When you walk into the office of the Mortgage Wellness Group in downtown Barrie, Ontario, there’s no ambiguity about their mission. It’s right there on the wall: In 2020, they’re going to help 600 families live better.
“Our mantra is that we don’t sell mortgages,” L’Ecuyer said. “We always count how many families did we serve, not how many mortgages did we close.”
L’Ecuyer’s focus on family is particularly fitting, as the Mortgage Wellness Group is a family business. It wasn’t however, passed down from one generation to the next. L’Ecuyer got into the business first, and later enlisted his father, who had recently transitioned from a high-level executive position in downtown Toronto. It became clear that his father would be best suited to handling the management and recruitment side of the business, while L’Ecuyer would remain focused on origination and business-building activities, ensuring a steady stream of leads and clients.
Of the 522 mortgages closed in 2019, there was almost an exact 50/50 split between realtor referral business and past client business. Part of the success of their past client business comes from one of the internal sales reps, whose job is to go through the book of business, reaching past clients, preapprovals, and cancelled deals to dig up opportunities, align those opportunities with the right people, and make sure they close. This person plays into the family dynamic very well—she’s L’Ecuyer’s mother.
L’Ecuyer’s team consists of eight internal agents, a compliance officer, a sales manager, and a front desk concierge, the “air traffic controller of relationships”, who acts as the first point of contact for partners and clients. L’Ecuyer says that they’ve been so successful because they try and mimic the corporate environment of a bank with the “easy, breezy feel of a local family-owned business.
“We invest as heavily into our support staff as we do our sales staff so it feels in every way like a big business and a small business, and that’s how we attract really great top talent at a deal that works for everybody,” L’Ecuyer said. “We work for them, and our philosophy is written on the walls: if we take care of our people, then our people will take care of our clients. And if we take really great care of our clients, they’ll take care of us: they’ll return, they’ll repeat, they’ll refer. That’s the wheel.”
Like his overall business model, L’Ecuyer’s marketing model is twofold. Nurturing relationships with realtors and other centres of influence includes hosting partner events, partner appreciation trips, lunches, dinners, education workshops, seminar series for their clients—anything and everything “supporting the hand that feeds.” They also constantly market to their own raving fans through small touches like personal calls combined with larger memorable events (their signature event in 2019 was a day-long holiday-themed extravaganza at a local cinema where 700 people enjoyed free movies, snacks, activities, and prizes)—all of which provide added value.
When L'Ecuyer first got into the mortgage industry, he was the assistant to the top broker in town, working on spinoff deals (even if they were duds) and getting exposure to everything from credit bureaus to income verification. More valuable than learning how to work the files was the process of truly being mentored, and L’Ecuyer says that finding a mentor should be a priority for all new brokers.
“We get calls every day, [asking] ‘what’s your split?’ The right conversation is, ‘How can you support me in my transition to the industry?’ That’s the only conversation,” L’Ecuyer said.
From early on, he knew he wanted to own his own brokerage and grow it to be the largest in his town and the largest in the country. But just like L’Ecuyer focuses on families instead of mortgages, he’s shifted his personal focus to that of relationships and leadership rather than numbers.
“I invest so heavily in trying to become a leader now. I’m really great at mortgages, I know I’m really great at mortgages, but I don’t think I’m a really great leader and that is my endeavour every day: to become a better person and a better person through leadership.”
Part of scaling a business means jettisoning old practices and adopting new ones. In 2019, L’Ecuyer’s company changed the compensation plan for their internal staff, which “flipped the entire business on its head.” Instead of being base plus bonus, the team moved to being 100% commission. They lost a few people due to the change, but they gained some as well, and L’Ecuyer said that those who stayed saw a significant jump in their commission. More importantly, he added, they have increased flexibility.
“The really funny thing is, they’re here 9-5 and they’re all making more money. Sometimes it’s 10-4 and sometimes it’s 8-3 or sometimes it’s 10-2, but they all write their own destiny with the support of our management team. So they’re all living their best life, and I know they are,” he said.
The Mortgage Wellness Group closed 2019 with the most units, the most volume ($192 million), and the most profit that they’ve had in 12 years of business. L’Ecuyer doesn’t run the largest brokerage in the country yet, but with a mindset toward strong leadership and growth, perhaps it’s only a matter of time.