2017 has been full of challenges for me – by far the most difficult of which has been opening a brand-new title and escrow company by purchasing an older/established/struggling company; and fashioning it into a completely new organization and corporate culture.
Hindsight is so much clearer isn’t it? In looking back over the last few months of 2017, I can see where we’ve risen to the challenge (by the grace of God); and where we’ve been completely schooled by our missteps and we could have done better. With that in mind, I decided I’d give us a little review by way of a report card.
The Business-Buying Process
I underestimated the timeline length of the buying/closing process by about half. I thought it would take us 90 days to purchase the business operations of Stewart Title of Spokane. The reality was it actually took us 6 months to close the deal. Were there some hurdles we encountered along the way? Absolutely. We have a high number of investors for a small business, so getting through the fundraising process took longer than I anticipated. Our purchase of the local operation was from a large publicly traded company in Houston, and that certainly increased the number of players that had a voice in what the terms looked like. Added to those factors was the most destructive hurricane that Houston has ever seen, and we were set back a few days – though Stewart Title rallied incredibly well post-Hurricane Harvey. With that said, what really lengthened the process more than I planned was working through attorneys on both sides who each had a responsibility to debate the terms and find common ground. Don’t misunderstand me – everyone was highly professional and great to work with! I simply underestimated the time that it would take.
I’d give Vista a B + on working through the process, and on estimating the time frame I’d hand myself a B – .
We were blessed to work with an incredibly creative design group who helped us to really find the brand mark we were looking for. Out of the creative process we found our voice, our target market, and our logo and tagline. We are Vista Title, offering an unparalleled customer experience. Really.
We discovered through our real estate agent surveys that the most common complaint across the client spectrum (buyers/sellers/lenders/agents) is poor communication from whichever title/escrow company they were using. Interestingly, no one company seemed to stand out as better or worse than another in this regard. Our entire Vista staff have made the commitment to communicate with clients better than anyone in our industry, and we are demonstrating that so well.
However, I underestimated our total budget line-item for this element of our capital expenses. My recommendation to my past-self? “Take the time to sit down and interview a few vendors and get estimates for everything needed to get a feel for cost – website, logo design, marketing collateral, design, printing, signage, etc. – and really drill down on those numbers. Better to start this process earlier rather than later.”
I’d give Vista a solid A on the branding, but on my own preparation and budgeting I would give myself a C – .
From the outset I was fairly confident that our escrow manager would be Janice Hicks, and I was hoping our title manager would be Ryan Muchow but that’s just about all I knew when we started down this path back in the Spring of 2017. We’ve been so blessed that the Lord sent the right people to us at the right time to create just the right crew to fulfill our mission. In each department, from Sales to Accounting to Title to Escrow to Recording, we have an incredible team of people who all want to serve and communicate better than any of our competitors. It’s so gratifying to work with a group that is so committed to an amazing customer experience. That said, October was a bit rough as we were trying to roll together the closing files from a local law firm, Stewart Spokane files, and our own new Vista Title orders with an all-new escrow staff.
Hiring a recruiter was the ideal path to finding our accounting controller and worth every penny we spent. We worked with Dianne La Valley at Robert Half and she did an outstanding job helping us find just the right person in Janiece Lake.
Jessica White came on board as our Sales Manager at just the right time and has really helped us find our focus and in marketing our new brand as a small business start-up.
I’d give our leadership an A + on recruiting//finding/hiring great people, and myself a B + on the timing of our hiring process as it relates to our workload.
What hurdles have you encountered when opening a new real estate business? Was it in IT or your capital costs? Or perhaps with cashflow? Please join the conversation on our Facebook page here or on Twitter @Vista_Title
If you love Vista Title & Escrow, we would also be so honored if you’d give us a 5 star rating and recommendation on our Facebook page, or write us a great review on Google or Yelp. You can also follow us on our LinkedIn page or check out our webpage at www.vistatitle.com
We love to hear from clients on how we can serve you better. It’s the only way we can improve and continue to raise the bar in our industry. Email me directly at from our Team page.
Anthony V. Carollo
CEO, Vista Title & Escrow