An industry of lost souls

An industry of lost souls

An industry of lost souls

IT WAS 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, and I swiped my access card to gain entry to the brokerage where I worked and strode into the office. I was greeted with a sea of empty cubicles and workstations. “Where are all the brokers?” I asked myself. “Why is no one working? Are brokers so busy that they can’t even show up to the office?”

I had become licensed only a few weeks prior. My knowledge of the brokerage industry was limited to what I had learned in the course to qualify and the few things I’d heard from friends.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated about the industry was the poor work ethic. I quickly realized that the average broker put in something like five or six hours per week; some worked other jobs, and others seemingly didn’t even do that, making me wonder why they even spent the money required to get licensed.

I realized quickly that the brokerage industry, both in real estate and in mortgages, was filled with lost souls who thought that the certifications we held amounted to a licence to print money. I had been one of them once, in a previous incarnation – at a time when, lacking direction, I filled my days with working out, video games and watching HGTV. Apparently, the world shown on screen in such shows is enough to persuade some future brokers that mortgages are a field in which money can be made without a commensurate expenditure of effort. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

To be a successful broker, you need to work. Every day when I entered that office, amongst the empty chairs, I saw the same few faces, and these were the brokers who were successful. In a brokerage of more than 400, only a handful of us seemed to show up to the office with any regularity, and we were the ones who consistently put numbers on the board.

I often put in 12-hour workdays – meaning that my average day in the office clocked in at the equivalent of two weeks’ work for most brokers. Similarly, in a one-month period, I would do more training and work than many other brokers would do in a year – and in a year, I would do more than these same brokers managed in an entire career. This work ethic is what allowed me to become a team lead by the end of 2008, only a year and a half after getting licensed.

Today, a little more than a decade from starting out in this amazing career, I am at the helm of an agency that is also riddled with lost souls – people who interviewed well but couldn’t walk the walk. When I come into the office, I am daily greeted by the same faces – the brokers putting in the hours – and unsurprisingly, these are the top performers.

The other brokers combined cannot come close to the numbers that these hard workers post. I find myself asking the same questions I did more than a decade ago. But this time I also ask myself, “Have I failed them as a leader, or is it our industry that has encouraged this?”

The barrier to entry to become a mortgage broker in much of Canada is so low that it’s no wonder we have so many people joining the industry just to make a quick buck. Quebec requires a much longer process and completion of a much more stringent course in order to become a broker, but even that is relatively simple.

Given the fact that buying a house is likely to be the largest purchase most people make in their lives, I have a hard time understanding how our government allows parttime and poorly trained individuals to advise clients on these transactions.

It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. It took me a little over two and a half years to master my craft. Ask yourself how long it will it take you and what can you do to accelerate that time. If you want to succeed, show up to your office, educate yourself and never give up. You are working in the greatest career ever created; show both it and the clients you represent the respect they deserve.

Terry Kilakos is a chartered mortgage broker and founder of the North East Group of Companies, where he serves as president of North East Mortgages and vice-president of North East Realties and North East Financial.