Neil Pierson is editor of Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition.
Reach him at (800) 297-6061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of relationship development, Commercial Loan Broker Institute
Chief trainer and coach, Commercial Loan Broker Institute
By Neil Pierson
Find and develop a niche that works well
Whether you’re a veteran commercial mortgage broker or one who’s just getting started, the path toward professional success has probably involved — or likely will involve — a combination of education, marketing and
niche funding sources for your clients.
Creating a strong niche may involve working with specific types of businesses, property types or loan products.
Tom O’Rourke and Darrick Brown, two of the co-founders of Denver-based Alternative Funding Partners and
the Commercial Loan Broker Institute, spoke with Scotsman Guide about the things brokers can do to find their
Explain what you do with Alternative Funding Partners and the Commercial Loan Broker Institute.
O’Rourke: Alternative Funding Partners is the brokerage side of the business. We are a commercial loan brokerage on a daily basis. … The Commercial Loan Broker Institute is the training side of the business. We have folks
who come from throughout the U.S. and now from Canada, who spend a week with us here in Denver to get
fantastic training on the industry, foundation, marketing and sales, pretty much all commercial loan products
— commercial real estate, factoring, equipment, hard money, etc.
What kind of advice would you give to a broker for finding and establishing a niche market?
Brown: We get folks from different backgrounds, whether they’re former commercial real estate bankers, insurance agents — for some reason, we seem to get a lot more of those — so when we typically get people, they
have been folks that are somehow related to the financial industry. So, that makes it really easy, relative to what
we do and how we do it.
A good example of that is, we have one of our graduates in Chicago. He came from a really large equipment
company, so he launched his [brokerage] business and, of course, what did he specialize in? Equipment. He also
learned more about the commercial real estate side of it, as well as the factoring side, but his niche is definitely
equipment because therein lies his experience.
What would you say to a seasoned broker who is looking to change their business model?
Brown: Another graduate [from Georgia] started out wanting to kind of do everything, so he was doing equipment, accounts receivable and then commercial real estate. After six months out, because we stay in touch with
our folks and we continue to mentor them, he found that his niche was actually better in commercial real estate.
So, now he focuses on multifamily housing and also churches. … He found a niche of not only working with
alternative lenders but also local community banks, as well as more of the big-box banks. He has totally changed
his whole website to say, “I do commercial real estate.”
O’Rourke: I think it’s all about leveraging where you are currently in your life cycle and your work stage. …
It evolves. Everybody is unique. And one thing that we do every week, every Friday at noon, we hold a deal talk.
We invite everybody who has gone through the [institute] training to get on the phone, share successes, failures,
best practices, new lenders, opportunities, and additional strategies and tactics that others may incorporate
into their business.
Being a commercial mortgage broker can be a data-intensive job, so what types of data do you think are
Brown: From a data standpoint, we pull data from the RMA (Risk Management Association). We also use
different publications that we get those guys to jump in on. We have refresher courses. And we also invite our
direct-lender relationships. We do workshops with them, so they can jump on a call. … [We may be] having a
conversation about, “Hey, we’ve got a new product rolling out. How does it work? What are all the components
to it to be successful?” That way, [the brokers are] not running around chasing every deal. They’re actually looking
for specific opportunities that fit in the boxes of the lenders that we all work with.
O’Rourke: I’d certainly echo all of that. … We tell folks that, especially in your local geography, because this is a
trust and relationship business, you need to know what’s going on in your markets, and to be heavily involved
in events that make sense. n
Tom O’Rourke is the director of
relationship development for the
Denver-based Commercial Loan Broker
Institute. He also serves as CEO of Alternative Funding Partners, a commercial
loan and business loan brokerage in
Denver. He is a former regional marketing director for Wells Fargo, where he
was responsible for business development, group sales, sponsorships and
Reach O’Rourke at (303) 718-1759 or
Darrick Brown is the chief trainer and
coach for the Denver-based Commercial Loan Broker Institute. A former
senior vice president at Wells Fargo,
he opened his own brokerage to
better help commercial loan applicants find funding. He has helped to
close more than $500 million in deals
for hundreds of clients, ranging from
startups to Fortune 1000 companies
and government entities.
Reach Brown at (303) 718-1759 or