09/18/2019

Marketing to Your Commercial Customers

Comm business

By Amanda Calloway

During the summer between my two years of law school, I worked for one of the real estate partners at a large law firm in Atlanta. Most of my time involved listening in on conference calls, sitting in on client meetings, lunches and happy hours.

While I learned precious little about title or closings during this time, I came away from this experience with one very valuable lesson which I have carried with me throughout my career. Following each client call or meeting, the partner I was working for would have a quick re-cap discussion with me. This largely consisted of him recounting how well he’d interacted with the client, so that I could take note and model myself accordingly once I became a big shot commercial real estate attorney like him. While this seemed to me like self-congratulatory BS, something he said has always stuck with me.

During a discussion of how wonderful he was, he told me, “Amanda, you should always keep in mind that people do business with people that they like!” At the time, I recall having to resist the urge to roll my eyes while thinking, “If that’s the case then he would be his own best client … he certainly likes himself a lot.”  

However, as I’ve grown my own client base over the past 12 years of practice, I’ve found that this was great advice, ironically, from a not-so-likeable mentor. One of the keys to a successful commercial title business is repeat customers, the kind of customers who bring you every piece of business they’re involved in because they like working with you and your team. It sounds so simple, but what it takes to make them like you, I mean to really, really like you, is a bit more involved. 

In this Engagement Lab at ALTA ONE we will discuss how to:

  • L (earn about your target customers)
  • I (mpress with your expertise)
  • K (ill with customer service)
  • E (xpect future business)

LIKE your commercial clients, so that they will like you back!

Amanda Calloway of Calloway Title and Escrow LLC will address this topic during the education session titled “Marketing to Your Commercial Customers” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

 

09/17/2019

Maintain Culture as Your Company Changes

Employees

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard part; you swiped left and right so many times that you now have tendonitis of the wrist, but it was all worth it for the newest professional you have attracted to your team. But, wait? Was that really the hard part? Are you prepared to get through the 90 days of dating your newest, shiniest team member? Have you created an action plan for success so intuitively structured around your company’s culture that when the euphoria wears off, you don’t have to fill this role again?  

Swiping left and right at random isn’t a winning strategy for finding what you really want. Instead, we should find what truly fits rather than what fits for the moment. Finding what you want requires an intentional strategy that includes learning to let go of the options that simply won’t work. 

What’s your strategy to protect yourself, your image and your company when what was once shiny and new walks out the door onto their next adventure and you’re left holding it all together? We plan responses to clients on why they should choose to work with us. We plan responses to potential talent on why we’re the best fit. We even plan responses to defend our culture and business practices. And yet, we are never prepared to be our own publicist when we “consciously uncouple.”

We know it’s rough out there. The title industry is not much different than the dating scene. We poach and cannibalize while daters ghosts and troll. But perhaps all of this is an opportunity to be better tomorrow than we are today. Join us in this engagement lab to have a conversation about how to maintain a strong culture of collaboration and communication as we navigate both good and difficult change in our companies.

Julie McConnell of Mid-States Title Insurance Agency and Andi Bolin of Celebrity Title Company will address this topic during the education session titled “Maintain Culture as your Company Changes” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

09/13/2019

The Business Value of ‘Thank You’

1d8463-20151228-thank-you-note

By Cindy McGovern

Remember the last time a client, a boss or a co-worker gave you a handwritten thank-you note to let you know you’re doing a good job? Maybe someone at work has surprised you with flowers, an unexpected gift or a bonus. Has a vendor ever slipped you a gift card worth the price of a cup of fancy coffee, just to show appreciation for your loyalty?

It felt good. It might even have prompted you to keep up the good work. You might have thought back to that gesture when you toyed with moving to a different company or switching to a cheaper vendor.

That’s how others feel when you take the time to show them your appreciation. So do it often.

It’s true that some regulations and guidelines restrict you from giving gifts to clients. But your gesture of appreciation doesn’t have to cost you anything. It doesn’t even have to be a gift. Simply saying “thank you” can go a long way toward improving employee morale, retaining valuable staff members and keeping your clients coming back. In fact, in survey after survey, more than 20 percent of employees have said:

  • If they don’t feel recognized for doing good work, they have recently applied for a different job—compared with 12 percent of employees who do feel recognized.
  • More appreciation from bosses would make them happier at work.
  • They prefer written or oral “thank yous” over extra time off or gifts.

In our industry today, none of us can stand to lose a good employee. Saying “thank you” can help you retain your good employees.

Saying “thank you” is a simple but powerful gesture. And it can lay the foundation for a great relationship so when the time comes for you to ask someone to go the extra mile, that person will return the favor.

Here are a few no-cost ways to express your appreciation:

  • A handwritten or emailed note that includes a specific reference to something the recipient did for you or trusted you with can elevate a casual business relationship to a more important one.
  • After a crazy month, an in-person pat on the back for a job well done—again, with specific mentions of achievements—lets an employee know that you notice and appreciate hard work.
  • Returning a favor after someone has done one for you tells the other person that the relationship is not one-sided.
  • Some sincere words of appreciation can pick up an employee or coworker who is showing signs of burnout or depression.

Too often, we are running a million miles an hour, juggling umpteen tasks and, unfortunately, taking others for granted—even when we know we couldn’t get it all done without them.

We throw away the “thank you.” Or we say “thanks,” but it’s not heartfelt. Maybe you end every call with: “OK, great, we’ll get that done. Thank you so much.” But you’re just being courteous, not grateful.

Instead, be thoughtful about your gratitude. Think about how much your job depends on your clients, customers, co-workers, managers and others. Thank them, and mean it.

As a small business owner, I hand-write thank-you notes on fancy paper and mail them in time for Thanksgiving delivery each year to some clients, employees and vendors —even some former ones. It feels good to show people how grateful I am for their support and trust. And I hope that they feel good when they realize that I appreciate and remember them.

That kind of follow up not only sets you up for positive results with these people in the future, but it signals that the professional relationship you want reaches far beyond a single transaction. It says you care enough to stay in touch. It says you are truly grateful for them.

Cindy McGovern is CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a San Francisco-based consulting company that specializes in helping title companies grow their businesses. Her book, Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work is available for pre-sale at drcindy.com/about-the-book/book-specials/. At checkout, enter ALTA2019 to pick up your autographed copy at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas.

09/12/2019

RESPA 411:  Be Confident that You’re Complying with RESPA

Compliance

By Holly Bunting and Ken Trepeta

Do you know the Dos and Don’ts to promote your business compliantly under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)?  Are you operating (or have you considered operating) advertising agreements or joint ventures with real estate brokers and mortgage lenders?  What kinds of arrangements are catching the attention of regulators? We’ve got the RESPA 411 for you at ALTA One in Austin, Texas. 

It’s been eight years since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took over the responsibility for regulation and enforcement of RESPA. Enforcement of RESPA was a hot topic in the early years of the agency. Many companies all but ceased these kinds of arrangements when Director Richard Cordray led the CFPB and advanced novel interpretations of Section 8. With the DC Circuit’s 2018 affirmation of Section 8(c)(2) as a valid exception permitting payments for services performed, companies have renewed their interest in advertising opportunities and strategic partnerships. Now’s the time to ensure you understand what is acceptable and unacceptable conduct under Section 8 of RESPA. A focus on your company’s compliance today with promotional activities and sponsorships, advertising agreements, co-advertising and affiliated business arrangements will go a long way in avoiding enforcement in the future if the tides turn to headline-making settlements and litigation under Section 8 of RESPA. 

Join us Oct. 23, at ALTA One for a one-hour session to drill down on Section 8 of RESPA. In addition to a refresher on the basic prohibitions and exceptions under Section 8, we will discuss what to do and what not to do related to advertising agreements and joint marketing, sponsorships and other promotional opportunities, and affiliated business arrangements. Even if your company does not co-advertise, sponsor events, or own an interest in a joint venture, knowing the legal landscape is important to operating a compliant title insurance business. 

Holly Bunting of the law firm Mayer Brown and Ken Trepeta of RESPRO will review the latest cases and enforcement actions on RESPA, affiliated businesses and marketing services agreements during the education session titled “RESPA 411” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

09/11/2019

Build a Culture That Embraces Technology

Technology

Technology is rapidly evolving. Is your team ready to change with it? Here are a few tips to help you build a culture that embraces technology:

Understand Habits

Have you ever moved into a new home and found yourself driving back to your old address instead of your new one? Or arrived home and realized you don’t remember the entire drive? A lot of people have because their route is a habit. Habits are simply patterns that we repeat, and they’re hard to break. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – habits allow us to focus on the things that require our attention while performing known tasks in the background without having to think about them. Habits embed in everything we do, including processes at work, and recognizing their importance is the first step in building a culture that embraces technology. 

Include the Team

Change is hard and it isn’t (usually) a conscious decision of your team to ignore changes in processes and workflow. Including your team members as part of the project team can help break down barriers. It can also help with adoption by providing insight into the current process, potential pitfalls with the proposed changes and championing these new processes and technologies throughout the organization.

Follow Up

Implementing change means breaking a pattern, so follow-up is key. Training is necessary for new things, but without reinforcement, people fall back into old habits. The good news is once the team is used to the new process, new habits are formed that become second nature. Keep an open line with your team to understand their concerns with the process or technology and teach the reason behind the change. 

Ease In

New technology. It sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t mean you have to jump into the deep end of the pool right away—you can doggy-paddle your way to the end and be just as successful.

Want to continue this discussion? Join me at ALTA ONE to discuss how to avoid these pitfalls and adopt change in your office that sticks.

Samantha Budzyn of Amrock will lead a session titled “Technology Is Rapidly Evolving: Is Your Team Ready to Change With It?” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

09/10/2019

Commercial Business: Getting Your Feet Wet Without Sinking The Boat

Commercial

Where do I start? How can I just jump into the ocean with the big fish and act like I know what I am doing? YIKES!

Take a breath. You have mastered the residential side of title and escrow. Think about it! Not an easy task. Most people do not understand the titles on our business cards let alone our role in the homeownership process. You got this! Now, let’s talk about coaching you to dive off into the deep end of the pool and learn to swim with the big fish!

At ALTA ONE during the education session “Commercial Business: Getting Your Feet Wet Without Sinking The Boat,” I’ll demonstrate how your title and closing experience has given you a solid foundation to explore the world of commercial real estate transactions with confidence.

We will start with a discussion about the opening of escrow and title. Crack open the oyster and see who holds the earnest money along with escrow and commercial escrow agreements.

Our discussion will also hit on reviewing the commercial purchase agreement and understanding the transaction from the beginning. You’ll learn what to look for and how to make sure nothing slips through your net!

Knowing what players should be participating in the transaction is important. Do we have Blue Points, Rockefellers or Pacific or all of the above?

One of the better parts of working in the commercial world is the opportunity to swim with both your title friends and experts as well as your escrow buddies throughout the entire transaction. We’ll look at why this facet of the transaction is critical to your success!

I’ll also help you understand the role your examiner plays in the transaction and how their involvement scores big with commercial clients. Every day brings another sand dollar and a new facet to the transaction. It is as fluid as the ocean!

Examine legal description and draw or compare with survey. Review Deed Chain of Title for establishing title findings. Do we have access to the moat? Easements, CCRs, liens?

Do you have the right poles and bait for the issuance of the commitment and the title policies? Determine the policy form and endorsements for the transaction. Provide copies of all exceptions to title with the title commitment. Authority to issue? Process to obtain? All questions we’ll discuss during the session. We will make sure there is no shell unturned, so you’re not left holding the bag. Are you ready to captain the ship?

I am looking forward to traveling with you on your next voyage—commercial transactions!

Aye, aye, Captain!

Margaret Sklenar of Metropolitan Title of Indiana will lead a session titledCommercial Business: Getting Your Feet Wet Without Sinking The Boat” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

09/05/2019

Better Than 20/20 Vision: A Blueprint for Profitable Growth

Eyechart

By Cindy McGovern

How many times have you sat in the optometrist’s chair and heard that endless series of questions: “Is this one better? How about this one? Now, how about this?”

It’s not that different from settling down to write your annual strategic business plan. “Would this strategy be better? Should I spend more? Who should be responsible? Now, how about this?”

The one thing both activities have in common is VISION. And despite how impatient you might get looking at endless details from every perspective, it’s a critical part of creating a successful plan. Because unless you’re seeing clearly, you’re not likely to ever get where you’re going.

At the 2019 ALTA ONE, we’ll be talking about just that. And to help you see things clearly, we’ve framed six steps to successful growth planning around that VISION. Here’s your eye chart:

  • Verify who you are: affirm your mission and reason for being
  • Integrate it into a plan: establish your goals and metrics
  • Strategize using your strengths: know your SWOT
  • Identify your team: maximize your human resources
  • Organize and activate: bring your plan to life!
  • Never forget to measure: review and evaluate your success

A good plan should function like the right pair of glasses or contacts—it should bring things into focus and keep you moving in the right direction.

But it doesn’t do you any good sitting on the shelf. That’s why we’ll be spending as much or more time on how to bring your plan to life, get the right people involved, and watch its progress carefully. 

Plans, like eye prescriptions, need to change regularly, and sometimes frequently. And as such, regular check-ups are essential because in today’s competitive and dynamic environment, you can’t afford anything less than 20/20 vision.

It’s time to start seeing the future of your business more clearly and planning accordingly. You can create a blueprint for profitable growth, and we’ll show you how.

See you at ALTA ONE!

Cynthia McGovern Orange Leaf Consulting and Rich Griffin of North American Title Insurance Co. will lead a session titled “Better than 20/20 Vision: A Blueprint for Profitable Growth,” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

09/03/2019

Developing Your Leadership Talent

Leadership

By Beth Burbage

Would you like to be able to go on vacation (insert tropical island, cozy mountain retreat, or your dream spot here), and not worry about how your organization is running in your absence? How about being able to leave at the end of the day when everyone else leaves, vs. being the person who turns out the lights every night? What about sleeping well at night knowing that you don’t have to fret over all the details of the business? Oh, and who’s going to take over the business when you sail off into the sunset??

In speaking with many leaders over the years, these are some of the things that they think about and long to do, but don’t know how to get to the place where their team can manage independently while they are away, no matter how short (or long) the timeframe.

HELP WANTED – EMPLOYEES WHO WANT TO BECOME LEADERS!

Instead of posting a “help wanted” ad on your company’s bulletin board, come to this ALTA ONE Engagement Lab to join the discussion. We’ll be talking about the key traits and skills to look for in potential leaders in your organization. And as you’ve probably already figured out by now, it’s not always the person who is the highest performing person in your organization!

We will also tackle what your role is in helping to develop the folks you identify as your future leadership talent. Sorry, you can’t wave a magic wand or send them off to a leadership bootcamp somewhere to get them instantly ready to lead! Part of your responsibility is to determine what they will need to continue to work on, and you will be coaching and supporting them along the way. When you attend this Engagement Lab be prepared for a lively discussion and to receive some resources to take back with you to help you be successful.

Beth Burbage of First American Title Insurance Co. will lead a session titled “Developing Your Leadership Talent,” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

08/29/2019

Cyber Snipers are After Your Clients: Protect Them or Pay the Price

Cybersecurity

By Bill Burding and Todd Sexton

Cyber criminals target with sniper like precision. The safeguards adopted in recent years may not be sufficient to thwart these attacks. As you advance internal security measures, your clients become the target; however, your business may end up paying the price. Learn how to educate your clients, enhance organizational security and protect yourself against litigation.

Real estate professionals are advancing security protocols within their organization; cyber criminals are becoming more strategic with their assaults. They are infiltrating and accessing the information by attacking your clients directly. Understand recent attacks, recognize client vulnerabilities and how you can take a proactive role in the prevention of cyber-crime.  Your fiduciary responsibility may extend beyond your organization and could be impacted at every touch point of the transaction.  

The sophistication of these attacks has taken on a new life; security protocols must advance at a greater rate than the methods of infiltration. Discover how the methods of security may not be meeting the minimum standards recommended to foil these attacks.

Take the necessary steps to educate your clients in the prevention of cyber fraud, as well as providing the correct method of secure access to clients preventing email related fraud.

ALTA is helping its members combat wire fraud. Learn about the ALTA Marketplace and the benefits of the newly formed Coalition to Prevent Real Estate Wire Fraud. The session will also help you understand the benefits of penetration software and insurance to form a multi-pronged approach in the protection of your business.

Learn about recent legal cases and understand some of the pitfalls professionals just like you have encountered causing your business to become compromised. Find out what can you do to limit your liability if you are involved in a legal action.

Finally, learn if there are currently gaps in your security protocols. Understand the most comprehensive ways to protect client information in transit and at rest. Know the benefits of penetration software and blockchain technology. Determine if the standards you have in place are currently adequate.

Bill Burding NTP of Orange Coast Title Company and Todd Sexton of Identillect Technologies will lead a session titled “Preparing for Cyber Attacks” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.

Building a Flexible Workforce

Flexible

By Andrew Ewan

What does a flexible workforce mean to you? Webster’s dictionary has the following definitions for flexibility: 1capable of being flexed; 2yielding to influence; 3characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements

Other than the first one, I think our industry is held hostage by the others. Although, I would argue that some of us are capable of being flexed, especially by those persistent Realtors. We certainly feel and sometimes succumb to the influence of both Realtors and lenders, but I would argue, also to our changing workforce.

We are consistently facing a different demand from the workforce than we did 25 or even 10 years ago. On top of juggling the regulatory hurdles, we are now faced with balancing retiring staff, new roles, remote workers, downturn in loyalty, etc. It is mind-blowing to figure out where to focus your efforts when you are managing an operation.

In this Engagement lab, I will provide some guidance, thoughts and suggestions on how you can build a successful, but also flexible workforce. In the spirit of engagement though, I will also be very interested to hear how others might be tackling this problem in their workplaces. Please join me in mapping out a future of flexible workforce.

Andrea Ewan of Dearborn Title Insurance Inc. will lead a session titled “Building a Flexible Workforce” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.