Firelight Mortgage owner Mathew Schulz kicks it old school

by Kimberly Greene31 May 2018
Mathew Schulz is a mortgage broker. And when it comes to his company, he’s also the president, the owner, the legal department, the janitor, the everything.
 
In spite of the sheer volume of work that needs to be done on any given day, Schulz has continued to fly solo and is successful because he’s found a style that works – a style based on interpersonal communication that serves as a nice, slow marinade in a world full of fast food.
 
“I’m a phone call, in-person kind of guy, not so much an email, text kind of guy. I will do whatever a client prefers, but in this industry, speaking with someone, you can gauge their tone, level of interest, whether they’re understanding something or not – that’s very, very important to me,” Schulz said.
 
A common thread that runs through the business methodology of many of the most successful originators out there is the quality of their in-person interactions, and this is certainly true for Schulz.
 
“If there’s something that sets me apart, I try to run my business in a much more communicative and educational way,” he said. “A lot of times [originators] make the phone application, they run their credit, the loan officer gets their documents, boom boom boom, you can qualify for a $500,000 house, here’s your generic pre-approval letter, call me back when you’re under contract. And that is not how I operate.”
 
Schulz comes from a family of educators, and so to him, it makes sense that his clients should understand not only how the process of getting a mortgage works, but how mortgages fit into the greater financial landscape. And he goes deep; after an initial walk through the mortgage application Schulz gives clients a unique hour-and-fifteen-minute presentation that outlines everything from how mortgage interest rates are determined to the factors that cause them to go up or down. Other originators think that he’s crazy, he said, but that presentation is about more than facts. It’s about being transparent, diffusing concerns, establishing rapport, and building trust.
 
Part of the reason why he’s able to spend so much time on each client is because the structure of his business allows him to make more money from each transaction. As a one-man broker shop who owns the company, he doesn’t have to give a split to anybody, thereby making a much higher profit margin per file.
 
“I can spend much more time with the client than say, somebody who’s making 50 basis points on a deal and has to churn them through. I’m really lucky in that fashion; one or two loans a month will keep me afloat (I shoot for 8-12 loans just because that’s the kind of guy I am), but I don’t have to do 20 loans a month to be super successful.”
 
Schulz benefited from working with and helping to grow a company for three years before starting his own brokerage, ultimately leaving because he wanted to do business his own way. One of the things that he was explicitly his told at his previous company was not to attend closings, advice which he ignores today.
 
“I was like, are you kidding me? That is the culmination of everything!” Schulz said. “I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, I’ve got very happy clients sitting at the closing table, and very happy real estate agents sitting at the closing table. It’s then when I give my thank you presents, I have a handwritten – yes, handwritten – thank you card, and in there is asking for referrals and reviews through Facebook or Google, so that’s when everybody is the happiest. You had a smooth closing, and they’re ready to give you a good review. . . . Go to your closings, that’s so huge. Again, old school, but so huge.”
 
In spite of his unflashy approach, he does embrace technology and professes to “live and die” by his Microsoft Surface, which he uses for more than half of his work, in spite of having a more elaborate setup in his office. Being connected through secure clouds across multiple devices is crucial to how he runs his business, as it allows him to be mobile much more easily, one of the reasons why the job is “so wonderful.”
 
“One of the clichés that I always say is, the less I’m in my office, the more successful I am. Being out, meeting with people, whether that’s lunches, or coffees or educational events, the less I’m in my office, the more I’m networking, the more business I’m bringing in, the better I am.”
 
He’s been in the business for 15 years, and running his own mortgage business for 11. And although there are benefits to running with a pack, Schulz prefers to be a lone wolf.
 
“I don’t hide the fact that I’m a one-man shop. There are guys that I think try to make themselves look bigger than they are, so it’s a challenge, and you can either hide from it or embrace it, and I embrace it.”
 

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