Are you building your business by design or by default? - Mortgage Marketing Coach

Are you building your business by design or by default?

By Doren Aldana

I recently emailed a relatively well known mortgage/real estate trainer (who I will keep unnamed) to see if he might be interested in being featured as a guest expert on my “Meetings with Mortgage Masters” interview series. He replied back asking if I’d like to meet him in-person the next time he comes to Vancouver. Not wanting to wait that long to do an interview I asked him if he’d be open to having a quick chat on the phone. He replied, asking if I was available to talk on Friday. As you may know, I don’t work Fridays and haven’t for years, so I asked him if another day would work. Now, here’s where the story gets interesting.

Below is an abridged version of the long, drawn out email he sent back to me:

Success is not luck, it's a choice.

“Hi Doren… What you consider “enslavement”, I consider good solid business practices. I personally do not buy into 4-day workweeks, nor would I recommend them to anyone who wants to be truly successful in business. A person can work a solid 5-day workweek to maximize their business opportunities and still have plenty of family and personal time. There are certain core principles to running a successful small business (which is what every one of my clients does) and unless you are semi-retired, 4 work days just doesn’t cut it.

You see, I think the core difference between us is that I LOVE my work, I’m inspired to get up every morning, I love the challenges I face, and I take great satisfaction from serving my clients and helping them succeed. From the sounds of it, you view work like a “chore” – something you want to do less of. My suggestion would be to identify a job you are passionate about, go after it ferociously, and still have plenty of time for family and friends in the evenings, weekends and holidays.

I’m glad for you that you take Fridays off, but my recommendation to you is that if you have a referral source as busy as I am, who has the ability to send multiple business opportunities your way, asks for an appointment on a Friday, it would behoove you to meet with them on their schedule – as you mentioned, it was only a 15 minute phone call.

Let’s agree to disagree on our business models and go our separate ways. As much as I don’t have a lot of time for this type of correspondence, it was better for me to find out early that we are not a good match. Our philosophies don’t mesh well, so it would not be appropriate for me to teach students one thing in my classes and then hand them over to a coach who doesn’t believe in the same core principles I do.”

Wow! How’s that for arrogance? As you might imagine, my first knee-jerk reaction was to smack him upside the head and give him a serious verbal lashing for being such a jerk. However, my conscience got the best of me. I decided to take a few deep breaths and respond with all the restraint and courtesy I could muster. Here’s how it went:

“Thanks for your reply. I think perhaps you have misunderstood my motives behind why I have chosen to have a 4-day workweek. It’s not that I don’t love my work – I do LOVE to work! In fact, if I wasn’t married, I’d probably work 6 days per week. My wife would attest to that. I am a passionate entrepreneur and I’m serious about being successful.

Truth be told, the only reason why I work a 4-day workweek is because my wife’s primary love language is QUALITY TIME and it makes her happy. As the old saying goes, “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” I resisted the initial prompt from my wife to try it out, however, after a couple weeks I felt notably more balanced, more energized and more productive with the four days I did work. I got things done like never before. Even with taking that extra day off every week I’ve been able to enjoy triple digit growth two years in a row and this year is looking like it’s going to be a record year for sales and profits once again. Results don’t lie.

I don’t say all this to brag, but to make the simple point that business success is a personal thing. Each person’s definition of success is unique to their values and goals in life. For me personally, I don’t live to work, I work to live. I have made a conscious decision to create a business that provides freedom, autonomy and a flexible lifestyle. For example, I took my family to Mexico for 3 months last year. I woke up early every morning and went surfing for an hour. Then I worked my regular schedule from the laptop. That’s the kind of life I want to live – a life of adventure, fun and balance!

With that said, I still bust my balls and work with focused intensity Monday to Thursday. My kids, my wife and I are all happier for it. I now have more juice to serve my clients because my emotional/spiritual tank is full. I am being true to myself, and my family, and for that I make no apologies.

Interestingly, you’re the first person I’ve ever met who was not only NOT inspired but adamantly opposed to my lifestyle choice and business philosophy. It’s almost as if you see me as a threat to your way of life or something. Quite frankly, I find it very strange that you choose not to work with someone just because they work one day less than you per week. If you insist on making me wrong for living my life by design (not by default), then yes, you’re right, we aren’t the right fit. If that’s the way you’re committed to seeing things, I will give you that freedom. It’s your life. I’m happy either way.” 🙂

Yah, I probably came across a bit arrogant too but it felt so darn good I just couldn’t help it. Perhaps that’s why God said, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” Heck, if I was God, I’d want it all for myself too!

Why am I sharing all this with you? A couple of reasons: One, for the sheer amusement of it all. Second, to get you thinking about why you’re in business and what exactly it is you intend to accomplish. If you don’t have a clear blueprint to follow, with all the details and dimensions of what you’re building, don’t be surprised (like I was) if some arrogant bonehead barges in, telling you how to run your life. In some cases, it might even be a well-intended family member or a friend. Don’t let them stop you! To succeed you must be immune to criticism. You’re either building your business by design or by default – you can’t do both. Which are you?

Here are ten thought provoking questions to get you thinking about what success really means to you:

1. What would your business look like if there was no way you could possibly fail?
2. What income level would you be earning if you were living your ideal lifestyle?
3. How many days and hours per week would you be working if you were living your ideal lifestyle?
4. How many days of vacation time would you have if you were living your ideal lifestyle?
5. What are the characteristics of your ideal client?
6. What are the characteristics of your ideal referral partner?
7. Ideally, how many staff/team members do you want?
8. In your ideal world, what activities would you be filling your time with that would juice you the most?
9. How would you know if you were being successful, living your dream life? What would it look like?
10. Why is it a MUST for you to turn your dream into reality? Why is this vision so motivating to you?

Now wait a minute! Don’t even think about leaving this post without writing out (or typing) your answers to those ten important questions. If you truly want to live a life by design instead of by default, this exercise is critical. Remember, clarity is power. Once you have a clear vision for your life, you’ll begin to magically attract the secret keys to unlock the manifestation process. In closing, let me leave you with a timely quote from Zig Ziglar: “Discipline yourself to do the things you need to do when you need to do them, and the day will come when you will be able to do the things you want to do when you want to do them!”

So, what do you think of this post? Please share your thoughts/comments below. I love feedback!


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  • Benny

    Thanks for sharing – I am inspired by your dedication 4 days a week with your family life being priority. Truth is yes you could increase income even more if you worked 7 days a week, but quite frankly what’s the point. I am a mortgage broker that does financial planning as well and for me having a 10 million/year mortgage business is what makes me happy and keeps me sane. To each his own.

  • Dan

    Sorry- I agree with the mortgage/realtor. If a client expects me to be working Friday. I better be working friday. If your clients don’t require that- good for you.

  • darylgeneral

    Thank you so much for that post…wildly unexpected and entertaining, yet educational and inspirational!

  • jctworek

    I can respect both views….

    On one hand, Your (Doren’s) perspective on ‘quality vs quantity’ is a wholesome response that effectively ‘makes time’ for the things that matter most to him. The overall theme and ‘grain’ of your teachings – AutoPilot Referral Systems – is about just that. Taking the time to create a system to do the work for you so that you don’t necessarily HAVE to grind 6-7 days per week. Respect, and THANK YOU! There’s a certain essential truth and inherent value in “the Power of Focus” – something that we can all (continually) strive for.

    On the other hand, if we’re in a direct face-to-face business like mortgage brokerage, we’ve got to – at least to a certain degree – be responsible and responsive to our clients’ needs and schedules. Having done this for 11 years and now marketing for/hiring/mentoring a team of 20+ Mortgage Specialists in Calgary on top of sourcing $18MM of mortgage volume, I can certainly admit that we all need to draw borders around our time and personal lives, yes. That being said, there’s a certain degree of ‘office hours’ where we are available to meet with clients as well as the ‘exceptions’ where we hammer off an email/text message or have a coffee appointment during ‘off hours’ to serve a client’s needs and keep the momentum up.

    “Successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t” – that also rings true.

    Getting the deal done? You bet. Making time for what’s important for me and my family? Without question. Balance? The biggest and toughest “rabies-infected 300lb gorilla” that we all wrestle with daily. It all works out in the long run.

    A comical quote from Kanye West: “You’re either getting laid or getting paid – as soon as you’re getting one, the other’s getting away”… funny how true that is!

    To each his own, Benny – I agree.

    Personally? Hustle hard, build a foundation and get to the level that Doren’s at… that’s my goal. In the meantime, I’m on the front lines daily with my sleeves rolled up, making hay while the sun shines.

  • robertmay

    Thank goodness we are all different and have our own goals, interests, and aspirations. I recognize and appreciate those who have made different choices from myself. How boring would life be if we were all the same? From the tone and language of the email you received I can already tell you who it came from, not to mention the hint you dropped in your reply.

  • Heather

    I couldn’t agree with you more! It’s noon and I just got home from a great morning of snowboarding with friends, 25 cm’s fresh!Now time to get to work. That is what success looks like to me!

  • ltd_sleeper

    I am sorry Doren, I think when one asks a favour one does not generally put limits on how that favour should be done. That is entitlement and I am learning to hate that word.

    I am also a wife (of a mortgage broker) who’s love language is quality time. My hubby is home for dinner every night even if he has to do a bit of work in the evening. He takes me out on date night once a week. It is doable without causing other people to be inconvenienced.

  • Ron

    I can see both views. I am a very successful LO and also have several other businesses, so I can understand how busy people are. If someone called and asked me to free my schedule but then wasn’t flexible themselves, I probably would have walked too. On the other hand, if someone called and asked me to meet on Sunday, there’s no chance that would happen.

    So yes, I understand the “arrogance”. I also understand Droens position. However, since Friday is a normal workweek for 99% of the world, and it wasn;t like this would be an ongoing workday, personally since Doren was the one asking for the favor I think freeing up some time would have been the right thing to do.

    But that’s just me….

  • theoneandonlyPaladin

    Hi again hope your doing well as ever. So where in Canada are you from Doren? Being from Alberta I meet plenty of people from Ontario who quite frankly believe the air they breathe is far ‘richer’ than Alberta air. I have often wondered why you haven’t found a market in TO or other cities in the region considering the hefty demand for ‘air’ over there. Just pokin fun.

    I had a good laugh reading this too. Its not feasible to mentally compete with people. It is enough to just say “Ok!” and move forwards. The discourse between you two seemed rather trivial, almost like — and excuse the phrase — two mother hens clucking about which egg is rounder; and THAT is why that particular egg needs the attention vs the other. Pointless.

    In my humble opinion that people need to ask more questions rather than telling it like it is. True ‘winnars’ in life are those who adapt in order to get along because this is bigger than the schoolyard. The domineering ‘bully’ still and will always exist so competition either mental or physical is rather a moot point to discuss after the fact.

    I heard this somewhere: If you want to be a big dog you have to run with the pack.


    Paladin Repetowsky @ Western & Pacific Financial Corp. Calgary, Alberta.

  • Martha irias

    Wow! I found it very interesting that I can’t let this go without given any comment. First, I want to thank you for sharing this beautiful story! Looking at it in a positive way the less I can say this is a beautiful story. Coming this from two great business’s Men I take this as a teaching message from both of you to all of us with a business mind or for those trying to get into any business. I respect your business philosophy where family values and quality time for your wife and kids is more important that anything else and that I really ADMIRE on you. Your success haven’t been stop because you don’t work on Friday. That is your philosophy and it works perfectly for you and your family, so please don’t change it. In the other hand I also fully understand the unnamed party’s business philosophy and have a great respect and admiration for this person. When I read this quote: (Yah, I probably came across a bit arrogant too but it felt so darn good I just couldn’t help it. Perhaps that’s why God said, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” Heck, if I was God, I’d want it all for myself too!) I can almost see a big SMILE on his face when he was writing this:) and I’m almost sure who he could be. Knowing how busy this person is I think you could possibly make an exemption for 20 minutes or an hour one Friday in the year just for taking in consideration the importance of the meeting and the importance of the time available this person count with.
    But like Robermay said. Thank goodness we are all different, so that’s my opinion. With all my respect and grattitude to you and every body’s oppinion.

    Once again Thank you for sharing this great story.

  • Karen

    Thanks for the thought provoking questions. I wrote out my responses. It was fairly easy as I am clear on what I want to achieve. I continue to struggle to make it happen.

  • Hi Karen. Thanks for your comment. Get on my weekly live Q&A calls and I’ll show you how to make it happen. Anything is possible with the right marketing strategy!