As title agencies navigate today’s market downturn, finding the right investments can help them improve efficiency, create better client experiences, and prepare for future market cycles. Agencies that successfully navigate this time can flourish post-recession and outperform their competitors when volume returns.
To understand more about identifying these opportunities, we recently spoke with Sarah Blackburn, CEO of Bspoke Title Holdings, as part of Qualia’s Executive Perspectives in Title & Escrow webinar series. Blackburn manages multiple title agencies across Texas and has significant experience using technology to connect different offices and improve operations for greater efficiency. Learn why Blackburn encourages title agencies to “play offense now” as they navigate fluctuating market conditions and seek out investment opportunities.
Technology adoption: a crucial piece of operational success
Title agencies that strategically use periods of slower order volume can implement operational changes that benefit them long term. Blackburn encouraged title agencies to take a hard look at their current operational setup, particularly their technology. She said that leaders should meet with their teams to discuss the technology they’re currently using and how they can get the most out of it. She encouraged title agencies to go beyond just buying software tools and instead focus on learning as much as possible about the technology’s capabilities. “If you’re paying for the technology, you need to make sure that you’re using it.”
“If you’re paying for the technology, you need to make sure that you’re using it.”
Blackburn has managed up to 17 title agencies at a time at Bspoke and said that technology adoption is a crucial component of her ability to implement efficient processes across teams. Blackburn also said technology has enabled Bspoke’s various title agencies to communicate better and share expertise. “As we began to adopt better technology…there became an opportunity for more overlap among the agencies, the teams began to know each other better, and trust one another. Our teams began to feel like they had more backup.” This level of connectivity enables Bspoke’s various teams to rely on one another for additional support.
The role of standardization in title agency operations
Using the same technology across offices has also enabled Blackburn to standardize processes for her teams. She said that with standardization, “you can cut costs, reduce the number of errors, and reduce frustration among your teams and your clients.” She added that about 90% of the workflows across the companies she manages are the same. The remaining workflows accommodate various client needs, such as requirements for specific regions. She said that standardization has been particularly impactful on examinations and policy creation processes. By standardizing these processes, her team has facilitated smoother collaboration among closing parties, such as her escrow teams.
Blackburn explained that employee buy-in is essential to implementing standardization, but can take some time as employees get used to new processes. “It takes a little while for a team to adopt a new system or workflow, but once they understand that it’s giving them time back in their day and resulting in fewer errors, they buy in and they love it.” Getting employee buy-in for technology can make it easier to implement standard practices across an organization, which can have a ripple effect on efficiency, consistency, and improved client experience.
Building strong teams and giving them the tools to succeed
Building strong internal teams can help title agencies improve operations and successfully manage increased volume in the future. Blackburn said that being aggressive about hiring and retention practices has resulted in “a great period for us for focusing on being prepared for the next upturn.” Blackburn added that remote work has been particularly helpful in building out her teams. She said that hiring more remote workers has enabled her to find more experienced applicants and provide an ideal work environment for many of her staff.
With more remote workers, Blackburn has put an even greater emphasis on technology. Consistent technology use has resulted in a more connected team. “Agencies don’t feel like they’re out there on an island by themselves anymore. They’re really interconnected, really gotten to know one another, and I think that’s really important in this industry.” Giving staff the right technology has been crucial in helping Blackburn’s various teams improve collaboration in a remote setting.
Blackburn encouraged leaders to listen to employees and gather feedback to ensure that their technology benefits employees and gives them the tools they need to do their jobs. She explained that when building great teams and managing new title companies, “there’s no shortcut…we have to go into each [office] and spend some time there, get to know the people, get to know the area, get to know the customs. And start from scratch with each one.” In her closing advice to title & escrow leaders, Blackburn encouraged business owners to “take your time, hire the right people, and really learn and understand the industry.” This approach can help leaders create long-term strategies that help businesses thrive across market cycles.
Interested in listening to the full conversation with Sarah Blackburn? Click below to register for the next event and get immediate access to past webinar replays.