Just nine months into launching his own broking business, Mark Stevenson found himself in a whirlwind of change, writing more than ten times the value of loan settlements he was writing before.
While the structure and size of his business went through considerable change, its core value of delivering exceptional customer service stayed the same and has continued to do so for the past seven years.
MPA spoke with the Top 100 broker about how he went from writing less than $1m a month to writing more than $10m a month in settlements almost overnight.
Desperation is a good motivator
When Stevenson started his own business in September 2013, he says he had little to no savings as well as six-month-old twins to support.
“I think the desperation was a good motivator,” he says, explaining he had never worked so hard as he did in those early days.
In order to get established in the industry, Stevenson spent a lot of time networking and looking for “smart ways to create opportunities”.
He became involved in community events such as school fetes and advertised in a local community magazine. He also worked on his company website and fine-tuned every element in his business and marketing plans.
“I’m the kind of guy that if I pull apart a motorbike engine, I don’t just look at the key bits. I’ll pull everything apart and make sure every little bit’s clean,” he says.
He also turned to people who he felt knew more than he did for advice.
“I didn’t shy away; I didn’t feel like I had all the answers – I was quite open to getting input from others where I needed it.”
About nine months in, Stevenson was given an opportunity to start up a finance broking arm within Bell Partners, an established accountancy firm with a strong reputation. It was a decision that would change the course of his career and rocket him to success.
Stevenson had first come in contact with the team at Bell Partners five years earlier after completing a degree in accounting and economics. As a graduate, he offered to work one day a week for free to see if accounting was the right fit for him. He soon discovered that it wasn’t, but he kept in good contact with the staff.
When Bell Partners decided to start a finance broking arm, they approached Stevenson for the task.
While the deal meant giving up a large stake in equity and a long daily commute to the city, Stevenson could see that the benefits would far outweigh the cost.
“I could see pretty quickly that 50% of a big pie was going to be a lot larger than 100% of my little pie,” he says.
“It would have taken me minimum five years to get where I got to instantly if I’d stayed out on my own.”
He says during his first nine months in business he wrote about $7m in settlements. After executing the deal with Bell, he went on to write just under $70m in the space of six months.
Swimming in the deep end
The transition to such a huge workload was both a challenging and an eye-opening experience for Stevenson.
“I felt such a pressure to make a good impression – I felt like every deal had to be ‘yes’. I just bent over backwards to get deals across the line like I thought I never could,” he says.
“I went from this narrow view of what getting someone a loan meant to this really broad view of what was actually possible to get done if you used the right approach and went to the right lender.”
Over the years, he says, while his business has changed massively, a customer-centric approach is still at its core.
“Providing an exceptional level of customer service is something that I always saw as being critically important, but I think what I’ve been able to do is move away a lot more from those early days of building networks.”
“I’ve got a lot more time now to focus my energy on the customer service piece.”