“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
In some ways, Charles Dickens opening salvo to his book A Tale of Two Cities feels just about right for 2022.
Fresh off two straight years of historic origination volume and waves of title profits, most title businesses knew that the refinance train was likely to slow this year. However, the promise of a strong purchase market meant (and still means) there would be plenty of opportunities for those prepared.
As we approach the end of the second quarter, we’ve had some unexpected economic variables enter the equation. But that doesn’t mean that it’s time to hunker down for title agents. Far from it. Instead, it’s time for the best to separate from the pack. That means leadership and planning.
Do Your Research
When you created your business plan for 2022, you probably researched what the economists were projecting for the year and plugged into the outlook for your specific geographic area.
Update your research at least once a quarter, taking into account updated economic factors, interest rate projections, and – with an ear to the ground – what your customers are telling you is happening on the front lines.
Follow the Numbers
An experienced executive of one of the top title insurance underwriters once pointed out in his presentation at an industry conference that it does you no good to track statistics if you don’t make decisions based on them.
Numbers don’t lie and business plans must be adjusted to account for fluctuations in the marketplace. This could mean having a defined strategy to add staff if the market gets hot or having a plan for getting all tasks accomplished if you are working with a lean staff.
The Backup Plan
Don’t wait for the crisis to hit. Always have a backup plan on paper. This is why you don’t want to “cross that bridge when you come to it.” Most of us have an immediate emotional reaction to a shift in circumstances. It’s difficult to make calm, thoughtful decisions when we are reeling from an unplanned event.
It is much easier to make decisions quickly if you have thought through potential scenarios to begin with. If A happens, I will immediately put plan B into action. If the projected numbers are X for Q2, I will immediately shift to plan C.
Communicate with your Staff
Be honest and upfront with your staff about what is happening, explain why you are heading in a new direction, and share the data upon which you are making those decisions.
Your staff knows what is happening in the marketplace. They know when they are buried under a mountain of work and desperately need help and they know when things are slowing down. Acknowledging the truth of the situation and enlisting their help and support builds trust and loyalty over time.
No matter what challenges you are facing, always keep your customers’ experience at the forefront of any plan. Although you may be scrambling behind the scenes, you always want to make sure your customers experience a calm, orderly and seamless process. Centralized processes, effective technology—both at the point of consumer contact as well as behind the scenes—and professional customer service will never hurt any title agency. In fact, they become critical competitive advantages in markets like this. Just because 2022 isn’t likely to look like 2021 on paper doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for success. It just means you’ll have to seize your opportunities.