We sat down to do a Q&A with our very own Randy Olson. We hope his work inspires you & that we can all learn from his years of experience in the real estate industry.
What year did you & Shawn start Prime Title?
I started practicing law in 1983, but did not start performing closings until the latter part of the 80s. I was a solo practitioner from 1986 till 1991 when Shawn O’Neill and I formed Olson & O’Neill, APLC. Shawn came from a litigation background, but he shortly found that he liked doing the real estate work, so we made efforts to try and increase that portion of our practice. We worked under the name Olson & O’Neill from 1991 till we decided to form Prime Title in 1997 to handle the real estate closings and title insurance.
Why did you want to start Prime Title?
When I began my practice in the late 1980’s, title companies as you know them today didn’t really exist in Lafayette and the surrounding areas. At the time, no law firms specialized in closing real estate transactions. Closings were typically done by individual attorneys who had a varied practice. Also, it used to be against the code of ethics for attorneys in general to advertise and solicit legal work like they do today. However, the rules on advertising changed giving us an avenue to market our title services much more effectively. And I saw that title companies were common in other states and in larger cities in Louisiana. So we decided to create Prime Title to become a major player in the title industry.
Would you say that Prime Title has been successful since you founded it? If yes, How would you define ‘success’ for Prime Title (profitable, helping Acadiana, etc.)?
Definitely! Prime Title has found success on a number of levels. We started with a couple of attorneys and a few staff members, and have since doubled in size to 4 attorneys and 10 staff members. We will likely add to that number this year given our rate of growth. Prime Title has been able to support the many families that have worked here, which results in an extremely low turnover rate. In addition, Prime Title has an excellent reputation in this community and we’re well known for providing first class service. We’ve been very successful in helping our customers and clients through what can sometimes be a stressful transaction. Because of the experience Prime Title brings to the table, we are able to consistently provide our customers and clients the absolute best service possible.
What do you feel has contributed to your success?
Many things have contributed to my success, but there are 2 points that stand out. Hard work is the first. Breaking into this business is not easy. People want to send their closings to someone who has experience. But I was able to show people that I would go the extra mile to get their deal done, which included working after hours and on weekends. The second point is hiring good staff and keeping them. I am very proud that the current staff averages about 9 years with Prime Title. I try very hard to make the working environment here positive, from saying hello to everyone in the morning, bringing breakfast on occasions, or letting them off early on a Friday every now and then. Staff is critical to the success of any title company.
You’ve spent the last 20+ years in business in the real estate market, what advice would you give to those who are striving to be where you are in 20 years?
The first 2 thoughts that come to mind are what I said in my answer to #4. Work hard and accumulate and keep a good staff. The other suggestion is to get involved. In most cases, referrals come in as a result of a relationship that I’ve built with someone. The more people you meet, the more potential clients or referrals you have. I’ve joined numerous organizations over the years and got involved with them. That helped get my name out there.
If you could go back to younger Randy, would you do anything differently? If so, what?
Hind sight is always 20/20, but I guess the one thing I have always been slow about is change. I was always cautious about change, and in some cases fell behind the competition as a result. I would advise my younger self that change is inevitable. You have to become keen at anticipating what that change will be, and adapt to it quickly.
How did you grow your business over the years?
I don’t have a secret formula. It’s a combination of hard work, getting involved, getting my name out there, and providing good service. One thing I enjoy doing is helping people when I can. I get calls all the time from people who have a problem or just a question. Many times it’s an easy answer for me. But for the person calling, getting that answer can be very helpful to them. Sometimes they will ask what they owe me, and I tell them nothing. It’s a way for me to give back. And in many cases, those same people will refer their friends and families to me.
Is there a plan for continued growth in 2018?
Absolutely. You cannot stay stagnant in this business or you will fall behind. We have a young attorney, Paul Gardner, who has made remarkable strides in developing a first rate marketing program. We have big plans in development that I have no doubt will result in significant growth over the upcoming year. Many of these plans I’m not ready to disclose at this time. I can tell you, however, that 2018 is the year we will hire a full-time experienced marketing director. This step will allow us to dramatically increase our exposure; and I believe this is the one missing link to Prime Title experiencing tremendous growth.
At the end of the day, customers allow businesses to grow. With that in mind, what do you do to give each customer a special experience (or a special closing)?
The closing experience starts well before the closing. Our staff is in touch with the Realtors, lenders and customers throughout the entire process. It is critical that we keep them apprised of what is going on with their file. On the day of closing, we strive to be on time and to treat them with the respect they deserve. Each closing is unique. When you deal with people, you have different personalities. Some people want me to explain everything and they ask a lot of questions. In that situation, I gladly give them as much information as they want or need. Others want to get it done quickly. In those situations, I provide the bare minimum of what they need to know. I strive to make my explanations understandable to the non-lawyer. I give them advice on homeownership, not just about the closing. I do not rush them. I want our customers to come away with a positive impression of me and Prime Title.
Who has contributed to Prime Title’s success that may not be seen?
The answer to that is easy. It’s the staff. There’s Mary, our receptionist, who always greets people with a smile. Kim and Michelle, our pre-closing coordinators, reach out to all the parties involved to get the initial information and set up each file. Beverly, our title administrator, prepares all of our title policies and opinions. Karen, our post-closing coordinator, handles getting all the closing packages to the lenders and also makes sure all mortgages get cancelled. Our office manager, Roxanne, who has been with us for 25 years, does a fabulous job of keeping this place organized. And of course our 3 closers, Lisa, Kim and Roxane who do a wonderful job. Being a closer is a tough job and they do it very well!
How do you feel employers are to treat their employees? And do you think that how an employer treats his or her employees affects the success of the business?
Make sure they know you appreciate their hard work. Little things sometimes go a long way in keeping the working environment positive. As mentioned previously, saying hello in the morning, providing breakfast or lunch on occasion, or letting them off early on a Friday or before a holiday. We also have firm gatherings on occasion to help with firm morale. But probably the most important thing you can do is to support them. When you do closings like we do and are dealing with the general public, you will have people who are unreasonable and sometimes downright rude. I have had to deal many times with situations where a customer was so rude they caused one of our staff to cry. They have to know that their bosses “have their back.”