When mortgage companies started to close due to the collapse of the real estate market, Deanna Daughhetee didn’t fear for her own company. Instead, she capitalized on the fact that there was less competition.
“You need to make sure you do think about what kind of opportunity does this present to us,” Daughhetee says about the economy. “It really starts you thinking about things in a different way, and that’s when you come up with new ideas and new opportunities that maybe you hadn’t thought about before.”
The company, which Daughhetee founded and owns and at which she serves as president and CEO, has 31 branches in 25 cities and opened 11 in 2009 alone.
Much of the company’s success venturing into new markets comes from the involvement of her 350 employees in the process. From gathering research all the way to replicating the company culture in each new location, the process must include effective communication and a set of expectations.
Smart Business spoke with Daughhetee about how to involve employees when venturing into new markets.
Decide how to expand. We actually have a team (to do research). Our marketing team is involved in it and our senior management gets involved in it. Then we also do some informal information gathering out of typically our sales force.
We would go out and we research the markets so we’re looking at demographics, we’re looking at competitors what’s the competitive landscape in markets defining what we think our opportunity is in the market to determine whether it’s a good market for us.
The second thing is can we find the right people in that marketplace or can we transfer people from within the organization into that marketplace.
Is there a good labor force there? Are there people that are trained in whatever it is you’ll be hiring them to do? If not, can the training be provided? What’s the unemployment rate in the market that you’re talking about? How many people are you going to need to hire?
Those types of things are all going to factor into your ability to get that off the ground with the right people.
It’s a combination of (then) analyzing the information and talking through it with your team because you really want to make sure you think it through. When you have a team together and people bringing up different aspects, different thoughts, different challenges, I think you end up making a better decision.
Create an expansion team. On that team, have a point person that will coordinate everything and communicate to the team everything that has to happen and the status of what needs to happen.
That tracking that that person needs to do needs to be from finding your facility down to the smallest detail of who is ordering the office supplies in order to make sure you get everything covered so you have a smooth opening that’s the most important.
The point person makes sure that everyone who needs communicated with is getting communicated with on a regular basis because things will happen, things will come up. In order to keep everything coordinated together, there has to be a process to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on because one thing may affect something that someone else is responsible for.
You need to make sure you have the right people on that team that can ensure what needs to happen gets taken care of and that there’s good communication and collaboration among the team.
Then, good communication with me on what the status is and where we’re at if we run into an issue to make sure that I know that, as well.
The point person needs to be a very detailed-oriented person because they will need to track a lot of information. They also need to be someone who can take charge because they are going to be coordinating with a lot of different people, and needing to get updates from a lot of different people and sometimes they need to push different people to make sure everyone is staying on track.
Define expectations. You also need to define very clear ramp-up expectations. As you either hire or promote whoever is going to be in charge of your new branch or your new area, just be very clear on what those expectations are so everyone is on the same page going into it. That’s one-on-one communication.
It puts everyone on the same page with what results we’re looking for. It allows everyone to work together to achieve those results and to make sure they’ve done what they need to do in order to support getting that result. And then it also allows for everyone to celebrate the successes as those results are achieved.
If they’re not achieved, everyone can also get on the same page with looking at what’s gone wrong, why are we off and what do we need to do to fix it? So it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Set a culture. You have to start with a strong culture initially because you really need to build on that.
The best way is if you’re promoting someone from within to go lead that expansion because that person is already immersed in that culture. Whoever the hands-on management in that new expansion might be, they’ve got the primary responsibility of making sure it’s consistent with the rest of the organization.
If it’s not a promotion from within and you’re hiring someone to lead that, you really need to immerse them in your culture.
What we do is we bring them into our corporate headquarters so they get familiar with both the people here, the environment, the culture, get an understanding of how they work, then we’ll send them out to different branches so that they can get that perspective also. It’s a great way for them to really talk to a lot of people and really understand the organization and what the culture is.
Then lastly you have to talk about it. You have to make it clear that your expectation is that they build the same culture, so you’ve got to be able to define it and make it part of what they’re responsible for.
How to reach: American Equity Mortgage Inc., (314) 878-9999 or www.americanequity.com