David Heilman has originated reverse mortgages exclusively since 2007. He was recruited into the business by former NRMLA Board member Paul Franklin, who owned a small business in Charleston, SC, called Franklin Funding, Inc. Heilman became the first person in South Carolina to earn the Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional (CRMP) designation, which he still maintains. In 2011, Franklin Funding merged with Success Mortgage Partners, Inc., based in Plymouth, MI, and Heilman spent the next seven years helping build the company’s reverse mortgage business. Last fall, he formed his own company, Homegrown Financial, LLC. Weekly Report sat down with Heilman to find out more about the process and challenges of setting up a small business.
Question: How does it feel to be a small business owner?
Heilman: To be honest, not that different. I came into this industry learning from one of the best in Paul Franklin, who founded a small broker model, Franklin Funding, Inc., in 1999 that specialized in reverse mortgage financing and concentrated on just one geographic area – South Carolina. This is how I cut my teeth in the reverse industry; a lot of “hand-holding” and a consultative approach involving not just our borrowers, but also their trusted advisors, family, and friends. Certainly, there is pressure to perform and provide as I do have a young family, but that pressure was there before going out on my own. At the end of the day, I believe in the industry, the clients we serve, and we can’t ignore the demographics nor the ill prepared who are entering their retirement years. I guess I really didn’t need many more reasons to push all your chips in the middle of table and bet on myself.
Question: What resources helped you most in terms of setting up your company?
Heilman: Our network should be our best resource whether we are launching a company or helping older homeowners access the equity in their homes. There is no doubt my industry network helped me launch my company and do it in a timely manner. Since my start in 2007, I have made a lot of connections and friendships in this industry and along the way I tried my best never to burn any bridges. When I left the broker channel in 2011 and teamed up with some of the best and brightest in the space, it exposed me to a lot as well and prepared me for going it alone. From sales to operations to servicing, I was like a sponge for the last seven years and along the way I made great connections with some awesome people. My professional network was also a great resource for me as I have connections with CPAs, attorneys, and others that played a role in helping me get to launch in October 2018. Finally, time was a resource I had a lot of in 2018. Once I made this decision, it was six months later before I actually launched and with lower volume it allowed me to spend the necessary time on everything from branding, legal, compliance, licensing, accounting, investor sign up, etc.
Question: What has been your biggest challenge(s) thus far?
Heilman: The biggest challenge in terms of company formation was definitely state and local regulations. The amount of follow up and attention to details that is needed to navigate this area is why some companies have dedicated personnel for NMLS (National Mortgage Licensing System) requirements. If there’s a bigger challenge as it relates to our industry I honestly don’t have one yet. We would all like more volume, but if you want more volume you need to meet more people, have more conversations, and change more minds. This primary challenge existed when I started in 2007 and continues today, however it’s also our biggest opportunity and that’s what gets me excited, especially now!
Question: How has your sales approach evolved over the past 12 years?
Heilman: As our product has evolved over the years, so has our approach to attract more responsible borrowers with emphasis on planning versus last resort. However, my overall sales approach hasn’t changed that much. I still believe in providing as much face-to-face communication as possible with borrowers, trusted advisors, family and friends. I am not afraid to tell someone the loan isn’t appropriate for their objective and there might be another alternative more suitable. Those things haven’t changed since I started 12 years ago, and I really don’t see them changing going forward. What has changed, to pinpoint something, is my interaction with prospects and current clients. To convert more prospects into closed loans, I have made a conscious effort to stay top of mind with all my prospects. From periodic personal letters and a monthly e-newsletter to Facebook and LinkedIn invites this keeps me top of mind for those who aren’t ready quite yet but could be next year or the year after that. Finally, I have made it a priority to stay in touch with my current clients and offer to “review” their current reverse mortgage annually. This allows me to reconnect with them, answer questions about their loan, and offer guidance on how best to manage funds going forward. It also keeps me top of mind when the subject comes up with friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues. All we must do is ask them to share their experiences with others and referrals happen naturally.
Question: What are your goals for 2019? What steps must you take to achieve your goals?
Heilman: Great question! I love goals and make them annually, both personal and professional. I make sure each can fit on one page and I even get them laminated and put them in a place that I will see them daily. For example, my personal goals (which consist of spiritual, physical, family, and personal) are prominently displayed on my bathroom mirror where I can briefly review them each morning as I get ready for the day. My business goals (which consist of building my network, communicating routinely with prospects, communicating routinely with clients, and strategic campaigns) are clearly displayed in my office. The actions steps for both personal and professional will have to remain in-house, but I highlighted a few in the previous question in terms of staying top of mind with prospects and clients. Oh, and as part of my professional goals, I also envision the number of HECMs I expect to close in 2019 as well as the number of proprietary reverses I expect to close—both of which can be tied back to the number of applications, prospects, and leads. By doing this simple exercise, I know exactly how many leads, prospects, and applications I need each month to reach my goal number. Just the fact that I have a “Proprietary Reverse” closed loan goal this year makes me optimistic and bullish on 2019 and beyond for our industry.