Alan Harder has always been motivated by financial independence, striving to achieve financial freedom from his businesses for both himself and his Mother. Passing his mortgage exam in 2013, building his knowledge and becoming an equity partner 6 months later, Alan has always had his eyes on owning a business and making a living in the real estate market.
Today we caught up with Alan to see how the business is doing, what motivated him to begin in the first place and how he and his business have coped with the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
Over to you, Alan.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I’m a mortgage broker, so I help people find financing for their real estate. But really my job is 90% communication. Listening to what a client needs, explaining the application process, and setting expectations. Then finding the right lender from hundreds of options and preparing the mortgage application so the mortgage underwriter has all the information they need to make a decision quickly. And finally, keeping everybody looped in and happy so they know what’s going on.
When did you start your business?
In 2013 I passed my mortgage exam but struggled to get a foothold as an independent broker. At the time I was working full time as an accountant and I knew I needed a mentor to succeed. I made a list of anybody advertising online and on my lunch break, I’d go sit in my car and make cold calls. After two weeks of calling, one person said no but didn’t hang up right away. We kept talking, and when my lunch break was over I’d schedule a follow-up call for the next day. After a few days of talking, we became friends. The entire time I’d think of ways I could help him grow his business. After the fifth phone call, he said if I’m always so persistent I’ll be a great broker, so he gave me an entry-level job. I began as a mortgage assistant, booking meetings and sorting documents for senior mortgage brokers. After about 6 months I started working directly with clients, eventually investing in the company and becoming an equity partner. In 2017 we merged with 3 other similar-sized companies to form a national organization, one of the largest of its kind.
What motivates you?
Financial independence. My parents divorced when I was 12 and my mom ended up working three minimum wage jobs. I saw the toll that took on her. I got a job at 14 to take away some of that stress, but I knew hourly pay wasn’t going to fix the problem. I wanted to build a business that could solve those financial problems for both of us. She’s also a mortgage broker now, earning 10x what she did back then and half as many hours per week.
How has the Coronavirus pandemic impacted your business? And how did you adapt?
I’d been working from home for 8 years when the pandemic hit, so my standard operations haven’t changed much. But COVID had an odd impact on the Canadian real estate market. Demand for homes has increased dramatically, putting a strain on the entire market. It’s slow to get home appraisals, lenders are overwhelmed with applications, and sellers demand shorter timelines. It’s hard on home buyers and it’s pricing first-time buyers out of the market. The government regulators are doing what they can to stymie this overheated growth, and I hope it brings the market back into equilibrium soon.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I get a huge sense of personal pride when I build something that frees up time or mental bandwidth. It could be as simple as writing a checklist for my phone calls so I don’t forget to ask a question or working with a software engineer to automate administrative tasks.
What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about starting up their own business?
I’d give two pieces of advice
- Figure out your marketing early on, and focus on doing one approach exceptionally well. You can’t do everything, and if you try you’ll do even less.
- Take 100% responsibility. If my client doesn’t understand something, I think of it as an opportunity for me to improve my communication. They’ve just helped me to identify my own blind spot so I can improve for the next person.
Focussing on your marketing is very important when it comes to running your own business, as seen in Alan’s case over the past few years. It will be interesting to see how the business develops over the course of the next few years with the ever changing real estate market in Canada.
If you would like further information on Alan’s business and how he runs it successfully, check out the Alan Harder website here.