When Cecilia Ramos, owner of Ultimate Mortgage and Finance Solutions, started in the mortgage business 20 years ago, she spent a lot of time networking and marketing. Whether it was a corporate event, a social event, or something in between, she was there.
“It was my life; seven days a week I’d go to events without even knowing anybody,” Ramos said. “A lot of people will go to events and meet people, and it ends there. But with me, I take it to a different level, to the next level, and I truly cultivate that relationship and that’s a true testament to my success today.”
Laying the groundwork then means that today, Ramos doesn’t spend a lot of time and money on marketing. She’s been able to tap into communities and partners that specifically want to work with her as opposed to any other broker that approaches them. Loyalty is earned, and it goes a long way.
“Over the years I’ve sustained and maintained a lot of those relationships so now, I don’t see people and go out and ask for business. They come to me and ask for my services,” Ramos said.
That also includes clients. Ramos has noticed, however, that as she’s dealing with clients who are the next generation of her initial cohort of clients, that they don’t necessarily value that loyalty as much. They are more quantitative than qualitative, and Ramos says that it’s been frustrating trying to get her message across. Her approach there has been to flip the equation and look at their needs from their perspective, something that will come in handy as she reaches more younger buyers.
Ramos has a wide client base that includes people with multiple credit incidents to high net worth individuals, and her retention level is well over 90%. Her bread and butter is the residential mortgage space, but she also works with sophisticated investors on commercial deals. She has worked with her three other partners for 10 years, and her team includes 58 licensed agents and brokers underneath her, including four support staff.
Ramos wanted to become a family lawyer, but couldn’t afford law school. She worked at the Bank of Montreal in order to put herself through undergrad at the University of Toronto, and she eventually worked her way up into management on the operations side. She was then given the opportunity to work as a mortgage specialist with Home Loans Canada, even though she didn’t have sales experience. She had a great first year, and something clicked for her.
“I started realizing, I don’t need to be a lawyer to help people,” Ramos said.
Even though connecting with her database has been important to her business over the years, the database has often been the thing that falls to the wayside when business gets busy. In 2019, Ramos says she was more proactive in calling everyone, and in asking for referrals. It’s a balancing act, though; she doesn’t want to get too many referrals or too much business from past clients without being prepared for the uptick in business that will inevitably follow. From here on out, she’s growing more thoughtfully and intentiaonlly.
“I don’t want to grow without maintaining the same level of service that I provide to my clients. I don’t just push paper, I don’t just put deals together; I spend time with every single client of mine, educating them and showing them how to become financially independent,” Ramos said. “It’s very taxing, it’s very time consuming, but that’s how I like running my business.”
She will prepare her infrastructure in the year ahead, growing her team to deal with the extra business that’s sure to come, and probably opening another Toronto office. Ramos expects to close 2019 with around $70 million in personal volume, her team at least $150 million, her firm somewhere between $700-$750 million. She’s increased a little since last year but admits that she has no intention to grow “leaps and bounds” year after year. She’s happy with steady growth at this point in her career.
A lot of mortgage brokers get into the career for the promise of growth and the money that goes along with it, and although Ramos says that there’s a lot of money to be made (and she herself has made a lot of it), that it’s the wrong way to approach the business. Instead, she says, brokers should focus on knowing what they’re doing and focus on working for the greater good, which is making a difference in people’s lives. That means cultivating good relationships, looking for good business and not getting into the temptation of doing bad business to make more money. Ramos said that brokers can spend all kinds of money in marketing all the time in the world meeting with people, but if the focus is wrong, it’s a big stumbling block to business.
“It’s not a secret, but people truly have to embrace that. People have to be genuine about it. You can’t fake it,” Ramos said. “At the end of the day, you have to make your business and your life meaningful.”