Darren Carlin, founder and CEO of San Diego’s Valor Lending, is no stranger to what it takes to start and run a successful business. For Carlin, it took his own observations about the poor quality of communication and customer service between many loan companies and customers, as well as a friend’s experience, to realize a lucrative entrepreneurial opportunity. He started a lending business founded on customer service, communication, and client relations.
Building a successful lending business took hard work up front: Carlin would often work 100-hour weeks to build his network and potential client list and get his business name out there. Carlin’s dedication to providing customers with care and attention during the stressful home-buying process has enabled Valor to earn repeat business, referrals, and wonderful business relationships with realtors and other industry professionals.
The Challenges and Rewards of Starting a Business
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to small businesses, and Valor was not immune. As a lending group, Valor would often do business with Wall Street. When the pandemic hit the U.S. and Wall Street brokers stopped buying loans, $28 million in business fell through and deals with clients began dropping off. Thankfully, Valor was able to survive these setbacks and expand.
The trickiest part of starting Valor Lending for Carlin was not what you may think: It was actually becoming licensed. Carlin and all employees had to get licensed through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS); however, this proved to be a difficult task as government agencies did not provide clear instructions and representatives were not able to advise team members. If a loan officer pays for the wrong license, Carlin explains, that money is gone. Carlin was working toward a residential and commercial license in the state of Arizona and paid $2,000 for separate residential and commercial licenses — only to find out the next day that commercial brand licenses are not required to provide commercial loans.
However, the most rewarding parts of starting a business for Carlin have been watching his work family grow and experiencing the fulfillment of helping homeowners. Because Valor values customer service above all else, employees and clients are treated like family. With such personal relationships forming, Carlin is unable to explain any better feeling than witnessing his agents grow in their career and lives.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
Carlin’s main piece of advice for entrepreneurs is to never give up. Inspired in part by Michael Jordan, he offers these words: “Know your worth, and accept nothing less. It won’t come easy. Put in the work and make it happen.”
While facing the many challenges that came from starting Valor Lending, Carlin found that one of the best ways to get through adversity was to surround himself with people who feel like family and work together to solve problems. Having people in his corner who can help with any sort of task — from realtors to referral partners to loan officers to fellow entrepreneurs — has allowed the company to achieve far more than it was aiming for initially.
Navigating the Industry Landscape
Carlin’s advice to loan officers starting out is to find a brokerage that can help navigate the process. Carlin admits he would love to help the right kind of person for his company avoid the pitfalls he went through — and still encounters.
Carlin knew that Valor’s way of doing business was unlike what he’d seen in the mortgage lending industry. His method of customer service allows lifelong trust-based relationships to form, setting Valor apart from industry competitors. Carlin says every agent he hires is an independent contractor who is not trying to compete with other employees in the company. Every person brought in is based on a culture fit that will benefit one another.
While the housing industry fluctuates each year, Carlin predicts that the industry will remain strong throughout 2022 in microregions and higher luxury regions. Within five to 10 years, he predicts growth in the double-digit area, while year by year, the trend will vary and could lead to a recession.
Valor Lending and SuretyBonds.com
A requirement of loan officer licensing is to post a surety bond, but Carlin found that the company he had been using did not prioritize interactions with real people or reward his business for its loyalty, two values Valor holds close. This was not the case when he worked with SuretyBonds.com to obtain an Arizona mortgage broker bond — he found the company’s customer service representatives to have a great attitude while providing excellent service.
Valor is currently in the process of expanding into Prescott, Arizona, but hopes to continue its expansion throughout the country. Carlin is working to become licensed in 12 different states within the next few months and plans to use SuretyBonds.com in the future for his surety bond needs.