Success is a springboard, not a hammock.
The above quote jumped out at us as we were trying to summarize our chat with Josh Higgelke, a mortgage broker from Calgary. As you’re about to find out, Josh came to the mortgage industry after having a successful career in the trades.
the friendlii crew: Agree or disagree: Kevin Bacon’s fame is somehow tied to his last name being ‘bacon.’
Josh: I don’t believe so.
the friendlii crew: Speaking of secrets to success, tell us 3 things about your company which people can’t Google.
Josh: Oh, that’s tough. That’s a really difficult question… I do feel that the more we advertise, the more we put out there about our company. Here’s one: we’re extremely quirky. We like to make a lot of dry jokes in our office. We often use puns, etc., a lot of those ‘poor dad’ jokes. Just ask our amazing office assistant, Jasmine.
Number two… hmm… I’m really struggling with this one! 😊
the friendlii crew: Let’s see if we can help you. For example, how did you pick the domain name lessinterest.ca for your website?
Josh: OK. It’s the domain name I use for my email only. Here’s what happened: I hired a whole new marketing crew a year ago or so. They were shaking their head when they saw how many different domain names and branding assets we were using.
Our branding is now all under ‘The Higgelke Group’ umbrella, but I insisted that I keep my email as firstname.lastname@example.org only because I find it’s easier to share with both existing and new clients than saying so-and-so at higgelkemortgagegroup.com.
Initially, I purchased lessinterest.ca because it was available and was somewhat relevant to our industry. That’s the background story on lessinterest.ca.
Number three, I will allow deals to consume me. Our clients may not always see that, but I wear my heart on my sleeve. Every deal means so much to me. I hope that everyone feels the same way, but I really invest myself in every deal. One thing I don’t do well is separate life and business.
the friendlii crew: How did your amazing office assistant join your team?
Josh: We had someone else before who had a history in banking, but when they came over, they did not like it here. So we kept on looking, and one day the receptionist in our office building mentioned that she knew someone who was very personable and looking for a new job. She was, at that time, working at Home Depot but looking for a new challenge. So we invited her to come in and pretty much instantly liked her.
So, we thought, maybe it’s better to start with a clean slate. I used to be an electrician before I started in the mortgage industry.
Hiring Jasmine turned out to be a big windfall for us because, in addition to being a personable go-getter, she’s also extremely proficient with Excel and all other MS programs, etc.
the friendlii crew: Thanks for sharing this, Josh. Stories like this, we hope, will be well-received on friendlii because they’ll unveil some opportunities in the mortgage industry that people may not expect. They may read this and see that it’s possible to go from a job at Home Depot to a career in finance and do well.
Speaking of hiring, what’s another aspect of running a mortgage brokerage that you wish more people talked about?
Josh: Actually running a business. When we go to mortgage conferences, the conversations about rates almost always dominate.
the friendlii crew: Could you unpack that further — what do you mean by “actually running a business?”
Josh: Yeah. I’ve been to so many conferences, and it’s always the same question time and time again: “What do you do when a client is rate-shopping you?” I’m so tired of that question. Instead, how about we teach folks how to run a business?
I’ve made so many mistakes along the way.
Mistake number 2: Finances. So many of us [mortgage brokers] start corporations, but we’re not taught that corporate income is not personal income.
Number 3: What happens when you get staff? Fairly early on, I hired my colleague Joe [Toteda]. I had no idea how to manage staff, but I knew that I needed one. So there were some messy years.
If you don’t know how to manage, or even pay staff, it’s hard. But they don’t really teach you that.
the friendlii crew: Here’s one of the things we just heard — even something as simple as how to hire an assistant is not yet being taught in the mortgage industry.
Josh: Right. 😊
In a way, that’s a challenge but also an opportunity for our industry.
She/he is my colleague. 70%+ of deals are still done by the five big Canadian banks. I’m actually right now in the process of documenting some of my business-related workflows, and I’ve shared them with some of the other mortgage brokers in Calgary because a good broker is not my competitor.
Listen, this industry has done a lot for me. Nine years ago, I was an electrician. I was doing fine, but being an electrician was not for me. I was literally driving to work every day and saying to myself, “There must be something out there different than this.” Those were my exact words.
the friendlii crew: It sounds like that was the seed of you getting into the mortgage industry. Tell us more about that, please.
Josh: Sure. At a young age, I got into real estate. I was 21 when I bought my first house, and then I bought two or three more by age 23/24. I was very much a real estate geek at a very early age. I was driving my family crazy. 😊 Because all I wanted to talk about was real estate.
As I was buying houses, I became pretty close to my mortgage broker at the time, and I told her, “Trades are a good job, I’m almost a journeyman electrician, but it’s just not for me. I don’t love it.” So my mortgage broker at the time said, “You’re very personable, you know a lot about real estate and obviously learn quickly. Why wouldn’t you consider a career in mortgage brokering?”
And what’s funny is that it was not her that eventually got me into the industry. As an electrician, I ended up wiring a mortgage brokerage.
the friendlii crew: 😊 Was it karma or what?
Josh: If you put it out there, right?! 😊 So, I bought the books while I was wiring this brokerage and studied at night. When I finished the wiring, they moved in. So I challenged the exam, then rented a desk from them, and never looked back.
the friendlii crew: Josh, what was the last thing you were grateful for?
Josh: I’m grateful for this moment in my life right now. My wife and I have a three year old, and a one year old, and I’m having a blast with them.
On the business side, the business is at a point where we’re profitable and doing more volume than we’ve done before, but it’s not consuming me time-wise. I’m going home at a reasonable hour because there are three of us on the team and because of the systems we’ve put in place. I almost feel scared to advance further. 😊
So those are some of the reasons I say that I feel very, very grateful right now.
the friendlii crew: Thank you for sharing that, Josh! It’s funny, isn’t it, how it’s possible to be successful and miserable. You were a successful electrician, but you were not happy.
Josh: Yes. I’m now very happy and grateful for both my personal and business family.
the friendlii crew: That’s a very nice way to put it: You said that you’re grateful for both your personal and your business family. You’ve now achieved this balance, and you value it because you know how hard it is to get it.
Speaking of things we’re grateful for, music is one of the things we’re all grateful for. Josh, what is your favorite pump-up song and why?
Josh: A pump-up song, eh? 🎧 When it comes to music, I feel that I have some bizarre music mixes… Think Bob Seger, country music, but I also love Snoop Dog.
the friendlii crew: If you had to pick a song that stands out?
Josh: It changes, but I love Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
When I was an electrician, I worked at Fort McMurray at the age of 24, and there’s a line in “Old Man,” “Twenty four and there’s so much more,” and I remember sitting on the bus, because they bus you to the site 🚌, and I was listening to that song.
the friendlii crew: Second last question: “Should I call or should I type?” How do you decide when communicating with a colleague or client?
Josh: If the news isn’t great, it’s always the call. It does not have to be bad news for me to call, of course. 😊
the friendlii crew: What didn’t we ask you that you really want to share?
Josh: I actually had no idea where we were going with this. I had no clue what we were going to chat about. But I’m now so happy that we did this because we didn’t talk about the usual ‘rate questions,’ etc.
the friendlii crew: Thank you again for your time and for sharing, and take care until next time, Josh! 😊
p.s. Following our chats, we often ask our guests to do one unexpected and fun activity. For Josh, we asked him to draw a pie chart of his typical day. Below is his answer.
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