Marissa Schulze, director of a multi-award-winning, ever-growing Adelaide brokerage, tells MPA that when your business revolves around love for your clients, the money soon follows
MPA: How did you establish Rise High in 2011 and grow the business to the team of 18 you have now?
I had a career in commercial banking before we started the business, and I was working for Westpac when I became pregnant with our daughter. Once I had her, [my husband James and I] decided that it would be nice for me to be able to have a bit more flexibility and to be at home with her for a bit longer, so we thought we’d try broking and see how it went.
James was still working in IT at that point and I was running the business on my own, and it just started to get busier and busier and then I needed to hire some administrative help. I fell pregnant again with my son quite soon after we started the business, and we decided it was time for James to quit his job and come into the business full-time as well. By that time we already had administrative support. When he started in the business he didn’t have any loan-writing experience – he had been working in IT for 10 years. He learnt how to be a broker, and he’s a great broker now.
Of our first couple of brokers, one was a girl I went to high school with and we had worked at Westpac together. She was in a similar position to me in that she had her first child and decided that she wanted a bit more flexibility. Another of the brokers I met at a mother’s group and she was looking for a career change at the time. Our most recent brokers have come from our clients – people that are really interested in property investing and just have the right personality and a real interest in what we do. It’s all come together naturally.
MPA: You are passionate about property and bought your first investment property at 18 years old. How have your experiences helped you in your business?
I think every experience I’ve had up until now has helped us in our business. I think it’s just pulling together every experience in life and having an interest and passion in property outside of the business that has helped me, because people can see I’m genuinely excited about property when they speak to us. I think you have to be interested and excited about property if you’re going to be a mortgage broker, because while it’s finance, obviously it all comes down to property, generally speaking.
Obviously the banking background helped, although when we started the business I’d never written a residential loan before, and resi is now what we mainly focus on, so that was a bit of a change for me. But it was pretty easy for me to figure it all out and learn the ropes, given that I had that banking background and it was good to know how the banks work internally. So I think every experience that I’ve had in the past has given me skills and experience that have helped us with the business.
DIVERSIFYING TO MEET CLIENTS’ NEEDS
MPA: Rise High recently won the 2017 MFAA Excellence Award – AMP Bank Finance Broker Business Award 6+ Loan Writers. What’s your winning formula?
• Home loans
• Refinance/debt consolidation
• Investment loans
• Subdivision and development loans
• Construction/home improvement loans
• Self-managed super fund loans
• Personal and car loans
• Commercial loans
• Self-employed loans
• Accounting and tax services
I think we are good all-rounders. Obviously we’re writing significant volumes, but it’s more than that – it’s the fact that we are consistently growing and we have been growing since day one of our business, and it’s been a nice growth story of the last five and a half years. But it’s also all of the extra things that we do. We do a lot in the community; we run a lot of free financial literacy programs for children; we’re very engaged in our local community; we’ve got some really innovative ways that we market, and we connect with our audience via social media. We have exceptional customer service results with our client base … our business and our client base has grown purely from client referrals. I think it just comes down to the fact that we care about the community, we care about our clients – none of us are doing this for the money, we’re doing it for the love, and when you do it for the love, the money just comes.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
MPA: You won the AMA Young Gun award in 2013, reflecting your strong start as a broker. What advice do you have for new brokers?
Rise High runs free property investment seminars (six each year) and education around finance for its clients, which is a win-win for the business and clients alike. These value-adding services:
• show the broker going beyond the transaction, thus strengthening long-term relationships with clients
• typically cover different topics based on client interest
• include speakers such as Rise High brokers or outside experts
• have proven to be an effective way to stay in touch with clients post-settlement
• offer clients the opportunity to bring along family and friends they would like to refer
You need to be prepared for hard work and to set yourself some daily rituals that will get you doing the right activities from day one. At the end of the day, building and growing a client base basically comes down to the fact that the more people you meet and speak to, the more opportunities you’re going to have … you need to set yourself targets of how many people you are going to add to your database that week; how many meetings you are going to have in your diary that week.
It’s just starting with the small things and recognising that it is a long game and that you need to treat it as more of a marathon, not a sprint. But you do need to work really hard at making sure that you’re getting the right habits from day one, because it’s those habits that will serve you well in terms of building some consistency and helping you to grow your client base quickly.
“I think it just comes down to the fact that we care about the community, we care about our clients – none of us are doing this for the money”