darren-poolThis has been an absolutely insane year for many reasons. Though the world won’t suddenly “return to normal” when the clock strikes 12:01 on January 1, the dawning of a new year does bring hope, a better sense of the new normal and a clean slate. But don’t wait until you’re in your New Year’s best to begin thinking about 2021. The time to plan is now.

Focus on Cash Flow

There’s no denying this has been an absolutely terrible year for many businesses and industries. I say this from a place of extreme gratitude and acknowledgement, as the mortgage industry hasn’t suffered the way so many others have.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t.

We all know real estate is cyclical. At the same time, we have no idea what the future holds. So prepare as if this were one year ago and you were just told that the world will shut down in five months. I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic, but imagine what those businesses could have done if they had an advanced warning that this pandemic was coming.

Well, you do. We may be on the path to reopening and developing a vaccine, but we also have a big caution light flashing that warns of continued uncertainty ahead. So plan accordingly. Get (even more) conservative with your spending, develop a rainy day fund and focus on saving.

These actions are not about being scared; they’re about being smart. A presidential election, a worldwide pandemic, and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums that will have to expire eventually should be enough to inspire a little business preservation.

Fill the Gaps

As I mentioned, the mortgage industry was extremely fortunate as we remained in-demand this year. This was driven, in large part, by rock-bottom interest rates and a general desire for more space as the country transitioned to a work-from-home environment.

A good chunk of your 2020 business likely involved refinances. That’s great. What’s next? Yes, interest rates are still low, but refi demand will continue to taper off as Americans accept that these new figures are here to stay.

Can you and your realtor partners shift your marketing efforts to focus on the value of larger houses and ample backyards, now that we’re spending a significant portion of our time at home? Can you launch a targeted campaign for city dwellers who now may have the option to live (and work) wherever they like, touting the benefits of nearby secondary and/or suburban markets?

I can’t tell you where your gap is. Just know it almost certainly exists. Find where your opportunities lie – and go for it!

Put People First

Clients don’t typically appear out of thin air, just as your team can’t read your mind when your focus shifts. Preserving capital, filling gaps and pivoting can be challenging endeavors, but they’re also necessary. Your success lies in whether you can effectively share your vision with your team.

This all starts with company culture. Members of a well-oiled team have mastered the work-life balance, understand their role in the organization, have respect for their fellow teammates and work each day toward the greater good.

Sounds fabulous in theory, right? It’s completely achievable, but not if you don’t provide an open, welcoming, supportive environment for them to thrive. This includes remaining flexible and empathetic to team members’ needs, which may very well have shifted during this pandemic.

So stay attuned to your team members, their needs and aspirations. Ask them questions. Engage regularly. And, most of all, communicate with them about your own plans, pivots and objections for 2021.

Regional Vice President - Southwest

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