I stepped foot into the CBC Dragons’ Den ten years ago this November, and it makes me reflect on how far True North Mortgage has come. When the show aired, True North Mortgage was comprised of only me and one other representative in a single location in downtown Calgary. Although a lot has changed over the past ten years, our low rates and great service have remained the underpinning of our business model.
I’ll admit, it was very nerve-racking to go in front of the Dragons. I was sure that True North was a good pitch, but those Dragons can spit some fire. I presented my concept, and a few of the Dragons wanted a piece of the True North pie, but in the end, I chose not to accept the deal. After the show, Kevin O’Leary eventually tried his hand at running a mortgage brokerage, but that venture closed after a few months. Jim Treliving and I communicated a few times in the years following the show, but we have since lost touch.
Although my time spent working with them was short-lived, it was a great feeling to have the approval from such highly respected business people. The viewers were impressed as well, and the idea of low rates and straightforward advice resonated strongly with many people. Today, we have more than 50 full-time, salaried employees working in 10 locations all over Canada.
True North Mortgage is constantly expanding and adapting to overcome challenges to meet our clients' needs. The financial crisis of 2008, the oil price crash, and the rapid rise of housing in Vancouver and Toronto were just some of the issues affecting our clients and us. No matter what, our mission has always been to deliver low rates, great service, and effective advice, and our clients were relieved to see we didn’t falter from that.
At True North, client satisfaction means going above and beyond what is normally expected. That’s why we founded TN Realty in 2013 as a response to our clients' needs for an innovative home buyer experience. At TN Realty, clients receive a 30% rebate on any commissions we earn. In our first full year, we helped over 100 home buyers purchase more than $60 million in real estate in the Calgary area, and we have now expanded to serve Toronto and Vancouver as well.
The past ten years have been the most rewarding years of my life. I feel so lucky when I reflect and see how far True North Mortgage has come with the support of so many great people.
My advice to entrepreneurs entering the den. First of all, know your numbers cold, and sometimes a big piece of a small pie is better than a small piece of a big pie, don’t let them bully you into thinking otherwise.
Also, be ready for a surge of customer interest. Have a press release prepared before the show, and warn your web hosting company that a lot of traffic will be coming. Right after airing, our webpage had an unprecedented surge of visitors. Most of all, have fun with your pitch. Regardless of the Dragons reactions, you are given the opportunity to share your idea with a national audience. Oh, and it makes for a terrific story at cocktail parties.