This is the first installment of the PNW Live Guru Series. We scout out northwest leaders who are innovating in their particular disciplines. Business, like other fields, is subject to trends. Guru Series seeks to identify early adopters of effective management principles or technologies. SecurityNational Mortgage Companies’ Todd Bruess, Northwest Regional Manager,  fit the bill as a leader to watch. We caught up with him recently for a Q & A on the ideas that are driving his business strategy.

Todd Bruess, Regional Manager of SecurityNational Mortgage, is no stranger to online marketing. An online search of his name produces a list of articles touting him as a guru of “Karma Management,” and crediting him with creating business “out of thin air.” We caught up with Bruess, one of NW Business News’ recent business profile subjects, to dig a bit deeper into the day-to-day secrets of becoming relevant and making business deals happen.

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Todd Bruess of SNMC

PNWL: Two years ago SecurityNational Mortgage Company had one office. And that office experienced restructuring. Today SNMC has four offices with four more planned by the end of 2016. You were quoted in PNW Business News  (Creating Success from Thin Air, March 12, 2016) as saying, “It’s all about hiring the right independent-minded people, then giving them all the tools they need to be successful.”  You obviously give team members plenty of room to take initiative. What are some of the qualities you look for in an employee?

BRUESS: I always say, it is all about hiring the right independent-minded people, then giving them the tools they need to be successful. By tools I mean anything from training in the specifics of our industry to how to brand yourself online. The best investment our company can make, in time and money, is the investment in a person’s professional skills and development.”

PNWL: Even though the brand is new to this market, it is not uncommon to see your name connected to various charity or community events. But at the end of the day, you have to get new business in the door. One of the articles we found on the Internet attributes your success to “Business Karma.” In a sentence, what is business karma? How are you able to get your message—via articles—prominently displayed on the web and does this drive business in the door?

BRUESS: We do a lot of things. First, we are big believers in supporting the community. We get out there and cheer for the little league, honor and stand behind the troops, and look for ways to improve the communities we work in. Second, we have an online conversation where we educate and engage people about important news in the mortgage, real estate and business world. We use an extensive online platform to do this and are super happy with the results.

SNMC-Sponsored Tribute to Our Troops Game

PNWL: Many business owners and managers fear online reviews, yet you encourage people to “google my staff.” Businesses and consumers live and die by online reviews. You seem to have mastered the art of putting your best foot forward when it comes to testimonials. What advice do you have to other businesses on how to take control of your online image?

BRUESS: We work with a company called Big Web Media to make sure our reviews get read. And we use another company to ensure that everything written about us is verified. The secret, if there is one, is that you have be proactive. Before letting others tarnish your reputation online, you have to give your happy customers a voice. Most sites don’t verify their reviews. We want the truth tellers to be heard first.

“In the end, you are responsible for your messaging. And you are also responsible for making sure someone sees it.”

Bruess has been aggressive, to the extreme, in marketing his individual loan officers, by name.  He has gone so far as hiring a team of web branding professionals (Big Web Media) to work with each loan officer and customize a media presence and online brand.  Bruess states, without reserve, “If I go out of my way to hire the best loan officers why wouldn’t i want to market that as aggressively as possible?  They are the business.”

PNWL: When looking for a product or service, online consumers use Search Engines 99.48% of the time. SNMC shows up prominently on the first several pages of Google. Is there a secret there that you are willing to share?

BRUESS: The secret—other than having access to news and review sites, which we do now—is to create content that is actually worth reading. People are busy so content has to be interesting and concise with tangible takeaways. When it comes to showing up on the first 5 pages of google, there is a term for that, it’s called SRNC, and it’s a measurement we use.

“Bruess and SNMC seem to be ahead of the national management curve, but studies are showing their philosophy works.”

PNWL: How does your online strategy help you recruit other loan officers?

BRUESS: This is huge. If a potential customer or client is searching for information to form an opinion, so are potential employees. They’re also checking you out on LinkedIn and the various job and networking sites. So you have to be thorough and consistent across all platforms. Oh, and you want to make sure they see your content and not something a competitor or disgruntled, anonymous poster writes. In the end, you are responsible for your messaging. And you are also responsible for making sure someone sees it.

A great philosopher said that anyone who wants to be greatest among us must be the greatest servant. Bruess is an example of a business leader managing by from the bottom up, and proving the lifestyle works. Over four years ago, SNMC moved their business model from wholesale to retail mortgage.  Since then they have aggressively cut new trails of innovation to make SNMC one of the fastest growing retail lenders in today’s market.   Giving managers like Bruess the freedom to flesh our their methods has been key to corporate success.

Read more about Todd Bruess and his innovative management style