How did your business run when Covid hit? Did you have remote work practices in place or did you have to change scramble to change things at the drop of a hat?

My co-founder and I were fortunate to jump on the remote work bandwagon 4 years ago when we took our separate businesses and joined forces, creating one financial brokerage that services homebuyers in Western and Central Pennsylvania. It was extremely important and productive while we were merging our businesses and it helped us become more productive as we grew our foothold in the state.

The industry we do business in has been called “a dinosaur” and “in the stone ages.”  For the first 8 years of my career, I was putting client document packages together by pulling physical forms out of an office cabinet and going through a list of 200 forms to pick the 20 I needed.

It was an eye-opening experience during our merger when my business partner was traveling, yet still able to direct us in Google Drive, to the forms & documents that we needed access to. His example led me to upgrade our entire office workspace for my team so that they each had triple monitors and the ability to access their work from anywhere!

They were not as excited as I was about this transformation in 2016. The Monday they came into their brand-new computers and screens, I was bursting with excitement until I found one of my senior employees quietly crying in her office. I felt horrible!  How could I not see how this change would overwhelm and throw them for a loop?

I quickly called a team meeting and had everyone line up sitting in a row according to who started with a client, all the way down to who had the client’s file last.  A typical process in our industry lasts for 45 days from the time we receive the starting document, a sales agreement. We physically walked through from person to person, how many times we printed, emailed & scanned the same document. It was eye-opening and shocking!

Team member #1 – Receives a sales agreement via email- prints & put it in a physical file.

Team member #2 – Scans the sales agreement and uploads it to a portal to order the appraisal.

Team member #3 – Scans the sales agreement and all the other forms that were printed to upload it to a bank’s portal.

Team member #4 – By the time we reached the end we had printed, scanned, and emailed the same document 5 or 6 times!

What a waste of time, money, and paper! They got the point and off we went on our journey to become a paperless organization. Within a year, everyone on our team was able to start working from home at least one day a week.  

Fast forward to February 2020, a few weeks before the Pandemic hit, and just before our business exploded in a matter of 90 days. We had been contacted by a few loan officers who had seen our growth and team practices and all at once, we had seven new salespeople and two additional support staff joining our mortgage brokerage on March 1st!

We had to teach them our systems, our processes, how to work with the operations team members, where forms were and finally, for some of them, we had to teach them how to sell and get business! They all came to our Erie, PA location for orientation and onboarding, and then the following week, the Pandemic hit, and the country shut down!

WE FREAKED OUT!  What were we going to do with all these new people who just left their jobs?!  How were we going to train them and help them get business? And on top of that, between the 23 of us, we have 34 kids!  We met with everyone and told them the importance of stepping things up as we all had to work from home. If things didn’t progress and we didn’t sell, we would have to lay people off or have a team pay cut until we got through this.

We never had to lay anyone off.  The team voted for a pay cut so no one would have to feel the pain of a layoff. A pay cut never happened because our business mentor joined our sales training and got them up and running through Zoom training meetings.  My business partner and I opened our client base to the new sales team. We just closed the three biggest months in our company’s history. It was humbling and very satisfying to see all the work we put into our digital and paperless remote system pay off!!

The remote work practices we used and continue to use today are the following:

Google Drive – Everything we work on within the team and with clients is on Google Drive. This allows us to access documents, updates, and any information on our phones and from anywhere.  We had a naming convention to make it uniform and easy to find documents.  

Daily check-ins with Operations & Sales teams via Google Hangouts & Zoom – Every morning starts with our leaders meeting with different departments through Google Hangouts, to go through the most pressing files and to ensure as few details as possible are missed.  Everyone has a webcam and is then part of a Google Hangout throughout the day where they can see each other and unmute if they have a question they need help with. This has helped us stay connected, accountable, and build the same culture as if we were sitting next to each other.

Our sales squad meets every other day to check in on numbers, questions, and to learn new skills from my cofounder and me.

CRM – We launched our CRM this year after testing a number of them and ours is still a work in progress, but we are already seeing automation that will save us time and money.

Bomb Bomb – I had originally started using video as a tool to improve my efficiency and productivity when communicating with clients and B2B real estate partners.  Video has since been woven into every area of our business.  

We have created training videos, how-to videos, best practices, and the list goes on.  Bomb Bomb is the application we use to record these videos.  It is a chrome extension that makes recording something seamless.  These videos have helped our new team members have a resource to lean on, so they don’t have to ask the same questions over and over. They just need to go to our training library to access what they are looking for.

Team Building – We also have made it a priority to use the above tools and resources to build our company culture and help everyone adjust.

  • Every Friday my business partner leads a “Share Your Wins” hangout.
  • Once a month we have a whole team meeting on Zoom where everyone is part of the celebration (even our virtual assistants who live in the Philippines, Egypt & South America).  We have had white elephant giveaways through Zoom, Ugly Sweater contests, and many more fun activities.

Google Forms – we created a staff shoutout form that we call KAM BAMS!  This is a link that anyone can use to brag about a team member throughout the month.  The person with the most Bams wins a prize during our monthly meetings.

I have heard about many businesses that were not ready when Covid hit and I cannot imagine going through the transition to digital best practices during this stressful time. If that is your business, there is nothing you can do now except continue to get better each day and start adding the ideas above one at a time. Covid will not be the last emergency you will experience and being able to have a group of people shift and adapt wherever they are will ensure your business thrives in any and all situations.

Covid will not be the last emergency you will experience and being able to have a group of people shift and adapt wherever they are will ensure your business thrives in any and all situations.

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