Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in the “Industry Warriors” series, a collection of profiles on veteran real estate professionals and loan originators who produced high volumes pre-9/11 and pre-2008, weathered those economic downturns and rebounded even stronger.
With nearly 30 years in the mortgage industry, Mark Dodson has worked through several recessions, from the early-90s aftermath of the savings and loan crisis, the dot-com bust and 9/11, and the Great Recession.
What he’s taken from those downturns is a balance of staying positive while planning for the worst-case scenario, diversifying the portfolio and investing in marketing for the lending market’s return.
HousingWire spoke to Dodson, founder of Atlanta-based Mortgage Capital Advisors, about how those past recession lessons are shaping his strategy today.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HousingWire: What are you doing within your lending business to adapt to the current market situation?
Mark Dodson: The main thing is to be positive. Back in the day, they had the imploding meter; we kept watching all the different companies go out of business, and people were texting and emailing only negative info. Right away, I told my team, ‘This is temporary. Don’t pay attention to the negative. Let’s stay focused, get our deals closed.’
Just be positive. We have an end in sight, where the last time I don’t think we did.
The thing we’re doing right now, too, is we’re changing our marketing plan. We’re meeting with some new video people about doing more videos and social media. We do social media pretty well, but we’re looking at hiring some people to do it even better for us. We’re trying to stay focused on the future, 60 days out, so when the business starts back, we’re ready to roll.
Because I truly believe it’s going to come back. We have a health crisis, which is causing an economic crisis. The other ones, it was a collapse of our financial situation.
HW: How are you encouraging your team to stay positive during this time? How are you staying positive?
MD: Well, they’re seasoned. We talk daily. What are you doing to get your business in? What about your pipeline? Are you having trouble? We’ve been around long enough to know what’s up and what to do to get through this.
I have a group of brokers that I text several times a day. We’ve all been through it, so none of us are negative. We help each other; we don’t compete against each other. I’ve known these guys for years and years.
HW: What did you do in past economic shocks to successfully navigate the downturns?
MD: My first company I had for about 12 years, and we specialized in jumbo lending. When the first crash happened in 2008, our business stopped. It stopped that day. And I didn’t handle it very well. We sat around, about 15 people, big lease.
We just kept thinking, ‘It’s gonna get better. It’s gonna get better.’ And we saw our business fade away as we were losing different lenders, investors to sell loans to. I had to close that company, and then go work for a couple different banks before I started this one.
The valuable lesson I learned is from day one, start looking at the worst-case situations and what you need to do to get through these times.
HW: Given your history in those past economic downturns, what do you think LOs need to know now that they might not be thinking about?
MD: I think you need to look at the future. Implement some marketing that you haven’t done before. We’re looking at the downtime as, ‘Let’s ramp up and get ready for when times get back to somewhat normal.’
I have a couple of banks that I’ve worked with, and I’ve approached them about doing a marketing agreement. So keep doing things that are going to help you long-term when we get through this.
HW: What piece of advice from your history in downturns would you give to others in your field trying to navigate COVID-19?
MD: See what you’re not good at. I never was a government lending guy – FHA and VA – and that hurt me back in the first crash because that’s all that lending was back then. Now’s a good time to get diverse and specialize in other things. If you’re doing jumbo loans, well, you better start going into conforming. If you’re a government (loan) person all the time, that market has really tightened up. Start looking at other avenues to build your business.
What can you do to strengthen your calling efforts, if you’re out calling realtors? Now’s a good time to go make contacts because people are somewhat idle. Melissa Flom (a senior loan officer with his firm) met with three realtors yesterday, and they’re doing a joint marketing plan because they know this is a temporary slowdown. When times are normal again and start taking off, they’re going to be prepared for it. They’re going to be proactive instead of reacting.