until whatever “new normal” can be achieved. Opening large numbers of orders is always exciting, but it’s critical that we realize this isn’t an evergreen influx of business.

It’s also important that we find a way to handle the large volume of orders in a way that keeps customers satisfied. Normally, the industry response to such a deluge of business is to hire more personnel. However, several large companies have, in fact, reduced staffing levels despite record orders and near record revenue. In the current COVID-19 world, it means learning to adapt on a company-wide scale.

As we all adapt, keep in mind that there will be very real pressure to reduce or even eliminate some risk management procedures in an effort to save costs. This is a dangerous time to consider such a reaction for either independent agents or underwriters. Many of the normal processes for risk management are difficult to maintain as a large percentage of employees are now working remotely. However, staff being remote does not remove the fiduciary responsibility we have to safeguard the public trust.

Another area of concern for the future is that governors and elected officials across the country are suspending laws and regulations, which continually move the regulatory goal posts. RON, RIN, Mobile Notary statutes, and recording regulations have all been changed using “executive orders.”

What will happen when creative plaintiffs’ attorneys challenge foreclosures, loan defaults, etc.? Underwriters will be called upon to defend lenders under their loan policies. Are courts and juries more likely to side with borrowers? Will foreclosures spike with dramatically increased unemployment? These added complications make it more important than ever for title agents to remain focused on the details, no matter how small they may seem. Be sure you have an underwriter who will stand behind you as an agent, and who can keep you up-to-date on regulatory issues.

While we will gradually return to whatever is the new normal, bear in mind that the surge in orders is a temporary reaction to low interest rates and the need to access equity that is currently locked into homes. These high numbers now don’t guarantee high numbers in the future. Be mindful of the regulatory adjustments that affect your role in the title and closing process, and adjust to the new work-from-home landscape as best as you can.

We have a lot of tools in our respective tool-belts. We just have to use them wisely and correctly.

During these uncertain times, Alliant National seeks to support our independent agents, helping to chart a path forward for continued business growth. Agents can access a wide range of tools and up-to-date Covid-related information at https://alliantnational.com/coronavirus/.

Feel free to reach out directly to me at randerson@alliantnational.com or 214-293-8067.

Top view of smiley sad face on dish with donuts as eyes and chocolate syrup as mouth

Collaborate with Your Referral Sources

It is in listening that we can we detect areas in which we can offer assistance and provide tools.

The best (most effective) strategies for acquiring and maintaining new business no longer depends upon the delivery of pastries or a free lunch. Today, recruiting participants means searching for and then filling needs, recognizing gaps, appealing to goals, and ultimately providing tools for achieving those goals.

A defined process that leads to a better understanding of a prospect’s pain points, coupled with a plan of attack, enables a title agent to bring value to clients.

We’ve all been there. After weeks, perhaps months, of professionally approaching a realtor or lender prospect, the much-sought-after initial meeting gets scheduled. 

Then mental preparation turns one’s thoughts toward how best to provide value to the prospect, within compliant borders, that will sufficiently attract them to begin using our services.

Too often, our approach centers around providing a laundry list of goods and services our company offers. As we run through what can sometimes be an exhaustive list, we hope that at some point, our prospect will react favorably, and drill down into the particular offer which they find irresistible.

As we have found out, and is often the case, this never happens. What we have unwittingly done, is waste the prospect’s time by offering products or services which are not needed. These types of meetings usually lead to a polite “thank you,” and “we will let you know” response.

A better approach involves putting ourselves in the place of our potential referral source, and viewing business challenges through their eyes. It is a given that they are faced with the same type of questions we have, in trying to obtain their business. They are seeking ways to attract their own referral sources even as they spend time and money to do so.

Instead of laying our tools on the table, hoping one will be useful to our prospect, the better approach would be a consultative one. Use the first five minutes of the meeting asking questions about business strategy and goals, methods currently being employed, and history of success and failure.

It is in listening that we can we detect areas in which we can offer assistance and provide tools.

For realtor prospects, this may involve keying-in on monthly meetings put on by the broker in charge. It is their obligation to provide meetings and speakers, to bring value to their franchise, and to attract and keep top agents. 

An offer to sponsor the food, as well as line up industry speakers, will go a long way in obtaining an endorsement from the broker, while adding valuable face time with the agents with whom we are trying to connect.  Providing a short segment on title insurance itself, will show your prospects that you are a subject-matter expert, and worthy of their consideration.

For lender prospects, offer to line up a real estate office presentation, with them as the main speaker, on topics of lending particularly interesting to agents. Again, an offer to underwrite the cost of food, line up the presentation, and participate in the program will bring value to your relationship with that lender. It is possible to work collaboratively with your prospects, employing a consultative approach, and filling needs gaps, to help them in their business. This altruism places you and your agency top-of-mind when the decision is made for title work.

Loading New Year 2019 on Chalkboard

Checking in with Your Business Development Plan

If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, you probably created a few New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 a couple months ago. In addition to the standard exercise more, eat healthier and get organized, did your resolutions include new business development?

Whether you identified a few business-oriented resolutions or you’re just considering ways to improve your business in 2019, we offer ideas to incorporate into your daily professional practices.

Developing the Mindset. If you don’t have it already, you need to develop a “business development” mindset.

Develop a thorough understanding of how new business factors into your business’s revenue and operations goals over the short-term and long-term.

Once you have that understanding, it’s much easier to develop a plan of where to prospect for that new business.

Business Development Activities to do Now. Refer to our recent blog about business development activities you can incorporate right now as a quick and effective way to get started. 10 Business Development Activities.

Think Outside the Box. Brainstorm, create diagrams, pictographs, charts or doodles—whatever it takes to get your creativity flowing.

Come up with as many ideas as you can for where you can source new business. Then, do deep dive research into each idea and prioritize them.

Make a solid plan to follow-through on your Top 3 ideas. Keep the additional ideas in a safe place and refer to them after you’ve implemented the Top 3.

Stay Positive and Focused. Face it – you’re going to run into some negativity while prospecting for new business. For your plans to be successful, it’s imperative to keep a positive mindset in the face of negativity.

Not every business development idea you have will be successful, and that’s okay. Use the unsuccessful attempts as a learning activity to improve your efforts. Don’t give up and keep developing creative new ways to locate news business for your business.

One additional note: Remember Alliant National is a great resource to advise and educate independent agents on prospecting for new business.

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