How Peter K Johnson thrived despite the GFC and COVID-19

The day Peter K Johnson and his wife Maureen signed the dotted line on their Mortgage Choice broking business was the day the Lehman Brothers collapsed – a moment that signalled the start of the GFC. Despite this, Johnson went on to pave a successful career in broking and expand his business to service the entire Sutherland Shire as well as the Illawarra. MPA spoke with Johnson about the journey so far and how the future will be a family affair.

A daunting start

When Mortgage Choice Sutherland came up for sale in 2008, Johnson saw a great opportunity to start his own business and further his career. Working as a loan writer for the business since 2003, he had a solid understanding of the industry as well as the brand. He says the level of support offered by the Mortgage Choice network cushioned the blow of the GFC, which happened shortly after he purchased the business.

“It is a very collegial company to work for.”

“The biggest comfort was I knew that I could talk to anybody within Mortgage Choice and get support from anybody in the network.”

Taking over a business against a backdrop of global economic turmoil would have been a daunting task for any broker, but Johnson and his wife decided to give it everything they had, following the philosophy – “If we build it, they will come.”

Despite the GFC they found there was still plenty of activity, and before long the pair had hired two full-time admin staff and started outsourcing.

A period of expansion

After seven or eight years of building up the business Johnson was presented with another opportunity that would see them start a period of expansion.

“The franchisee in Cronulla decide to sell and wanted to get out reasonably quickly.”

“That was too good an opportunity to pass up because we could utilise the economy of scale with the office in Sutherland and the staff that we had.”

About 18-24 months ago, Johnson and his wife added Mortgage Choice Wollongong to their business, purchasing the franchise of their long-term friend who had decided to retire.

The impact of COVID-19

When COVID-19 threw the business into a whirlwind of activity, Johnson and his wife utilised the lessons learned from their business coach, who they took on at the start of the year.

“He was very helpful in getting us into the mindset that this is a great opportunity. You’ve got to thrive to survive in this sort of market.”

One day when they were working around the dining room table, they asked their son to help out by doing some data entry.

Having been exposed to broking for most of his life, he never had any inclination to follow in his father’s footsteps until the pandemic opened his eyes to the profession.

He had worked in the hospitality industry until then, having lined up overseas work that he had to let go.

“He started to get a little bit of a feel for the business and then he started to get a little bit more interested.”

“He’s always been a studious person, so then he said I might do the Cert Four broking course.”

“He studied that and he said, I think I might join the business.”

“We nearly fell over.”

Johnson and his wife are now very happy that their son has come on board.

“It’s really pleasant to see and he’s doing a really good job.”

“He’s a very personable person and he’s got the gift of the gab so he’s very comfortable sitting in front of clients and talking with them.”

“We’re very happy with that outcome.”