Five years ago, Jay Seabrook and Kevin Cochran were actively recruited by Gary Mauris
to join Mauris’s new mortgage brokerage Dominion Lending Centres
Inc. The company only had about 50 brokers at inception, and Seabrook and Cochran were comfortably earning six-figure salaries as speakers for Richard Robbins International, a sales training company. But Mauris’s enthusiasm was difficult to ignore. “When I first met him—and I think some people probably take Gary the wrong way because I definitely did—I said, ‘this guy isn’t real. There’s no way he is always like that,” says Seabrook. “Kev was really into him right away. I was more skeptical because I said, ‘who could possibly have this much energy all the time?’ But my first week at the company, I saw he was the real deal. He’s a very, very, very unique individual.”
Now Seabrook is the vice-president of operations at DLC
based in Vancouver, while Cochran is the regional director based in Toronto. Meanwhile the brokerage recently placed No. 46 on Profit
magazine’s Hot 50 list of Canadian Emerging Growth Companies for 2010. This is the second year the firm made Profit
’s Hot 50, which ranks the top 50 young businesses in Canada by two-year revenue growth. From 2007 to 2009, Dominion Lending Centres Inc. grew by 98 per cent. “Gary had a very big vision,” adds Seabrook, “and we bought into his vision.”
Mauris’s vision was to be No. 1 by outperforming and securing more mortgages than any other national brokerage. He often speaks about achieving No. 1, and to be ahead of the nearest competitor by the widest margin possible. But underneath the No. 1 goal-driven personality lays a desire to give more than he receives. “I love changing the way people feel about getting a mortgage,” says Mauris. “I love seeing our owners and agents become successful and thrive themselves. I love the underdog story. I love watching someone who was average become exceptional.”
This may be because Mauris has his own underdog story. Mauris was born and raised in Port Coquitlam, B.C., where the DLC head office now stands. He worked his first job in Grade 5 as a busboy, and always kept two or three jobs through to graduating from high school. “I grew up in a very… I don’t want to insult my mother, but a poor family,” says Mauris. “I couldn’t play hockey because my parents couldn’t afford hockey gear. We went on one holiday every two or three years, and it was a driving holiday where we went camping. We just didn’t have any money.”
Mauris recognized early on what he did have was the ability to deliver more than what was expected. He never attended university but his entrepreneurial spirit and motivation led him to build and sell two successful businesses in his adulthood: Slim Line Designs, a company that manufactured oak wall-mounted cigarette machines; and an ATM business where machines were sold to “every bar, nightclub, cabaret and casino across Canada.” What led him to the mortgage broker industry, afterwards at 37 years old, was the enormous potential he saw in it.
“Whatever happens in the U.S., always happens in Canada a few years later, whether it’s fashion, music, whatever the trend may be,” says Mauris, now 42. “In U.S., at its peak, 75 to 80 per cent of all people used a broker to get their mortgage. So knowing that only 30 per cent of Canadians used a broker to get their mortgage, I thought there was a tremendous upside. I’m five years in now and I’m more encouraged about our business than ever before.”
Mauris wants consumers to instinctively see DLC as the opposing brand to the banks, which will likely always dominate the market share for mortgage financing. “In every industry in the world, there is a lead brand and a challenger brand,” says Mauris. “In coffee, the lead brand is Tim Hortons, challenger brand is Starbucks. In communications, the lead brand is Rogers, challenger brand is Bell. In realty, lead brand is Re/Max and challenger brand is Royal LePage. In the mortgage industry, banks have lead brand. We’re always striving toward DLC as the challenger brand.”
To heighten DLC’s challenger brand status, the brokerage has signed Don Cherry as its TV spokesperson for the next three years. “I’m proud that we are at a point where we can actually afford that,” says Mauris. “We think of it as a pioneering move where every single mortgage company, agent and lender is going to benefit from that. We have a celebrity spokesperson who is one of the top 10 greatest Canadians of all time talking about mortgages. It’s game-changing.”
Becoming the indisputable challenger brand is inevitably a boon to DLC brokers. “I’m not in the mortgage business. I’m in the mortgage agent business,” says Mauris. “My job is to build the very best tools to help make an agent’s job easier, and help them generate more business. Our agents will never ever work for us. We work for them. Our boss is our agents.” Mauris is keen on listening to his bosses whenever they have an idea to share or a problem they need help solving.
In November 2009, Mauris was in Victoria, B.C. speaking at one of the DLC agent universities. At lunch, a broker named Jason Zailo approached him. Zailo said he learned more in the two hours listening to Mauris speak that morning than he had in three years of business. Zailo had never funded more than $10 million a year, which roughly equates to $80,000 annual income. He asked if he could call Mauris later on to ask for more guidance. Mauris agreed. “True to his word, he called me next week,” says Mauris. “On November 15 of last year, I said, ‘Jason, if you follow my lead, I’ll mentor you over the next 90 days. So every week, I had a half-hour call with him and I gave him goals for that week. From November 15 to December 30, 2009, he funded $8 million and cashed $80,000 in commission. Between June of that year and November 15, he had only funded about $250,000. Now he is one of our top 20 brokers in the country.”
During this time, all the broker owners in Victoria were asking Mauris in astonishment: “What are you doing with Jason? How did that happen? This guy’s on fire. What are you doing? Can you help us?” So in January 2010, Mauris launched a pilot seven-week mentorship series called the President’s Program for the top agents within five of the biggest Ontario offices. “All five offices had record quarters,” says Mauris. “I have 50 agents whose business has doubled since they started the program.”
Mauris’s ease with people and instinct to help others succeed was evident to Seabrook early on. “He is a consummate leader, and the best person I’ve ever seen in terms of building relationships with people,” says Seabrook. “The way he is with people is remarkable. He continuously builds people up and gives them credit. He is incredibly warm and very humble. He’s always learning. You’ll go with him to see a speaker and the next couple of days; he’s using all of it even though he’s at the high end of his game in business. He’s still a sponge and always learning from people.”
Aside from loving to see speakers in his spare time, Mauris is a voracious reader and reads at least one book a week. “Besides my family and my business as a whole, what is most valuable to me is my book collection,” says Mauris. “I read business books. I want to feed my brain all the time. I sound like a nerd but I love it. I don’t give books away. I’ll buy anybody any book they want any time but I keep mine. Pages are torn over, they’re highlighted, and words are circled. It’s where I get a lot of my drive and ideas from.” Two books he recommends are Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay, one of his favourite writers.
Mauris’s appetite for learning and generating ideas is boundless but he does know how to turn it off. “I travel a lot but I fly home every Friday afternoon,” he says, to his wife, Kelly, 13-year-old daughter, Marisa, and 19-year-old son, Cole. “When I get home in the evening, I don’t work from home. I don’t take calls, I don’t check my BlackBerry. I attend as many functions and events for my kids as I possibly can. And we still take regular holidays.”
In everything Mauris does, he undoubtedly loves to give it his all and likely doesn’t know how to do otherwise. His energy may be hard to fathom at first but he quickly proves to be genuine in his efforts and passion. It’s easy to see Mauris tries to achieve No. 1 not just in business but in all parts of his life.
In the 5.11 November issue and earlier online, CMP published Mauris's children's ages as 14-year-old Marisa and 21-year-old Cole. Their correct ages are 13 and 19, respectively. We regret the error.