How to Use Creativity to Sustain Your Micro Business During The COVID-19 Period with Tracy Mayo
Tracy Mayo is the owner and mortgage broker for Savvy Mortgage Lending located in St. Pete’s, Florida. She is a certified mortgage planning specialist who left the corporate world to start her own mortgage practice.
In this episode, Tracy describes the benefits and challenges she experienced in her journey from the corporate world to a business owner. She talks about the advantages of being in control of who she works with as opposed to how it was dictated to her as an employee.
Listen in to learn micro business growth strategies that Tracy uses to keep her business afloat during this COVID-19 period. You will also learn the importance of supporting the community as a small business before marketing to them.
“We made a very quick decision that if we were going to keep business coming in the door, we had to get creative about it because I’d rather lower my commission and make less on each transaction than to make nothing.”- Tracy Mayo
What You Will Learn:
• [1:11] She explains how she made the transition from the corporate and cubicle world to start a mortgage practice.
• [2:15] The advantage of being in control of who you work with as a business owner as compared to working for someone else.
• [3:38] Learning how to offer clients what you’re promising as part of providing great customer service.
• [4:54] How she consistently communicates with her clients even when they do not have any active transactions.
• [6:17] She explains the software system that sends information to their existing clientele.
• [7:45] She describes some of the benefits and challenges she has faced as a micro business owner.
• [9:59] She mentions some of the causes they support in the community including the LGBTQ community in St. Pete’s Florida.
• [12:14] The inclusivity of St. Petersburg community which makes it a place for everyone even with all the differences. How it has helped them market their business to the community.
• [13:45] She describes how they were caught off-guard by the many expenses needed to run a business when they first started.
• [15:00] The importance of having a coach to get you out of your comfort zone.
• [16:22] Why they decided to lower the commission that the lenders pay them to sustain their business.
• [18:16] The importance of marketing even when you’re losing money during the COVID-19 period to stay ahead when things resume normalcy.
• [21:00] Learn to get creative in your business during hard times to stay in front of your audience.
Tracie Mayo Interview Transcript
Robert: My next guest on the AIDtoNAV podcast is Tracie Mayo. Tracie is the owner and mortgage broker for Savvy Mortgage Lending located in St. Pete Florida. She’s a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist, and she talks about how she left corporate life and the cubicle world to start her own mortgage practice.
Tracie Mayo, welcome to the AIDtoNAV podcast. How are you doing on this beautiful Tampa Bay day?
Tracie: Hey, Robert Earl, I’m doing great and the weather’s awesome as always in paradise. But yeah, we’re doing great.
Robert: So, Tracie in the intro I went over you are the founder, owner, mortgage broker of Savvy Mortgage Lending. You were in the corporate, really the cubicle world, and made that decision to branch out on your own, like a lot of micro business owners to do. How was that transition and has it been everything that you expected or more?
Tracie: It was a hard transition. Yeah, we were in the cubicle environment. I was an in-house lender with Keller Williams. Great location to be a part of, but I was kind of stuck in that cubicle. I really, really needed to work with other realtors. I had other realtor clients. I needed to get out of the office, and we needed a little more control over the processors to make sure everyone was happy. So, we actually decided to go out on our own and start the process. There was a lot of compliance things that came into play that I wasn’t really prepared for to be quite honest with you in that first year, but you learn very quickly what you have to do to stay on top of everything and to make sure you don’t lose your license. So, it was a little complicated, but well worth it honestly.
Robert: So, you talked about a keyword that I run into with a lot of micro business owners control and them wanting some level of control. How was that manifesting itself? What were you actually feeling or going through?
Tracie: Well, when we were working for other companies, we were at the mercy of the employees that they employed to process our loans, to underwrite our loans and it made it very difficult because we were trying to maneuver for that and dealing with different personalities and different processes that were in place. So, when we decided to go out on our own and actually start our own company, we hand-picked the processing team that we wanted to work with. We hand-picked the loan originators that might work with us and we hand-picked the lenders that we were going to send transactions to because when you work for a company, the company is the lender. As a mortgage broker, we have lenders that we can pick to send our clients to. So, we were basically handpicking everything, and we have a little bit more control over the process. I mean, we can get a loan to closing in two weeks if needed, because we control them.
Robert: That time and also with you, I know since I’ve known you customer service is very, very important and what you’re promising the customer on the front end, being able to deliver that a lot of micro-businesses over-deliver or they don’t have that backing, they don’t have the control to even make that happen. Is that what you were running into?
Tracie: Yeah, I mean, we were over-promising, under-delivering and I don’t ever want to do that. I want to always make sure I can promise. I would rather under-promise and over-deliver all day long. But you learn what you can promise and what you can’t and so having control over that was huge for us. We wanted to be able to be very successful in our customer communication and our customer service and to make sure that those clients came back to us or that those referral partners continue to refer business to us because obviously, we don’t want to lose business because we didn’t do what we said we would do.
Robert: I have a concept that I’m teaching here on AIDtoNAV and it’s really that every day I ask myself two questions I ask who knew, and who knew. Who n-e-w and who k-n-e-w. Who new am I going out to meet today to let them know that I’m in business and who knew, k-n-e-w that I’m still in business and you brought up the word referral. How important is that balance of doing both items for you on a daily and weekly basis?
Tracie: Yeah, it’s huge. It’s huge and so what we do, one of the biggest things that we’re known for is communication with our clients. I mean we notify the listing agent and the buyer’s agent, both sides of the transaction on what’s going on in the transaction weekly. Half of the time well, yeah, I’d say 50% of the time, the listing agent has never even heard of us, but they very quickly learn who we are and they very quickly learn that they can depend on native communique or our team to communicate with them weekly to let them know what’s going on. So, they’re definitely the new people, the n-e-w people that we are reaching out to every single week. And then, of course, we’re always reaching out with our current referral partners to make sure that they know we’re still here even if we’re not doing a transaction for them right now. So, we’re always staying in touch.
Robert: And you have three customers really within it because you brought up the listing agent, you brought up the buyer’s agent and then there’s the end borrower and if that’s a couple, then you have the two partners or the spouses or the individuals are in it. So that’s a challenge in and of itself. Do you just strictly depend upon the gatekeepers of Facebook, LinkedIn to make those contacts or do you have a system that you’re doing this to do that follow up outside of the third-party systems?
Tracie: Yeah, I mean we’re, yeah, I would probably still call it a third-party system now, honestly, but we do have a CRM or a customer relationship management tool that we are constantly putting new information out and it’s going out to everybody in our pipeline, everybody that we’ve had business with in the past, over the years and so they’re always being communicated with and we’re staying in front of them and staying top of mind with them at all times. I would say it’s a third-party because it’s going through that CRM system, but we are entering them into the system and we’re making sure that the information we provide it’s relevant and it’s current.
Robert: Yeah. Most definitely the software itself may be, but AWeber or Active Campaign or the CRM system is not going to change the algorithm and have you stop showing up. They’re not going to be filtered from that standpoint back to control. You’re in control of the information you put in and the message that you put out and I know I’ve received those from you. So, I knew I wasn’t setting you up for something that you weren’t actually doing. Micro-business ownership and then also the experience that you’ve had of being a female micro-business owner going through the corporate environment and then doing the business on your own, some of the challenges and some of the benefits that you’ve faced.
Tracie: Some of the benefits are. I mean, I think that women, in general, tend to talk a lot and so we like to communicate and we like to you know, kind of give people more information probably than they need but I think that it’s beneficial because I think a lot of people move to Florida they have no idea what they’re doing. They don’t know the idiosyncrasies that come with buying a property in Florida and you’ve got new home button homeowners who have never purchased a home before. So, I really do educate and that’s just my ability to talk all the time. So, that’s why I’m saying that that has been beneficial. One of the obstacles I think has been I’m in business with my spouse and that can be very complicated sometimes to maneuver through that because you’ve got that personal level and then you’ve got business levels of communication, and sometimes you tend to work too much when you’re married to your spouse. So, that’s one of the downsides to, I guess, being a small little business like that or a micro-business. I hope I’ve answered the question correctly.
Robert: There is no correct answer. It’s showing that inspiration that I’m going to fill in maybe a couple of the blanks that you did is that there can sometimes be that corporate muzzle. We deal with a sh or if you are explaining or aggressive as a female businessperson that can be looked down upon. So, having that opportunity to be a micro-business and set your own tone and then also yes working with your partner, working with your spouse. Having that time of when do you shut it off? When do you turn that on? How do you have a discuss decision or find interest outside of it? I know that you’re very active in the community as well whether it be from St. Pete and small business and supporting that. The Realtor Association, Pride in St. Pete. Talk about those types of things and I know you do a lot of those things with your partner as well.
Tracie: Yeah, exactly. So, we are part of the LGBTQ+ community. So, we really like to give back to that community when we can, and we take time to volunteer and to support all of those things. So, we support Florida equality, we support Come Out St. Pete, we support Pride. So, all of those things are really important to us because we live in the community and we love the community and we want it to be successful. So, and my spouse is, of course, LGBTQ+ as well. So, we’re constantly spending a lot of time doing that. We spend a lot of time with the Realtor Organizations. I’m working with the Greater Tampa Bay Organization right now. I don’t spend as much time on the Canal side as I used to, but I am still very much in affiliate and will continue to support them. But yeah, we spend a lot of time and money with those organizations.
Robert: Working with your spouse or working with your partner that also gives you an opportunity to do some things that are fun, that are not exactly nose to the grindstone. They give back to the community, but it also is something where you can do things together and be in things to support. So, I think a lot of small business owners don’t schedule fun. They don’t schedule that time that they’re off or don’t pick causes that allow them to, I’m going to say this, let their hair down a little bit, but still have their company shirt on, or the logo, or their name tag, and be a community citizen. St. Pete’s very unique, the Tampa Bay Area is very unique. We both moved here in how I would say accepting it is, how it is a role model for what a lot of the other areas across the country are dealing with right now is that we are all, but yet we represent and we understand that, pick the color, they all matter, they all represent and [12:06 inaudible] background. Talk about that with pride and talk about how important that is here in the St. Pete area.
Tracie: Yeah. I mean, one of the reasons that we moved to this area was for the all-inclusiveness of this community and Mayor Kriseman has done an excellent job of making sure St. Petersburg is very all-inclusive and part of the pride and the LGBTQ community in general, they started waving the different color flags to make sure that all representatives of the community are represented, to make sure that all of that is in place and black lives matter, LGBTQ lives matter, all lives do matter, but very importantly, right now, black lives matter and it needs to be very evident in what we portray out there. So, we’ve actually been, you know, really part of that movement as well because I think it’s important to be part of that. But that’s, that’s very much it. I mean this is the reason we moved here. I love this community. They are the most inclusive community I’ve ever been part of, and I love it.
Robert: And it’s actually been a benefit to your business.
Tracie: It has, yeah. I mean, we market a lot to the community in general, but we work with all clients and, but it has helped us. It has helped us to be part of this community and part of this area to get business.
Robert: So, go back to when you’re starting up your own business, you talked about regulations. What do you think the biggest mistake is that you made when you jumped out and went on your own?
Tracie: Realizing what we were getting from working for the larger companies, because the larger companies of course have a lot more money than we do. The big companies that you’ve heard of. I mean, they’ve got a lot of money. They cover the attorneys, the compliance attorneys. All of the money that goes into making sure audits are done correctly, licensing is kept up to date. We’ve had obstacles and stumbling blocks along the way. We didn’t realize how expensive it was to have an attorney on retainer. We didn’t realize how expensive it was to make a mistake on your license. If you don’t get your license renewed in time, there was a cost to that and so you’ve got to make sure that all of that stuff is done properly, and we didn’t do that one year. We didn’t do it. We had a little glitch and we paid the price and it was very painful and it’ll never happen again because you do learn from those mistakes very quickly, especially when it hits you in the pocket. But that was probably the biggest obstacle I think that we had was realizing how much money it actually took to be business for yourself.
Robert: What role have mentors and coaches played in your development of this new business as well?
Tracie: Well, I’ve always been a proponent of coaching. I’ve had a coach for a decade or more. So, I’ve always had a coach and I have to use my coach, honestly, to get me out of my comfort zone sometimes, to raise prices for things or to get rid of some things that I’m not getting a return on the investment. Sometimes you get kind of complacent and comfortable in what you’re doing, and they take you out of that comfort level and that safety zone and they push you a little bit. Honestly, without that pushing, I’m not sure I would have started my own business to be quite honest with you. But it made sense and now I would never go back to work for another company. Never.
Robert: So, having that coaching even before, when you were thinking about making that move and having that improvement, and here you were under a corporate umbrella having the coaching, but then also looking at making that transition. So, let’s look ahead. I know we’re dealing with an uncertain future, although we take control of by playing the, who new, who knew game ourselves with business. But in order for the rest of this year or the next 12 months to be successful for Savvy Mortgage Lending and yourself blank has to happen.
Tracie: Well, I mean, we have to stay top of mind. We made a decision very early on when COVID-19 hit. Around the second week of March, we decided to lower our compensation that the lenders pay us. We made a very quick decision that if we were going to keep business coming in the door, we had to get creative about it because I would rather lower my commission and make less on each transaction than to make nothing. So, we made that decision very quickly and so we lowered our commission with all of our lenders across the board so that we could offer awesome, low rates to our clients and still get them to closing and still have 100% control over the transaction. Had we not done that I don’t think that we would be as busy as we are. We actually had our busiest month that we’ve ever had ever in June. I mean, we closed 22 transactions and that’s a lot for a single loan originator company because I’m really the main loan originator with the company. So, that was a lot of transactions and it was simply because we got smart very quickly on our compensation.
Robert: Changing what you’re offering is offering some sort of promo, having a database that you can communicate that out to individuals. You’re not a secret company. You didn’t start building that when a wave came up that could capsize. You had already put those types of things in place, and then the outreach and the networking that you’ve done in your communities, you can also reach out to them and let them know, hey, we’re still here, we’re still in business. We’re still doing things. That’s, that’s a message that folks listening to these episodes they’re going to hear us consistently talking about. Don’t wait until that crisis comes. Plan ahead, have some risk management and then that empowers you to make some of the decisions that you were talking about making.
Tracie: And one of the things too, we also did, and I think this is huge and I think this is what a lot of small businesses and micro-businesses don’t do is we decided to continue to spend marketing dollars. Even though business was coming in, we were making less money. It was coming in a little slower at the beginning of the process and people weren’t working and they were losing their jobs. So, we decided to ramp up our marketing. So, we actually increased our marketing dollars and especially from a social media standpoint because people had a lot of time on their hands. They were sitting in front of computers. It was the ideal time to start marketing to people and spending a little more money so that we’re ahead of the game when people start getting back into a situation where they can work. I think that that’s what a lot of small businesses stopped doing. They stopped marketing because they were losing money, but it was the perfect time for us to continue to market.
Robert: And you had built that plan all along that you could respond in that way. Tracie, I wanted to have you on, because I want to share with you and I’m sharing this publicly. You and your partner have been a role model since the day I met you. You’re a role model and how you operate and interact with the agents and your customers. But the way that you also have a double bottom line, Ted Leonsis has a book called “The Business of Happiness” and he talks about that profit bottom line but then also what you give back to the community and the two of you have been shining examples of that and I appreciate it because you’re the best that the Tampa Bay region has to offer from that standpoint and it’s nice to share your story with others around the country, around the world.
Tracie: Well, thank you, Robert, that makes me tear up honestly. Thank you. I appreciate the compliment. That is what we try to do.
Robert: Well, people are watching, even when you think that they’re not watching and that’s something with the small business, the micro-businesses that it’s not always about getting that sale the first time it’s putting the layers on, but putting the primer on and then putting the coats of paint on. At one point it will shine. It will be to the point that you want it to so quit going for the sale right away. It’s relationship-based and then it’s letting your light shine from the example you do, and you are living that and doing that. So, that’s great and then making that jump that you did to become a micro-business owner. Anything else you want to add that you can talk directly to a micro- business owner and say, you really need to consider this or that?
Tracie: Yeah, I mean, well, I mean pretty much what we’ve said. I mean, coaching is huge. If you’re a small or micro-business owner and you want to even think about moving to the next level, you’ve got to put some money into yourself and invest in yourself and coaching is the best way to do that. Marketing for sure to clients. Be there, get creative, get innovative. When restaurants shut down because you couldn’t have anyone in because of COVID, a lot of restaurants got creative and figured out how to do something different. How to do take out, how to do virtual restaurants. It was really crazy how some of the business owners I know personally got creative and it kept them afloat. I think that’s the biggest the biggest thing I would recommend is just get creative. Figure out a way to get creative and stay in, stay in front of people.
Robert: Fantastic. Tracie, thank you so much for the time. For those of you watching, if you’re enjoying this, please hit the subscribe button, push the little bell, you’ll be notified of new episodes. We’re also on all of the major podcast players, Apple, Google, iHeartRadio, Spotify, you name it. You can take the show on the road with you and so Tracie, thank you so much. Until next time, make it a great day.
Tracie: You too. have a good one.
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