The first of a five-part series published by leading intermediary mortgage market magazine Mortgage Strategy in March & April 2015. View the original article here.

In this new column, we will be applying some of the tools and techniques that Whitecap Consulting uses across various industries to some of the more topical issues in the mortgage market.

Every business faces challenges and opportunities and knowing how to tackle these is of mission-critical importance. There is great value to be had from reflection and self critique, yet it can be hard to pause for thought in the 24/7 world we live in. Taking time out from the day-to-day intensity of your workload to look objectively at the business, your competitors and market can really help bring clarity to your thinking.

Here are three very simple steps to help you to do this:

1. Understand the challenge

The first thing to do is to identify the root cause of the issue you face. Is it related to your people, your processes, or is it a symptom of a change in the market? Until you understand this, it is impossible to identify what the appropriate action is to improve the situation.

Let’s put that into an example. You are a mortgage brokerage and your completions are down over the last two months. What has changed? Have you altered the way you work day-to-day? Do you have new staff who are not yet up to speed? Are you attracting applications from a different profile of applicant? Has the market in general been experiencing this issue or is it just your own firm?

2. Critically assess your competencies

Some of the skills that have sustained your firm’s growth over many years may not be the same ones required to enable future growth. Developments like the Mortgage Market Review, the rise of social media and the increased use by consumers of smartphones and iPads have all had an impact on the mortgage industry.

How good are things like your sales process, technology, relationship management skills, database management and marketing? Understanding and investing in the competences that your business requires today and tomorrow in order to compete effectively is critical. And assessing these in a structured and systematic manner is an extremely valuable first step to take.

3.     Excel at executing the things your need to do

At the end of the day, you have got to get things done and the better you do them the more successful you will be. Effective implementation is critical. One of my favourite mantras is to ‘be in the present’. There is a time for planning and reflection, but thinking about the future or dwelling on the past will not help you focus on the job in hand.

Successful implementation is a combination of well-planned and communicated activity, that is continually measured, assessed and refined, and delivered by a highly engaged team who understand what they are trying to achieve and why.

Sometimes, particularly in larger companies, there can be a notion that strategy and execution are somehow unconnected, and that strategy is ‘something that senior management do’. If common sense suggests this cannot be true, then practical experience only confirms it. If you are not carrying out work that is directly aligned to your strategy, then what hope do you have of achieving your strategic goals?

Successful companies align clear vision, regular reviews and self critique, are responsive and have strong communication skills. They pursue their long-term goals whilst at the same time responding to unplanned and unexpected challenges.

The three-stage framework outlined above can help you be more successful, whatever business you are in.